As we've already mentioned, we've got one of AMD's brand new Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processors in-house for testing. Like its predecessors, this new chip looks just like the original Phenoms, due to its use of similar packaging and heat spreader designs. Here's what the CPU looks like "in the flesh" so to speak.
Like the Phenom II X4 810 and X3 720 BE that were introduced a few months back, the Socket AM3 Phenom II X4 955 is architected to work with both DDR2 and DDR3 memory types, and with Socket AM3 or AM2+ motherboards. Socket AM2+ processors do not have the ability to work with DDR3 though, so AMD made some changes to the Socket AM3 pin configuration to prevent AM2+ processors from being plugged into AM3 sockets. Socket AM3 processors like the 955 BE pictured above have 938 pins, whereas socket AM2 processors have 940; two pins have been removed. If you look close at the shot of the processor's underside above, you'll notice that there are two groups of three and two groups of two pins missing on the underside of the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition--on AM2+ processors, four groups of two pins are removed. Keying the processors and sockets this way prevents AM2+ processors from being installed on AM3 motherboards, but allows AM3 processors to be installed on either type of motherboard.
In addition to launching a pair of new processors today, AMD is also unveiling a new PIB (processor in box) heatsink design. The new heatsink which will be included with these, and future, Phenom II processors features a compact design, with a copper base and heat-pipes, that feed into an array of aluminum fins. An 80mm AVC fan sits atop the assembly, which shoots air downward, toward the base. We used the new heatsink throughout all of our testing and found it to be a relatively capable cooler. It is not silent, but the fan on the unit isn't loud by any means, even when running at full bore. And performance is good for a "stock" cooler, as you'll see in the overclocking section on the next page. The new AMD PIB cooler won't compete with today's high-end air coolers, but potential consumers thinking about making the move to an AM3 CPU can rest assured the stock cooler does its job quite well.
To get a closer look into the Phenom II 955 Black Edition's inner workings, we fired up CPU-Z to take a peek at its core and cache configurations. CPU-Z correctly identifies the processor as Phenom II X4 based on the core codenamed "Deneb", but incorrectly identifies it as an AM2+ CPU (we had it installed in an AM3 motherboard). As the information shows, the chips are manufactured using AMD's 45nm process technology and our particular sample has a stepping designation of 2 and core revision of RB-C2. The Phenom II X4 955 BE chip is clocked at 3.2GHz, due to its 16x multiplier and 200MHz base clock, the HT link is running at 2.0GHz, and there is 512K of L1 Data / Instruction cache, 2MB of L2 cache (512K per core), and 6MB of shared L3 cache available.