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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

From the last batch of new CPUs released by AMD last month, we decided to review the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition (3.5 GHz) and Phenom II X6 1075T (3.0 GHz). Check it out.

At 3.5 GHz, the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition is now the fastest four-core CPU from AMD, even though the clock difference between this new model and the model that was the higher-clocked Phenom II X4 until last month, the 965 Black Edition, is of only 100 MHz. So, a big question is raised: is there any performance difference between the two? That is exactly what we are going to check in this review. By the way, “Black Edition” means that the CPU comes with its clock multiplier unlocked, giving you another way to overclock your CPU (by increasing its clock multiplier). AMD still owes the long-promised Phenom II X4 975 at 3.6 GHz.

The new Phenom II X6 1075T (3.0 GHz), on the other hand, comes between the two other six-core CPUs from AMD released so far, the Phenom II X6 1090T (3.2 GHz) and Phenom II X6 1055T (2.8 GHz) (a fourth Phenom II X6 exists, the 1045T, but it isn’t offered in the retail market).

Phenom II X6 CPUs have a technology similar to Turbo Boost from Intel, dubbed Turbo Core. When the CPU “feels” that three or more cores are idle, it will increase the clock rate from the active cores. On the new Phenom II X6 1075T the clock is increase from 3 GHz (x15 multiplier) to 3.5 GHz (x17.5 multiplier).

On the other hand, AMD still doesn’t have anything similar to Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, which simulates an extra core on each CPU core. So the six-core CPU from Intel is seen by the operating system and programs as a 12-core CPU.

Let’s now make a quick comparison between the CPUs we included in our benchmarking.

[nextpage title=”The Tested CPUs”]

In the tables below you can see a comparison between the CPUs we included in our review. AMD CPUs do not support SSE4 instructions (they have a proprietary instruction set called SSE4a, which is not the same thing as SSE4).

CPU Cores HT Internal Clock Turbo Clock QPI or FSB Base Clock Core Technology TDP Socket Price
Core i7-980X 6 Yes 3.33 GHz 3.60 GHz 6.4 GB/s 133 MHz Gulftown 32 nm 130 W 1366 USD 1,000
Core i7-965 4 Yes 3.20 GHz 3.46 GHz 6.4 GB/s 133 MHz Bloomfield 45 nm 130 W 1366 NA
Core i7-870 4 Yes 2.93 GHz 3.60 GHz 2 GB/s 133 MHz Lynnfield 45 nm 95 W 1156 USD 290
Core i5-750 4 No 2.66 GHz 3.20 GHz 2 GB/s 133 MHz Lynnfield 45 nm 95 W 1156 USD 195
Phenom II X6 1090T 6 No 3.2 GHz 3.6 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Thuban 45 nm 125 W AM3 USD 266
Phenom II X6 1075T 6 No 3.0 GHz 3.5 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Thuban 45 nm 125 W AM3 USD 240
Phenom II X4 970 4 No 3.5 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Deneb 45 nm 125 W AM3 USD 181
Phenom II X4 965 4 No 3.4 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Deneb 45 nm 140 W * AM3 USD 160

TDP stands for Thermal Design Power which advises the user of the maximum amount of heat the CPU can dissipate. The CPU cooler must be capable of dissipating at least this amount of heat.

* Newer models are coming with a TDP of 125 W. The tested model was from the older version, with a TDP of 140 W.

The prices listed were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

CPU L1 Cache L2 Cache L3 Cache Memory Support Memory Channels
Core i7-980X 32 KB + 32 KB per core 256 KB per core 12 MB total DDR3 up to 1066 MHz Three
Core i7-965 32 KB + 32 KB per core 256 KB per core 8 MB total DDR3 up to 1066 MHz Three
Core i7-870 32 KB + 32 KB per core 256 KB per core 8 MB total DDR3 up to 1333 MHz Two
Core i5-750 32 KB + 32 KB per core 256 KB per core 8 MB total DDR3 up to 1333 MHz Two
Phenom II X6 1090T 64 KB + 64 KB per core 512 KB per core 6 MB total DDR3 up to 1333 MHz Two
Phenom II X6 1075T 64 KB + 64 KB per core 512 KB per core 6 MB total DDR3 up to 1333 MHz Two
Phenom II X4 970 64 KB + 64 KB per core 512 KB per core 6 MB total DDR3 up to 1333 MHz Two
Phenom II X4 965 64 KB + 64 KB per core 512 KB per core 6 MB total DDR3 up to 1333 MHz Two

AMD CPUs talk to the external world (i.e., the chipset) through a bus called HyperTransport. For a detailed explanation how this bus works, please read our The HyperTransport Bus Used by AMD Processors tutorial.

Socket LGA1366 CPUs talk to the external world (i.e., the chipset) through a bus called QuickPath Interconnect (QPI), which has the same goal as the HyperTransport bus. For a detailed explanation on how QPI bus works, read our Everything You Need to Know About The QuickPath Interconnect (QPI) tutorial. Socket LGA1156 CPUs, however, use the DMI (Digital Media Interface) bus to talk to the chipset, which is the interface previously used to make the connection between the north bridge and the south bridge chips on Intel chipsets. At a first look this solution may seem worse than using the QPI bus, because the DMI interface provides a maximum transfer rate of 2 GB/s while QPI provides a maximum transfer rate of 4.8 GB/s or 6.4 GB/s, depending on the CPU. However, on socket LGA1156 the CPU has an integrated PCI Express 2.0 controller, so these CPUs talk directly to the main video card without using their external bus and without using the chipset.

