Enter The Dragon: AMD Phenom II X4 940

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AMD has been fighting an uphill battle on two fronts for the last few years. For a time, fierce competition from NVIDIA, coupled with some of their own problems executing, put the ATI graphics division in a deep hole. And ever since the introduction of the original Core 2 processors, and more recently the Core i7, AMD's processor division has fallen well behind Intel in terms of overall performance.

Starting in November of 2007 though, we got a sense that AMD was slowly, but surely, clawing its way back into the fight. It began with the introduction of the Spider platform, which consisted of AMD's native quad-core Phenom processors, 7-series chipsets, and 3800-series graphics cards. Individually, the components that made up the Spider platform weren't performance leaders in their respective categories, but ultimately the platform proved to be solid, and of course, it was priced very competitively. The introduction of Spider also marked the first time AMD could offer an entire desktop platform consisting only of AMD-branded processors, core logic, and graphics.

As many of you know, AMD hasn't been sitting idle since the Spider platform introduction. The company's chipset division has launched a handful of new chipsets, featuring one of--if not--the best IGPs on the market and a new Southbridge, the SB750, that allows for higher overclocks through the use of ACC, or Advanced Clock Calibration. The ATI graphics division has also been firing on all cylinders lately, having released a top to bottom lineup of GPUs that compete very favorably at their respective price points. AMD also recaptured the 3D performance crown from NVIDIA for a time with the Radeon HD 4870 X2. AMD wasn't going down without a fight.

With the chipset and graphics divisions on a roll, it was time for the CPU team to pull the trigger on something new and exciting, to complete the new platform trifecta. It took some time, but that's exactly what's happening today. The end result is the Dragon platform which consists of new 45nm Phenom II X4 processors, 7-series chipsets, and ATI Radeon 4000 series graphics cards. We've got the goods in house and will fill you in on all of the juicy details on the pages ahead; for now let's get some of the particulars and back-story out of the way...

 
AMD Dragon Platform

AMD Phenom II X4 Processors 
Specifications and Features

Model / Processor Frequency: AMD Phenom II Processor Model X4 940 / X4 920 / 3.0GHz, 2.8GHz
L1 Cache Sizes: 64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)
L2 Cache Sizes: 512KB of L2 data cache per core (2MB total L2 per processor)
L3 Cache Size: 6MB (shared)
Memory Controller Type: Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller, capable of being configured for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes
Memory Controller Frequency: Up to 1.8GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
Types of Memory: Support for unregistered DIMMs up to PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066MHz)
HyperTransport 3.0: One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 3600MHz full duplex
Total Processor Bandwidth: Up to 31.5 GB/s bandwidth
Packaging: Socket AM2+ 940-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA) (backward compatible with Socket AM2)
Fab location: AMD's Fab 36 wafer fabrication facilities in Dresden, Germany
Process Technology: 45nm (.045-micron) DSL Silicon on Insulator (SOI)
Approximate Transistor count: approx. ~758 million (65nm)
Approximate Die Size: 258 mm2 (45nm)
Nominal Voltage: .0875-1.5 Volts
Max Ambient Case Temp: 62 degress Celsius
Max TDP: 125 Watts
ACP: *to be announced after launch
Future Memory Controller Note: Future 45nm processors versions are planned to include support for DDR3 memory


Although the Dragon platform as a whole is new, most of its parts have already been on the scene for quite some time now. As such, we have already covered them in-depth here on HotHardware, so we won't do the same again here. We will, however, recommend taking a look at a few past articles to get familiar with some of the underlying technology and components that partially comprise the Dragon platform.

The Radeon HD 4800 series articles detail the features and technology that have made them so successful in the 3D graphics space. And the various 7-series chipset, Phenom and Athlon processor, and Spider platform related articles cover the remainder of the platform--with the exception of the Phenom II that is, which we'll show you next.
 

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I am excited for this release....more competition in the CPU market is never a bad thing (and I've been Jones-ing for an AMD build for some reason).

I am worried however that AM3 mobos are going to be priced similiar to i7 mobo's .... anyone have word on this at all? I certainly do not mind spending $250 on a CPU but I will never spend more than $150 on a mobo (just me being stubborn I suppose).

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Hopefully when the Phenom II CPU's are tested on the AM3 socket and with DDR3 memory, they'll beat, or match the Core i7 CPUs. Yes

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No official word on AM3 mobo pricing just yet, but I would bet the farm AMD will undercut Core i7 mobo pricing by a considerable margin.

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Kinda underwelmed with the performance. For the price though wow. I'm not even considering the i7s because of the high price tag for the platform. I wonder if the DDR3 phenoms will edge out the core2quads?

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looking foward in getting a AMD system :) and i know what to get thanks marc for that review!

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Performance loox quite good actually... shows promise! While they may not be able to compete neck & neck with the i7 lineup, competetive pricing will make them a viable option. I've never had an AMD system before, but am not opposed to the idea. Once the platform has completely matured, I may get a top of the line Phenom II to replace my Intel dual core. Ultimately pricing will be the determining factor on what I get next and I suspect that AMD is well aware of this and will set prices accordingly.

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For the money this is an excellent package. I may break my long going Intel run and build an AMD PHENOM II.

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marco it was November of 2007, not 2008 when the spider platform came out lol. Im thinking you have had this article written before 2009.

Im glad you guys like to do benchmarks, but do you think you could do some that are not MADE for intel chips? POV and cinibench are heavily setup for intel based chips and can take advantage of more SSE instructions.

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Good catch. Fixed. If you have other tests you'd like me to run moving forward, just let me know and I'll see if I can include them. But keep in mind, Phenom II supports SSE, SSE2, SSE3, and SSE4A instructions.

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Good read. I think once AM3 comes out i7 will drop in price to match the AMD Mobo's. Still it looks like AMD is some what back in the game...

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