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Another power saving improvement comes from the new ability of idle cores to flush out the contents of its L1 and L2 caches (remember these are normally only readable by one core) to L3 cache (which the other cores can read). The processor can then halt clocks to the idle core and consequently save power. It's not a complete shutdown of the core like Intel has managed with its Core i7 architecture but it's better than what came previously.

As for those under the bonnet performance increases, AMD was actually relatively tight-lipped about most of them, simply claiming that when combined they added an extra three per cent to the overall performance improvement. In fairness, the technicalities of what's going on with those improvements is probably beyond the scope of this article anyway. After all, you buy a CPU based on the end result, not how and why it got there.


Two versions of Phenom II will eventually be available. The current versions use AMD's current AM2+ packaging. This means owners of AMD motherboards bought within the last couple of years will be able to simply swap their old CPU for a new one (mileage may vary here so you should check your motherboard manufacturer's website). You'll just need to update the BIOS, which in this day and age is quite a simple process. Obviously this is a huge 'cost of ownership' advantage for AMD compared to Intel, even without comparing the actual prices of the CPUs.

The second version of Phenom II will be based on its new AM3 packaging, the principle advantage of which will be a move to DDR3 support. This will also be AMDs package of choice for its brand new CPU designs (remember Phenom II is essentially just a tweaked design) when they eventually arrive.


That's pretty much the essence of Phenom II, so to see if all this theory holds up and whether Phenom II is actually worth laying down your hard earned cash for, it's time to do a bit of testing.

As with our Core i7 performance analysis, we've taken a consumerist stance with our testing, eschewing theoretical memory bandwidth benchmarks and raw floating point calculation performance metrics for real world tasks. There are a couple of 'canned' benchmarks in the form of the 3D rendering tests, Cinebench and POV-Ray. However, these are industry standard benchmarks that we feel people value, as they can easily be downloaded and run by anyone.

Test Setup

Common System Components

AMD ATI Radeon 4870 X2 Graphics Card
Western Digital Raptor X 150GB Hard Drive
Pioneer BDC-S02BK Blu-ray Drive

Core i7 Test System

Intel DX58SO SmackOver Motherboard
2 x 1GB Qimonda IMSH1GU03A1F1C-10F PC3-8500 DDR3 RAM

Core 2 test Sytem

Asus P5E3 Motherboard
2 x 1GB Qimonda IMSH1GU03A1F1C-10F PC3-8500 DDR3 RAM

AMD Phenom Test System

Gigabyte MA-790GP-DS4H Motherboard
2 x 1GB Corsair Dominator CM2X1024-8500C5D DDR2 RAM

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