Feature Articles

"Here Be Dragons" - AMD Phenom II

"Here Be Dragons" - AMD Phenom II



Test Setup

Test Setup

In the course of our reviews on processors, we have accumulated a number of test system configurations for both the AMD and Intel platform due to the intrinsic differences between them. Hence, be prepared for a lengthy listing of the various setups used. For instance, our recent review kit from Intel for the Core i7 saw the following configuration, featuring an unprecedented 3GB of DDR3 memory:-

  • Intel DX58SO Motherboard (Intel X58 Express chipset)
  • 3 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 (CAS 7-7-7-20) @1.62V
  • ASUS GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (ForceWare 169.21)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (For World in Conflict and Crysis only, ForceWare 178.24)
  • Seagate 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
  • Intel INF 9.1.0.1007 and Matrix Storage Manager 8.6.0.1007

For this review of the Phenom II, we have taken our previous tested results for the Core i7 processors (965, 940 and 920), with all of them having HyperThreading enabled. Additionally, for the 940 and 920 models, we've enabled and Turbo Mode since this is a fixed amount of overclock that works out of the box. We didn't enable Turbo Mode for the 965 version since the multiplier is unlocked and it's really under the discretion of the user on how fast he wants to run the system. This system also had 3GB of DDR3 memory at DDR3-1333, which is obviously an advantage over the other test setups below and something that readers should take note. Since most consumers are likely to equip any Core i7 system with 3GB of memory due to its triple channel memory controller, we have kept with this configuration.

For the Intel Core 2 Extreme (QX9770 only), the setup is as follows:-

  • Gigabyte X48T-DQ6 motherboard (Intel X48 Express chipset)
  • 2 x 1GB Patriot DDR3-1866@ DDR3-1600 (CAS 7-7-7-20)
  • Seagate 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive
  • ASUS GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (ForceWare 169.21)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (For World in Conflict and Crysis only, ForceWare 178.24)
  • Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
  • Intel INF 8.3.1.1009 and Matrix Storage Manager 7.8.0.1012

For the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 and Core 2 Duo E8500, the setup is:-

  • ASUS P5E3 Deluxe (Intel X38 Express chipset)
  • 2 x 1GB Kingston HyperX DDR3-1333 (CAS 7-7-7-20)
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • ASUS GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (ForceWare 169.21)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (For World in Conflict and Crysis only, ForceWare 178.24)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
  • Intel INF 8.3.1.1009 and Matrix Storage Manager 7.8.0.1012

For the AMD Phenom X4 9950, the setup is as follows:-

  • ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe Wi-Fi (AMD 790FX chipset)
  • 2 x 1GB Aeneon DDR2-1066@ DDR2-800 (CAS 5-5-5-15)
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • ASUS GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (ForceWare 169.21)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (For World in Conflict and Crysis only, ForceWare 178.24)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2

Finally, for the star of our review today, the Phenom II. Our sample from AMD is the unlocked Black Edition X4 940 which is clocked at 3.0GHz. The benchmark results we got for the 920 are derived by downclocking this chip. We have also used the same Dragon platform touted by AMD minus the Radeon HD 4800 graphics card.

Instead, we have gone with our usual GeForce 8800 GT 512MB for most of the benchmarks but changed it to the Zotac GeForce GTX 260 for the two game benchmarks, World in Conflict and Crysis. This switch came about after our testing with the Core i7 showed that our GeForce 8800 GT seemed to be a bottleneck on that test bed, something that we had mentioned here. Therefore, compared to the original Phenom test bed, this new system featured a newer chipset (790GX instead of FX) and had its memory running correctly at DDR2-1066 instead of DDR2-800.

Hence, here's the rest of the AMD test configuration for the Phenom II:-

  • MSI DKA 790GX Platinum (AMD 790GX chipset)
  • 2 x 1GB Aeneon DDR2-1066 (CAS 5-5-5-15)
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • ASUS GeForce 8800 GT 512MB (ForceWare 169.21)
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 260 (For World in Conflict and Crysis only, ForceWare 178.24)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2

Benchmarks

The following benchmarks were used in this review:-

  • SYSmark 2007 Preview (ver 1.04)
  • SPEC CPU2000 v1.3
  • Futuremark PCMark 2005 Pro
  • Lightwave 3D 7.5
  • 3ds Max8 (SP2)
  • Cinebench 10
  • XMpeg 5.0.3 (DivX 6.8 encoding)
  • Futuremark 3DMark06 v1.1
  • AquaMark3
  • World in Conflict v1.05
  • Crysis v1.1