Every time AMD releases a new processor, one question is on the tip of the tongues of enthusiasts everywhere: Is this the product to finally take the performance crown from Intel? I have to say that the AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition CPU isn't that product. This latest CPU from the green machine is simply a revision to the previous Phenom II X4 955 CPU. As we know this line of processors is still only able to compete with Intel's Core 2 Quad line of CPUs, rather than take on Intel's Core i7 beast.
Introducing the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition
On paper, the Phenom II X4 965 is essentially a pumped up 955. The CPU is clocked at 3.4GHz; a mere 200MHz over the previous top end 955 and retains the unlocked multipliers of its older brother. A plus has to be the clock speed as there hasn't yet been a quad core CPU clocked at 3.4GHz out of the box. However, AMD has taken some risks in getting the CPU to that speed, releasing it with a TDP rating of 140W. We haven't seen a TDP rating go that high on a CPU since Intel's Prescott based Pentium 4. This is likely to make cooler manufacturers wince a little, and make it harder to get a decent overclock out of the CPU. It also may start to mark the end for this particular core in terms of future headroom.
Basically we've already looked at this line of processors and what it can do, so I'm mainly interested in seeing how much better the 965 performs over its predecessor. The key thing we are looking for here though is value. That is something AMD has been good at in this generation of chips, but with the 965 launch price set at $245 they're within $50 of the price of an Intel Core i7 920. The motherboards for AMD are quite a bit cheaper which further solidifies the value proposition.
Anyhow, let's get down to it and see how this CPU does.
The Test Rig
Since the AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition is essentially the same as the 955, testing the 965 required just a quick swap of the CPU. We've also made some slight updates to our test rig which includes a new video card, which is going to be the subject of a future review, and RAM that was bequiefed to us my Kingston in support of Fragapalooza 2009.
So here's what hardware the Phenom II 965 was plugged into:
- GIGABYTE GA-MA790FXT-UD5P AM3 790FX Motherboard
- Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-1600 Dual Channel Memory Kit
- GIGABYTE GV-R489OC-1GD Radeon HD 4890 1GB DDR5 Video Card
- Kingston SSDnow V-Series 128GB Solid State Hard Drive
- Thermaltake SpinQ Heatpipe CPU Cooler
- HighSpeed PC Top Deck Tech Station
- Lian Li MAXIMA Force Extreme PS-A650GB 650W Power Supply
With such a close clock speed between these two processors, we are going to forgo a lot of the game testing performed in our normal CPU reviews. Most of our games are reliant on video card performance, and a 200MHz different between CPUs isn't going to make an appreciable difference in gaming performance. Instead our testing is going to focus on processing power, and overclocking of this new core.
We will put the 965 through it's paces in a number of suites, and even test thermal performance to see if the 140W TDP is anything to be worried about. Let's go!