Let’s Just Say It
It has been a long road for the computer enthusiast that looks to AMD for solutions. If you are an “Intel guy” and don’t look to other brands for computing solutions the last year has been good to you, and it looks like the next year will be even better. There is no other way to put it; I am disappointed in AMD’s Phenom. The Phenom is nine months late to market and has a hard time keeping up with Intel’s Core 2 processors when it comes to a clock to clock comparison. While you can cherry pick a suite of benchmarks that might give a Phenom to Core 2 comparison a good look on a clock to clock basis, the fact is Intel has better instructions per clock and better scaling than AMD’s Phenom. All that talk from AMD about “clock rate does not matter,” just went out the window all of a sudden. Clock rate today means a lot. I have said for months now to AMD that if it did not launch at least at 3GHz it would have a failure on its hands. Today AMD comes out with 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz Phenom processors. Gone are the 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz parts it wished to be shipping at launch due to a TLB (translation lookup buffer) L3 errata issue. All this is being fixed by AMD, but it means lower clocked processors for now as the TLB issue pops up at 2.4GHz+. Undoubtedly today AMD is going to lose a lot of fans and a lot of folks that have been waiting patiently to be impressed by Phenom are going to throw in towel and move upgrade paths to Intel. But while it is a bad situation, there are some good things to be panned out of the muck.
If you have not been up with the latest in AMD's native quad core architecture, you can check out previous articles of ours here and here. I would highly suggest reading both those articles as they will give you a lot of Barcelona/Agena core architecture background.
Gold in Dem Der Hills
Well, maybe not gold, but a silver lining at the very least. Yes, there are more than a few saving graces to today’s Spider platform launch.
First off, there is pricing. AMD Phenom 2.2GHz and 2.3GHz processors will be selling for US$251 and US$283 respectively. This pricing puts it in line with the quad core Intel Core 2 Q6600, which is where AMD needs to be. There is no grand illusion at AMD that Phenom is something other than exactly what it is; the Kool-Aid may have been drunk a few months ago, but the reality of what Phenom is has set in, and that is perfectly reflected in its pricing. There will be no $1000 or $1200 processors for sale here today.
Black and Unlocked
Second, the enthusiast has been promised a “Black Edition” Phenom right out of the gate. Given the Phenom’s performance levels, we petitioned AMD heavily to deliver an unlocked Phenom to the enthusiast and they have listened. AMD knows the current Phenom is not going to feed the enthusiast needs if it is locked. I see this unlocked 2.3GHz Phenom as a huge olive branch being extended to the computer hardware enthusiast community. From our experiences, it should be fairly simple for any user to get their 2.3GHz Phenom running at a respectable 2.8GHz, 2.9GHz, or 3GHz on the right 790FX motherboard. In order to show support for the computer hardware enthusiasts AMD is pricing these unlocked 2.3GHz Phenoms at the same price as the regular 2.3GHz Phenom. There will be no pricing penalty implemented by AMD for the unlocked CPU. The first unlocked CPUs will likely not carry the “Black Edition” branding but will be likely have a sticker on the box to identify the contents.
Great Motherboards on the Way
Third, the overall Spider platform looks to be very solid. I can say that the 790FX chipset from AMD looks to be the best “ATI” chipset ever produced. It is cool running, and has been configured with a BIOS with enough toggles, switches, and dials to keep any tweaker happy for weeks. CrossFire support is of course native on all 790FX motherboards with “CrossFireX” featuring support for dual, triple, and quad CrossFire, as shown here working last week. The MSI motherboard shown in the picture has proper spacing to allow for 4 double slot video cards to be used in the PCIe slots. The MSI board is the only board I have seen configured to allow this. Also, while the motherboards I have worked with have not been perfect, they have not been in shambles. For being so new, these 790FX boards are very mature. I have noticed bugs and small issues, but none of them that are deal breakers. Even with questionable processors we have been able to run up to 3GHz on retail motherboards.
A REAL Overclocking Tool
Lastly, AMD has delivered an overclocking tool that actually works and does what it says. Sami Maekinin, an enthusiast brought into service by AMD is the lifeblood behind this product and if you ever see him out and about, make sure you buy that man a beer.
I know very well that the first thing you think of when you hear “AMD OverDrive” overclocking tool is NVIDIA’s nTune tool. nTune has always had lofty goals, but it always has been a flaming piece of ****. AOD is the polar opposite of nTune. AOD while extremely immature works better than nTune could ever aspire to. AOD is still far from perfect, but is still a tool that alone might have the enthusiast purchasing a Spider platform.
[H] Enthusiast --- enthusiast.hardocp.com