I don’t know the last time I was this excited about AMD’s roadmap. Zacate and Ontario are due out in a quarter, and both promise to bring competition to an area where we haven’t seen much from AMD.

Llano is slated for release near the end of Q2 next year. While it won’t be a big step forward in CPU performance, we should see a huge increase in integrated graphics performance.

Sampling in Q4 of this year and shipping sometime next year is AMD’s next-generation microarchitecture: Bulldozer.

Within the course of twelve months we will see AMD introduce three drastically different microprocessors into the market’s eager hands. We’ve been dying for more competition and AMD is planning on giving us just that. But that's the future, what about the present?

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $295
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $245
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $199
AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE 3.5GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $185
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $165
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $145
AMD Phenom II X2 560 BE 3.3GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $105
AMD Phenom II X2 555 BE 3.2GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $93
AMD Athlon II X4 645 3.1GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $122
AMD Athlon II X4 640 3.0GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $100
AMD Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $87
AMD Athlon II X3 445 3.1GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $76
AMD Athlon II X2 265 3.3GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $76
AMD Athlon II X2 260 3.2GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $69
AMD Athlon II X2 255 3.1GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $66

Today AMD announced speed bumps to nearly every processor in its desktop lineup. Everything from the dual-core Athlon II to the six-core Phenom II gets a new family member today. And they’re all very attractively priced.

A Third Phenom II X6

We’ll start at the high end. The Phenom II X6 line expands to include a 3.0GHz 1075T. Smack in the middle of the other X6s, the 1075T will set you back $245 and can turbo up to 3.5GHz if three or fewer cores are in use. You get a 6MB L3 and a 3MB L2 (512KB per core).

The Phenom II X6 1075T has no competitively priced answer from Intel. The Core i7 860 is priced at $284, while the Core i5 760 will set you back $205. The default clock speed of the 1075T should bring it close to the Core i5 760 in many tasks, while anything threaded will for sure favor the 1075T. Remember the quad-core i5s lack Hyper Threading so this is a 6 core/6 thread chip matched up against a 4/4. Intel’s cores get better performance per clock, but not that much better. Single threaded performance and power consumption are both advantages of the Core i5, but the rest will easily fall in AMD’s favor.

A 3.5GHz Quad-Core

It’s not all about more cores from AMD. The new Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition pushes quad-core clock speed to 3.5GHz. The 970 ships with all cache enabled, so that's 6MB L3 and 2MB total L2.

This is still a Deneb so you get no core turbo support, but you do get a great value. At $185 the Phenom II X4 970 only has to compete with the Core i5 750 or a bunch of dual-core Clarkdale CPUs. Without Hyper Threading, the matchup can be close. AMD and Intel trade blows here, with Intel typically ending up on top. Single threaded performance is close as AMD has a huge clock speed advantage. AMD gets the nod for slightly lower price and better upgrade path as you’ll can stick a Phenom II X6 in the same Socket-AM3 motherboard. Bulldozer is out of the question however, AM3+ chips aren’t backwards compatible with AM3 motherboards (although the opposite is true, you will be able to use your 970 in an AM3+ motherboard).

Value Quad-Core at 3.1GHz

Next on the list is a value quad-core offering, the Athlon II X4 645 is a speed bump of one of the most attractive quad-core CPUs we’ve ever reviewed. The Athlon II X4 does away with an L3 cache in order to keep costs down while keeping the same 512KB private L2 per core (2MB total). The 645 runs at 3.1GHz and will set you back $122.

Intel has no competition for this processor. The Core i3 540 is priced similarly but you only get two cores. Intel is faster in lightly threaded apps and games, but AMD is faster everywhere else. If you’re a multitasker my vote goes for the Athlon II X4 645. Intel does offer lower power consumption and on-chip graphics if you’re looking to build a HTPC.

High-End Dual-Core

AMD’s Phenom II X2 560 gives you two cores running at 3.3GHz and a full 6MB L3 cache. You only have to pay $105 to play.

In a stock fight, the 560 will easily lose to Intel’s Core i3 530. Both chips have two cores and the larger L3 cache doesn’t do much for AMD given Intel’s IPC advantage. The 560 however might come from a die harvested part. It may just be a Phenom II X4 but with two cores disabled. Assuming you get a good chip and have a motherboard with core-unlocking support, you might just find yourself with Phenom II X4 “960” and save $50. Proceed at your own risk. We could unlock three of the four cores on our chip but the system wasn’t stable enough to enter Windows with the extra unlocked core.

The Athlon II X3 450: A Pentium G6950 Killer

While AMD no longer lists a triple-core Phenom II on its price list, the Athlon II X3 is still alive and well. The new 450 gives you three cores at 3.2GHz for $87. This is a harvested part taken from quad-core chips, as a result you get no L3 cache and 1.5MB of total L2 on chip (512KB per core x 3). The closest competitor from Intel is the Pentium G6950.

AMD has the clock and core advantage, although Intel has a single threaded performance advantage. AMD wins across the board virtually regardless of application. The Athlon II X3 450 gives you more bang for your buck than the Pentium G6950.

