Vital Signs and Overclocking
Like its predecessors, the AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition looks just like the original Phenoms, due to its use of similar packaging and the same heat spreader design. The chip utilizes AMD's Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA) packaging, which is backward compatible with Socket AM2+. Here's what the processor looks like, from both sides...
Like all previous socket AM3-compatible processors that have been introduced over the last few months, the Socket AM3 Phenom II X4 965 is designed 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 memory 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 965 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 965 Black Edition--on AM2+ processors, four groups of two pins are removed. Keying the processors and sockets in this way prevents AM2+ processors from being installed on AM3 motherboards, but allows AM3 processors to be installed on either type of motherboard.
To get glimpse into the Phenom II 965 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 GlobalFoundries' 45nm process technology and our particular sample has a stepping designation of 2 and core revision of RB-C2. The Phenom II X4 965 BE chip is clocked at 3.4GHz, due to its 17x 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, for a total of 8MB combined L2 and L3 cache.
Overclocking The Phenom II X4 965 Pedal To The Metal
Phenom II's have earned a reputation for being highly overclockable processors. In a previous article, we were able to achieve a clock speed increase of about 800MHz over stock with the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition; other Phenom IIs we tested didn't fare quite as well, but 600MHz to 700MHz increases were not uncommon using nothing but the stock air cooler.
With that in mind, we set out to overclock the new Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition using the stock AMD PIB cooler and an Asus 790FX based motherboard. With a bump in CPU core voltage to 1.5v, we were able to take the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition to just over 3.8GHz with complete stability--only a ~400MHz increase. 3.9GHz - 4GHz would load Windows, but no amount of voltage allowed us to maintain stability during testing. Remember, Black Edition processors are unlocked, so we were able to achieve this overclock by merely altering the CPU multiplier and voltage in the system BIOS or via AMD's OverDrive utility. As you can see in the screencap above, while overclocked, the 965 BE zipped along at a toasty 65'C+. That's a bit warm, but keep in mind we were using the stock cooler and it's the middle of the summer. While idling, the chip barely broke the 35'C barrier.