Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: The Phenom X4 9850 is AMD's most powerful desktop processor to date. Due to the processor's higher clock speed and revised silicon that eliminates the TLB errata, the Phenom X4 9850 is measurably faster than all of AMD's previously released Phenom processors. In comparison to Intel's closest competitor, the Phenom X4 9850 competes well, trading benchmark victories with the 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600. Keep in mind though, Intel is updating their line-up to include Penryn-based Core 2 products across the board and higher performing, 45nm Yorkfield-based quad-core processors should be hitting store shelves very soon. In fact, the Q9300 has already showed up at some on-line retailers for about $290.
Although the Phenom X4 9850 doesn't propel AMD to the head of the pack in terms of performance, it is a significant step forward for the company. AMD can now put the TLB issue behind them and focus on ramping clock speeds and their impending transition to a 45nm manufacturing process. Until all that happens, the Phenom X4 9850 allows AMD to compete better with Intel's offerings and eliminates a roadblock that was preventing some AMD faithfuls from migrating to a Phenom CPU. And when you consider the total platform, AMD is in a pretty good position. DDR2 RAM is dirt cheap at the moment, and AMD 770 and 790FX motherboards are priced anywhere between $100 and $220, not to mention the affordable 780G. In addition, the list of older socket AM2 motherboards that support Phenom is growing all the time. Drop in CPU upgrades sure are nice when a user doesn't have the funds to overhaul their entire system.
Today isn't all about the Phenom X4 9850, however. AMD is also announcing some lower clocked Phenom 50-series processors based on B3 revision silicon, new tri-cores, and even a low-power 65E quad-core. Pricing and availability for all of the chips is listed in the chart above. Please note, not all of the chips will hit the channel. Some are reserved for OEMs only.
Now that AMD has put the TLB bug behind them, we're hoping the company switches on the afterburners and ramps up Phenom clock speeds to better compete at the high end. Although the vast majority of processors sold are at or below the Phenom X4 9850's price point, as enthusiasts, we'd still like to see AMD work some magic and make a go at the performance crown. It will obviously take a ton of work, but they've done it before and for competition's sake, we hope they can do it again.