Phenom II processors and a Dragon
Behold the "Dragon" platform.
Oh no, no, no ... we are not puffing the magic dragon, nor are we chasing the Dragon. But a name you have heard in our reviews before is "Dragon". When AMD launched the initial Phenom processors, they did so under codename "Spider". Spider entailed the AMD 780 chipset, Radeon series 3000/4000 and obviously the B3 generation Phenom processors.
Spiders in the end get squashed or tangled in their own webs, and today we'll see if that will happen, making the Spider platform obsolete that is. The Dragon platform is the infrastructure that is the AMD 790GX/FX chipset, Radeon 4000 series graphics cards and thus the new Phenom II series processors.
MSI 790FX motherboard with a Phenom II X4 955BE processor seated
The Phenom II processors
Today is all about two Phenom II (AM3 package) processors being released. As you likely know AMD's most high-end processors were the Phenom II X4 920 and 940. These are now being updated and transitioned to the AM3 platform.
But let's talk architecture.
Recently AMD made a move to their 45nm node to manufacture the newer model Phenom II processors. What does that mean? Well, explaining Phenom II can be best done by telling what the first generation Phenom really was.
First up was the transition from 65nm towards 45nm, if you look at this from a distance it pretty much means that they were able to make this processor smaller compared to the last generation Phenom (I) products. And that has advantages, often to be found in lower voltages and higher clock frequencies. Next to that, with technology updates like these they also fix the smaller bugs the last-gen products had. ANY processors has small bug, including Intel's.
To understand Phenom II, let's look at a last-gen Phenom processor. For example, take a pick out of the original Phenom X4 processor family like Phenom X4: 9550, 9650, 9750, 9850 and 9950 (Black Editions).
The leading Phenom (I) flagship processor was the Phenom X4 9950 BE which runs at a 2.6 GHz clock frequency at a full 2.0 GHz HT 3.0 speed with a 1.2-1.3V voltage and 140W TDP.
That part is based on AMD's 65nm Silicon on Insulator process technology. The voltage on the Phenom X4 9950 is listed as 1.05-1.30 Volts, and the lower specced Phenom X4 9850 and slower CPUa were at 1.2-1.3 Volts. Phenom X4 9950 features a total 2MB L2 cache; 512KB per core. Phenom (I) could address 2MB L3 cache as buffer where it can also exchange data in-between the cores.
So that gave the four cores a total of 4MB of cache (that's excluding a little L1 cache). The die size of that CPU is 285 mm² and for whatever reason we always like to know the CPU has 450 million transistors.