AMD's initial quad-core Phenom chips, such as the Phenom 9600 didn't particularly wow us, but the TLB-fixed revisions, for example the Phenom X4 9850, were much better processors. So AMDs just-released tri-core Phenom X3s must be three quarters as good as a quad-core and 50 per cent better than a dual-core chip, no?
Well you'll have to wait until we've actually reviewed them for an answer to that one, or take the plunge and just buy one. On paper at least the prospect is fairly promising. Three X3s are available, the 2.1GHz Phenom X3 8450, the 2.3GHz Phenom X3 8650 and the top-end, 2.4GHz Phenom 8750.
As previously speculated, X3 CPUs are in fact an X4 processor with a core disabled. AMD isn't commenting on why this has been done, but the obvious assumption is that the manufacturing process is getting bad yields. That is to say, some quad-core's are coming off the production line as tri-cores anyway, so why not sell them rather than trash them?
The biggest problem for the X3s will be pricing. Currently costing about £95, £110 and £130 for the 8450, 8650 and 8750 respectively, depending where you shop, you'd be hard pushed not to consider a quad-core instead. Moreover, if you don't need the extra multitasking power that a third core offers, a significantly faster clocked dual-core CPU might fit the bill just as well. By tweaking the pricing, though, AMD could have a winner on its hands.