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Build Your Own AMD Phenom II Machine - A HardwareZone DIY Special
By Kenny Yeo
Category : DIY Guides
Published by Vijay Anand on Saturday, 27th June, 2009


An Overview of the Phenom II Processor

The new processors are the successors to the original Phenom offerings and there are three primary differences. One is that the newer Phenom II processors are manufactured using a 45nm process; secondly, features double or triple the amount of L3 cache memory; lastly, the newer Socket AM3 compliant have an updated integrated memory controller that supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory (but only one type is usable at any time of course). The earlier Socket AM2+ models only support DDR2 memory.

Rather than tout sheer outright performance, AMD is instead positioning their processors as the more bang-for-buck buy. The new Core i7 processors might be fast but adopting that platform is a costly option due to the more complex motherboard and processor.

The older AM2+ processor socket is on the left and the newer AM3 socket processor in on the right. If you look closely enough at the gaps in the pins, you'll notice that the AM3 socket processor has a larger gap of three pins.

AMD's newest Phenom II processors, however, despite being designed for use with an AM3 socket, are totally backwards compatible with older AM2+ socket motherboards as well. Thus this requires little more than just a BIOS update to the motherboard to support newer processors. Also, the new AM3 Phenom II processors feature integrated memory controllers that work not only with DDR3 but also DDR2 memory. This means an AMD user with AM2+ motherboard can upgrade to the new Phenom II processors without a complete system overhaul.


Introducing the Phenom II Processors

On that note, let us now take a closer look at the current line-up of Phenom II processors. The earliest examples of these processors were released early in January this year and they were the quad-core X4 920 and X940 Black Edition, both of which are still using the AM2+ socket and supports only DDR2 memory. Subsequently newer Phenom II processors have made the switched to AM3 sockets and are fully compatible with faster DDR3 memory.

To be brief, the line-up of Phenom II processors can generally be divided into three series: 900, 800 and 700. The 900 series represents chips that offer the full performance features whereas the other two series are formed by die harvesting, which means re-using chips that have had certain controlled defects. Controlled because the thorough testing by AMD has validated them usable and pose no cause for concern. This is a common practice throughout the industry for many years now.

The 800 series is formed using chips with four fully functioning cores, but with defects in the cache, leaving them with only 4MB of useable L3 cache. The 700 series, on the other hand, has one faulty core, but with a fully functional cache. As such the 700 series is sort of unique and the only triple-core product in the market. This gives users a wider variety of options for a particular budget depending on their usage needs. For example, if you don't dabble with programs don't benefit much from quad cores, you could actually get better performance going with a triple-core processor that's clocked higher instead.

Technical Specifications of Phenom II processors
Processor Processor Model Number of Cores Clock Speed Socket L2 Cache L3 Cache HyperTransport Bus TDP Price (SRP)
Phenom II X2 X2 550 Black Edition 2 3.1GHz AM3 2 x 512KB 6MB 2GHz 80W US$102
Phenom II X3 X3 705e 3 2.5GHz AM3 3 x 512KB 6MB 2GHz 65W US$125
X3 710 2.6GHz 95W US$125
X3 720 Black Edition 2.8GHz US$145
Phenom II X4 X4 810 4 2.6GHz AM3 4 x 512KB 4MB 2GHz 95W US$175
X4 905e 2.5GHz 6MB 65W US$195
X4 920 2.8GHz AM2+ 1.8GHz 125W US$189
X4 940 Black Edition 3.0GHz 125W US$195
X4 945 3.0GHz AM3 2GHz 125W US$225
X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz 125W US$245

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