Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: There are a few interesting performance characteristics to summarize in regard to AMD’s new Phenom processors. First, in comparison to similarly clocked Athlon 64 X2 processors, the Phenoms showed some significant performance gains in the neighborhood of 5% - 9% in single-threaded testing. And in the multi-threaded tests, Phenom’s two additional execution cores obviously allow it to pull well ahead of any Athlon 64 X2 processor, regardless of frequency. AMD's IPC enhancements are for real.
Secondly, in comparison to AMD’s previous desktop pseudo quad-core offering, the QuadFX Athlon 64 FX-74 system, Phenom also showed relatively strong performance. In a few tests, namely Crysis, Sony Vegas, and Kribibench, despite a 600MHz – 700MHz clock speed disadvantage, the Phenom systems outpaced the FX-74 setup while consuming much less power.
Finally, we have to compare Intel’s quad-core offerings to Phenom. In all but a few of PCMark Vantage’s individual tests, the 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 outperformed the 2.4GHz Phenom 9700. Although the Phenom did exhibit measurable IPC improvements over Athlon 64 processors, it seems those improvements aren’t enough to catch the Core 2.
AMD’s Phenom processor, and Spider platform as a whole, obviously took longer to bring to market than the company would have liked. And even though they are officially "here" now, we’re sure AMD would have preferred to unleash Phenom on the world at higher frequencies than 2.2 (Phenom 9500) and 2.3GHz (Phenom 9600). Although we showed you the performance of a 2.4GHz Phenon 9700 throughout this article, that CPU won’t arrive for a few more weeks.
APPROXIMATE AMD PHENOM PROCESSOR PRICING:
AMD Phenom processor model 9700 - <$300/ea.
AMD Phenom processor model 9600 - $283/ea.
AMD Phenom processor model 9500 - $251/ea.
According to the most recent pricing information we have on Phenom, it’s clear that AMD is positioning early Phenoms in-line with the Core 2 Q6600. Based on the performance we’ve seen from the processors, that’s the right place to be, but overall the Q6600 offers better performance and street prices for Intel’s offering are somewhat lower than the Phenom 9600 at the moment.
At this juncture AMD is in a tough spot. Their Radeon HD 3800 series graphics cards are looking very strong. And although we’ve only done limited testing to this point, we also think the 7-series chipset is in good shape. But the company badly needs to ramp up frequencies with their Phenom processors. Looking back at the performance, it’s clear that the architecture performs relatively well and is an improvement over the previous generation clock for clock. Either AMD’s 65nm manufacturing process doesn’t agree with the architecture or there are issues with the design that are keeping it from hitting higher clock speeds. Whatever the case, we hope AMD has a breakthrough soon. The company has stated that they will offer an unlocked (Black Edition) 2.3GHz Phenom later this quarter and they intend to offer the Phenom 9900 (2.6GHz) priced below $350 and Phenom 9700 (2.4GHz) priced below $300(1KU) in Q108, with a 3GHz part following sometime in the first half. The question is, where will Intel's offering be at that point?