Of all the tests we've performed here this is the one that really tells the story of Phenom II. Along with decent performance gains (mainly due to AMD finally being able to get its CPUs running at higher clock speeds) there is a significant drop in power usage. So significant that the 940 is the lowest power CPU on test. Even accounting for the fact you get more performance for the power outlay of Intel's processors, the difference is still marked enough to be worthy of high praise.
One of the biggest problems with the original Phenom was that AMD simply couldn't get the chips running fast enough to compete with Intel. However, with its move to a 45nm manufacturing process AMD has suddenly found a huge amount of headroom for increasing clock speeds. This is reflected in the fact that the launch Phenom II runs at 3.0GHz, which is 400MHz faster than the previous best of 2.6GHz. Further to this, though, AMD claims these chips should easily hit 4.0GHz. So, with the Phenom 940 being a Black Edition (it has an unlocked multiplier) you could have an overclocker's dream.
We put this to the test by having a quick go at overclocking our 940 Black Edition. We didn't add exotic cooling or fine tune our overclocking, we just upped the multiplier and added a little bit of extra voltage (+0.100V). As a result, we were able to get 3.6GHz running stably. This wasn't miraculous but it's a huge improvement over the old Phenom. The increase in clock speed translated into our Cinebench scores improving from 2,605 (single) and 8,667 (multi) to 3,103 and 10,030 respectively - an average increase of around 17 per cent. Likewise our automkv video encoding test time dropped from 895s to 760s, which also equated to around a 17 per cent improvement.
The only downside was power consumption understandably went up a noticeable amount. However, it still remained our lowest power chip on test with idle consumption of 185W and load consumption of 270W.
You can tell AMD knows these CPUs are a big improvement over what came before as they've priced these much less aggressively. When they first launched, the fastest Phenoms were available for only £155. In contrast, the Phenom II 940 is likely to be around £200, and may be a little more. Combined with the fact that Intel will undoubtedly drop the prices of its competing CPUs, you have a situation where, in isolation, neither Intel's nor AMDs CPUs offer a clear value advantage. What we can say, though, is that AMD has come up with a very competitive part that should be adequate for the vast majority of people.
It may not have stolen the performance crown from Intel but with its new Phenom II quad core CPUs, and in particular the 940 Black Edition we're looking at, AMD has finally become competitive again on the CPU front. Unless you must have the fastest and are willing to pay through the nose for it, then this is definitely a CPU to consider.