Things were going quite well for Phenom II, for a while. The debacle of the original Phenom launch left a sour taste, but the general quality, speed, price, and efficiency of their replacements more than made up for it. Phenom II chips were priced to compete against the original Core i7 and i5, and they fared quite well. By late last year, they were generally recommended as solutions within their respective price ranges.
Then Intel unleashed Sandy Bridge. Suddenly, everything else looked slow. Nehalem looked slow, and Phenom II’s looked slow.
AMD is getting ready to launch a full replacement of their high end desktop lineup soon, but that didn’t stop them from releasing one final quad-core Phenom II X4. And that’s what we’re going to look at today – the Phenom II X4 980.
Speed Bump Ahead
Since this nothing more than a 100 MHz base speed increase over the 3.6 GHz X4 975, this review is going to have a narrow focus. Everything is the same, except it comes clocked at 3.7 GHz. Note that the X4 series never received Turbo Boost technology, so it runs at 3.7 max, regardless of how many cores are being utilized. Contrast that to the likes of the X6 1100T, which has a base clock speed of 3.3 GHz, but will ramp up to 3.7 GHz when only one core is being used.
I’ll note here that the Phenom II X4 980 is a direct replacement for the 975, and will be available for roughly the same price as the 975 when it becomes widely available. When that happens, the X4 975 will receive a price break, along with the 970, and so on. It’s a Black Edition CPU, which of course means it has an unlocked multiplier. Most people have been able to go past the 4 GHz barrier by a bit with the latest X4 Black Editions, so I would expect this one to do the same.
As mentioned, this is going to be a focused review – we are only including four CPUs total this time. The good news is, all tests are done on our latest test bench! That means 8 GB of RAM running at 1600 MHz CL8 (the Patriot Viper Edition we discovered during our search for the Best Memory for Sandy Bridge) and an SATA 6 Gbps SSD drive (OCZ Agility 3, which we’ll be reviewing very soon).
All four CPUs roughly fall within $15-20 of the X4 980’s $185 price range. This will answer a few questions:
- Is the 980X’s 3.7 GHz clock speed a better choice over the 1100T X6 at 3.3 GHz but with two extra cores?
- How do those two CPUs compare to their respective Sandy Bridge competition? Core i5 2400 and 2500, which are also quad-core CPUs
Let’s take a quick look at the test bench setup, and get on with the benchmarks!
|Phenom II X4 980||Phenom II X6 1100T||Core i5 2400||Core i5 2500|
|Motherboard||Asus Crossfire IV Formula|
AMD 890FX/SB850 Chipset
Intel P67 Chipset
|Memory||8GB Patriot Viper Xtreme 1600 MHz 8-9-8-24|
|Hard Drive||OCZ Agility 3 128GB|
|Video Card||ATI Radeon HD4980|
|Motherboard Drivers||Catalyst 11.5||Intel INF 188.8.131.520
|Video Drivers||Catalyst 11.5|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Professional x64 Edition RTM|
We’ll start with SiSoft Sandra 2011c’s CPU tests, to see where they stand in terms of pure computational power:
The Phenom II X4 980 is not off to a great start, as its two core handicap keeps it well behind the 1100T, and Sandy Bridge’s awesomeness dominates everything in its path. Things might get interesting once we look at some real-world results, however…