Feature Articles

AMD Starts New Year with Two New CPUs

Two for the New Year

Blink and you would have missed it: AMD's announcement of two new quad-core processor models was made shortly after Intel's Sandy Bridge launch went live. Going by their original NDAs, it was supposed to be the other way round. AMD had scheduled its processor release a day before Intel's Sandy Bridge, but Intel changed its date rather at the last minute, which took us too by surprise. 

Besides the fact that we ended up late with our Sandy Bridge article, the change in NDA also meant that AMD's new processors were inevitably lost amid the flood of Sandy Bridge reviews. Unsurprisingly too, since the first two AMD CPUs of the year are once again incremental additions to its existing lineup. Even AMD is focusing on its Fusion products, which were revealed at CES 2011, making these new desktop processors seem like an afterthought.

Nevertheless, we're here to bring you the latest tech developments and despite the presence of Sandy Bridge, there's still room for a budget AMD processor (the new Phenom II X4 840) and its fastest 'Black Edition' quad-core (the new Phenom II X4 975 BE). Right?

Here are the basic specs for the two:

Processor Model Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache HyperTransport Bus Max TDP (W) Retail Price (US$) Availability
AMD Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition 3.6GHz 512KB x 4 6MB  2.0GHz 125W ~195 Now
AMD Phenom II X4 840 3.2GHz 512KB x 4 N.A 2.0GHz 95W ~102 Now

The AMD Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition is the predictable member of the two. AMD has been gradually increasing the clock speed of its highest-end processors and at 3.6GHz, the Phenom II X4 975 BE is the fastest quad-core in its stable. Its predecessor, the Phenom II X4 970 (3.5GHz) was only introduced in September last year, and well, AMD thinks it's time for another minor upgrade. At US$195, it's slightly more expensive than the 970, which is going for US$186 nowadays.

The other Phenom II X4, the 840 is meant for the budget segment despite its 'Phenom II' branding. It's also a return to the 800 series that has been rather quiet for a while now. However, there's an important difference. The 840 has more in common with the Athlon II X4 family, what with its lack of L3 cache. A look at the processor codename - Propus - gives away the clue that it is indeed the same core as the Athlon II X4.

It would seem like a bad move to dilute the Phenom II brand with a much weaker processor, but AMD appears to have the 840 assigned to the value bin, with an affordable US$102 price tag that actually undercuts the US$119 Athlon II X4 645. Perhaps a price adjustment for the Athlon II X4 will be coming soon.

Anyway, there's nothing new to talk about these processors that you haven't heard before, so let's go straight to the testing and results.