It seems like every time AMD makes progress in their battle with Intel, their rivals pull away even further. The Phenom II X4 9xx was a fantastic CPU series for the price, but then Intel introduced Core i3 and Core i5. After some new products and price adjustments, AMD now does very well in the $100-150 CPU price range. But then Intel blew everything out of the water with their 6-core, 12-thread monster, the Core i7 980x.
Sure, the 980x gives Intel some bragging rights, but who in their right mind wants to cough up over $1000 for a CPU? Certainly there is something to be said for the first CPU maker to come out with an affordable CPU with six cores, right?
AMD saw the opportunity, and jumped on it, creating the first six-core CPU that normal people can afford – Phenom II X6 (codenamed Thuban). The first two models in the lineup are the 1055T and 1090T. What does the “T” stand for? Why, turbo of course! That’s right, AMD has come up with their own version of dynamic overclocking. The implementation seems to be a bit simpler than Intel’s (at least it’s less ambiguous and should be more consistent).
Basically, what it does is make full use of its thermal envelope by overclocking individual cores depending on how many threads are being used. For instance, the 1090T has a base clock speed of 3.2 GHz. That is the speed it will run at when all six cores are loaded. But when one core is loaded, that single core will be overclocked up to 3.6 GHz while the remaining 5 cores are remain at the stock speed of 3.2 GHz. You can think of it as being a sort of Bizarro version of Cool n’ Quiet.
So with this bit of technology (if I recall, some people were calling it “cheating” when Intel introduced it) AMD has covered the issue of offering sufficient performance in applications that don’t make full use of six cores (and as we saw in our Core i7 980x review, this is a very common scenario).
As far as Thuban goes, that’s about it for the tangible changes. Of course it’s worth mentioning that these six-core chips share a similar thermal envelope to previous four-core Phenom II’s (and some of those were reaching upwards of 140W!). This is due to some tweaks in the SOI fabrication process at Global Foundries.
So does AMD have what it takes to compete with Intel at the $200-300 price range? Read on to find out!