Affordable Dual-Core

Last, but not least, we have the new Athlon II X2 265. Running at 3.3GHz and priced at only $76 you have to look at Intel’s previous-generation Penryn based processors to find a suitable competitor for this chip. There's no L3 cache but the L2 gets a bump to 2MB total (1MB per core).

Personally I’m not terribly interested in the 265. For an extra $11 you get an additional core and only lose 100MHz, a tradeoff that I believe is more than worth it.

The Test

To keep the review length manageable we're presenting a subset of our results here. For all benchmark results and even more comparisons be sure to use our performance comparison tool: Bench.

We've moved all of our AMD CPU testing to the 890GX platform. While nearly all numbers are comparable you may occasionally see some scaling that doesn't quite add up compared to lower clocked versions of the same chips running on a previous motherboard.

Motherboard: ASUS P7H57DV- EVO (Intel H57)
Intel DP55KG (Intel P55)
Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
Chipset Drivers: Intel (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280 (Vista 64)
ATI Radeon HD 5870 (Windows 7)
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 9.12 (Windows 7)
NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
NVIDIA ForceWare 178.24 (Vista32)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (for SYSMark)
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Windows 7 x64
SYSMark 2007 & Photoshop Performance
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  • iwodo - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    All these Athlon II and Phenom, are expected to complete against Sandy Bridge next year?
    ( Since Bulldozer are not coming to Fusion type and low end CPU )

    SandyBridge is coming to kick some ass then by the looks of it. Higher IPC, Higher Clock speed, lower Idle power, better Hyper Threading......

    Apart from Fusion i am not excited by AMD's roadmap at all.......
  • Dark_Archonis - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    I believe Llano is supposed to compete with Sandy Bridge, but the problem is Llano is coming to market later than Sandy Bridge. Until Llano comes, yes these Athlon IIs and Phenom IIs will be forced to compete with Sandy Bridge, and they are going to lose badly.

    Even when Llano comes, it's not supposed to be a big performance increase, so I think Sandy Bridge will rule the mainstream market.

    As for Bulldozer, it will have to go up against Intel's socket 2011 Sandy Bridge models that are likely to be without integrated graphics. These models are rumored to have up to 8 physical cores, 40 lanes of PCI-E 3.0, and quad-channel DDR3.
  • Eeqmcsq - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    On the Video Encoding & Data Archive page, the graph for Par2 is in reverse. It has the Athlon II X2 255 at the top and the Core i7 860 at the bottom.
  • Makaveli - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    Eeqmcsq the graph is correct.

    Look under the heading of the graph....

    (Lower is better)
  • Eeqmcsq - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    Yes, I saw that. But Anand usually puts the best CPU at the top, not at the bottom. See the previous review for the Core i7 970.

  • hangfirew8 - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    You write: "The Phenom II X6 1075T is an interesting chip as you get a lot of compute but it's only useful in heavily threaded apps."

    I strongly disagree, unlike you are calling virtualization "apps".

    These chips are a godsend to developers, testers and sales who are running entire tiles of software. Need to test your client on XP, Vista and Windows 7? Need to run a web application server on Windows and an Oracle database backend on Linux? Need to do all of these at the same time? This is what a Hex Core chip is made for, not running a single heavily threaded app on a single O/S.

    I'd like to see an AT Bench benchmark that covers this sort of application. I'd like to see how comparably priced Intel CPU's do versus AMD chips. I'm thinking this would be a huge differentiator between HyperThreading and actual cores, but I'd like to see the numbers before making any claims.
  • haplo602 - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    this is not quite comparable. on moderately IO dependant workloads (your web server/oracle db example), HT will do just fine. on compute dependant applications with little memory access, HT will bottleneck. However you will hardly run 4-6 compute dependant VMs at once every time.
  • hangfirew8 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    I agree on your HTT assessment.

    BTW I mean "unless" not "unlike". Where's the edit button?

    Can I get a reply from AT on VM? Can we stop treating every desktop chip as a gaming candidate-only chip and get some kind of desktop VM benchmark going here?

    I'm thinking running one per VM: compile/link/install (push application from dev VM to web server VM over virtual network), web server with integrated JAVA application, three web clients, and a database backend. Run a mix of Linux & Windows, 32 and 64 bit O/S's. The app being compiled doesn't even have to be the app being run.
  • Accord99 - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    There's some tests done by the IT side of Anandtech:


    Relatively speaking, more cores offers a bigger boost than Hyperthreading, but a single Nehalems core is much more powerful than a AMD K10 core.
  • hangfirew8 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Yes I know they can do it, but we have no data on how similarly priced desktop chips compete. HTT versus Cores is only one aspect. I want to see the AMD hex chips stretched against Intel quad cores in VM's and shake out the bang for buck. AT's attitude about hex cores only being useful for single heavily threaded apps just doesn't match how this chip is being marketed or how it is being used in the field.

    AT should realize that a lot of their PC gaming readers have daytime jobs not just as server administrators, but as software developers and testers. Management comes to us for advice and no one is providing us with the data to make informed decisions. 7Zip benchmarks are fine but give us a software development lifecycle benchmark using VM's, give us data on what we are already working with for several years in real life (work). Give us a benchtop VM benchmark! Please!

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