CES 2009: AMD releases Phenom II X4 and Dragon desktop platform

Posted by Rick C. Hodgin

Las Vegas (NV) - AMD took the opportunity to use the CES 2009 forum to officially release its latest update to its 64-bit line of 45nm microprocessors. Phenom II X4 and Dragon platform for desktop PCs represent an "elite-level" of computing performance for about $900. But what do the benchmarks say?





The new Phenom II X4 sports a new numbering convention. The 940 model relates more directly to Intel's number scheme, and runs at 3.0 GHz. The quad-core Phenom II X4 is built on a 45nm process technology, Deneb core, contains 758 million transistors, is Socket AM2 compatible. It has proven easily overclockable so far. HotHardware.com has gotten the 940 model to 3.73 GHz (a 24.3% overclock).



A 920 model was also released at 2.8 GHz. Both models sport a 6 MB shared L3 cache. Power consumption drops from previous high-end 140W TDP to a more common 125W TDP at 3.0 GHz. L1 cache remains the same, 64KB data, 64KB instruction; with an L2 cache of 512KB per core. It includes an update to Cool'n'Quiet 3.0, though most other specs remain the same as previous high-end Phenoms.



AMD's Dragon PC platform sports an ATI Radeon 4800 GPU and AMD 790GX chipset, with HyperTransport 3.0, support for DDR2-1333 (and DDR3 memory on Socket AM3 versions with 880G chipset - due out later, probably in February), DirectX 10.1 (DisplayPort available in future 880G chipset), Cool'n'Quiet 3.0 support along with platform idea concepts, such as a call for quieter fans. The previous Spider platform used a Radeon 3800-series GPU and 700-Series chipset, including 790FX or 790GX.



Additional conceptual features include AMD's Fusion for Gaming - which is a feature allowing users single-click access to suspend background tasks thereby increasing performance for gaming; AMD's OverDrive utility which helps with overclocking (though AMD indicates overclocking of any kind voids the warranty); ATI Catalyst 8.12 and ATI Stream technology for GPGPU acceleration of several popular apps; and a new AMD Fusion Media Explorer Beta which "Simplifies the entertainment experiencing by enabling a simple but powerful way for consumers to interact with their music, photos, movies, TV and social media on their PC. This utility offers one-button postings of photos to Facebook™ accounts as well as automatic related media searches when the system is online, etc."



Reviews out at Tom's Hardware, The Tech Report and HotHardware.com indicate that at idle the CPU throttles down to 800 MHz and 0.992 volts with Cool'n'Quiet 3.0, resulting in a CPU energy consumption of 10.3 watts for 940, 10.0 watts for 920, and a platform energy consumption of 113.4 and 112.5 watts, respectively - which is currently "best in class" platform-wise.



Under heavy loads power consumption increases to 93.3 and 87.9 watts for CPU alone, and 204.8 and 199.4 watts for 940 and 920, respectively, which is only bested by Phenom X4 9350's 127.7 watts and Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600 (which Intel discontinued yesterday) at 203.1 watts.



On benchmarks, Phenom II X4 940 is roughly 15% to 19% faster than Phenom X4 9950 across the board in gaming and compute applications, with the highest differences coming in Mainconcept H.264 compression which is 19.8% faster, Unreal Tournament 3 which is also 19.8% faster. The slowest increase came in Supreme Commander, which was 1.5% and Studio 12 which was 6.9%. 18 other benchmarks on Tom's Hardware were at least 15% faster.



In a break from tradition, Tom's Hardware is showing a relative percentage comparison for comparable platforms and applications, but is not doing full graphs with individual specs. For example, on average Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600 (now discontinued) is 9% slower on average than Phenom II X4 940 (faster on all benchmarks, min is 0.7%, max is 22.6%). With Core i7 920 systems, Intel's offering performs 22% better on average. Some benchmarks include better performances of 60.5% and 43.3%.



Products are immediately available. Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition, 3.0 GHz, 6 MB L3 sells for $275. 920 2.8 GHz version sells for $235. AMD claims the following system can be purchased for approximately $900: "Dragon platform technology consisting of the new AMD Phenom II X4 processor, ATI Radeon™ HD 4870 1GB graphics card, the AMD 790GX motherboard and 4 GB of DDR2-1066 memory."



See AMD's press release.