Our tests have a known flaw. Socket LGA1366 Core i7 processors support triple-channel memory configuration and with them we used three 1 GB DDR3-1066 modules, so these CPUs had 3 GB available. With all other CPUs we used two 1 GB DDR3-1333 modules, so these CPUs had 2 GB available. Unfortunately due to the different memory configuration supported by each CPU, we had to decide which methodology to use, and we chose to use one that would provide the “best” memory configuration for the tested system.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the CPU being tested and the motherboard, which had to be replaced to match the different CPU sockets.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
  • NTFS
  • Video resolution: 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz

Driver Versions

  • NVIDIA video driver version: 195.62
  • Intel Inf chipset driver version: 9.1.1.1019
  • AMD chipset driver version: 3.0.762.0

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

[nextpage title=”PCMark Vantage”]

PCMark Vantage simulates the use of real-world applications and gives scores for the following categories:

  • PCMark
  • Memories
  • TV and Movies
  • Gaming
  • Music
  • Communications
  • Productivity
  • HDD

For a detailed description of each one of these tests, please download and read the PCMark Vantage Reviewer’s Guide.

You can see the results for each category below. We are not going to compare the results for the Memories and HDD suites.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

 

On the overall score from PCMark Vantage, the new Phenom II X4 970 achieved the same performance level as the old Phenom II X4 965, with the Core i5-750 being 12% faster. The Phenom II X6 1090T proved to be 9% faster than the new Phenom II X6 1075T here. The Core i5-750 was 16% faster than the new six-core CPU from AMD.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T 

On the TV and Movies benchmark the new Phenom II X4 970 was 4% faster than the old Phenom II X4 965. The Phenom II X6 1090T was also 4% faster than the new Phenom II 1075T. Both Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T achieved the same performance level as the Core i5-750.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T 

On the Gaming set the new Phenom II X4 970 achieved the same performance level as the Phenom II X4 965. The Phenom II X6 1090T was 18% faster than the new Phenom II X6 1075T. On this test the Core i5-750 was 30% faster than the Phenom II X4 970, and 41% faster than the Phenom II X6 1075T.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T 

On the Music benchmark the Phenom II X4 970 achieved the same performance level as the Phenom II X4 965 and Core i5-750. The new Phenom II X6 1075T achieved the same performance level as the Phenom II X6 1090T. The Core i5-750 was 8% faster than the Phenom II X6 1075T here.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T 

On the Communications tests the Phenom II X4 970 achieved the same performance level as the Phenom II X4 965 and Core i7-965, being 10% faster than the Core i5-750. The Phenom II X6 1090T was 11% faster than the new Phenom II X6 1075T, which achieved the same performance level of the Core i5-750.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T 

And finally on the Productivity benchmark the Phenom II X4 970 achieved the same performance level as the Phenom II X4 965 and Core i5-750. The Phenom II X6 1090T was 11% faster than the Phenom II
X6 1075T, while the Core i5-750 was 6% faster than this new AMD CPU.

[nextpage title=”VirtualDub + DivX”]

With VirtualDub we converted a full-length DVD movie to DivX format and saw how long it took for this conversion to be completed. The DivX codec is capable of recognizing and using not only more than one CPU (i.e., more than one core), but also the SSE4 instruction set (feature not available on the reviewed CPUs).

The movie we chose to convert was Star Trek – The Motion Picture: Director’s Cut. We copied the movie to our hard disk drive with no compression, so the final original file on our HDD was 6.79 GB. After compressing it with DivX, the final file was only 767.40 MB, which is quite remarkable.

The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

On DivX encoding the Phenom II X4 970 and the Phenom II X4 965 achieved similar performance, with the Core i5-750 being 15% faster than the Phenom II X4 970. The Phenom II X6 1090T was only 4% faster than the new Phenom II X6 1075T, but the Core i5-750 was 14% faster than this new CPU.

[nextpage title=”Photoshop CS4″]

The best way to measure performance is by using real programs. The problem, though, is creating a methodology using real software that provides accurate results. For Photoshop CS4, there is a methodology created by the folks at GamingHeaven that is very accurate. Their script applies a series of 15 filters to a sample image, and we wrote down the time taken for each filter to run. At the end, we have the results for each individual filter and we simply added them up to have the total time taken to run the 15 filters from the GamingHeaven batch. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

On Photoshop CS4, the Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X4 965 achieved the same performance level, with the new Phenom II X4 970 being 4% faster than the Core i5-750. The Phenom II X6 1090T was only 4% faster than the new Phenom II X6 1075T, which achieved the same performance level of the Core i5-750.

[nextpage title=”After Effects CS4″]

After Effects is a very well-known program for video post-production that is used to add animation and visual effects in videos. To evaluate the performance of each CPU running this program, we ran a workload consisting of 25 compositions that applied several filters and effects to a variety of input file types such as PSD (Photoshop), AI (Illustrator), EPS, and TIF. After each filter was applied, the composition was rendered to an uncompressed AVI file with the same resolution as the input files. The results below are the time each CPU took to finish the whole batch, given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

On After Effects CS4, the Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X4 965 achieved the same performance level, with the Core i5-750 being 22% faster than the new Phenom II X4 970. The Phenom II X6 1090T was only 4% faster than the new Phenom II X6 1075T, with the Core i5-750 being 7% faster than this new six-core CPU.

[nextpage title=”WinRAR”]

We measured the time each CPU took to compress five high-resolution 48-bit uncompressed TIF images, each one with around 70 MB, to RAR format with the popular WinRAR application. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

The Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X4 965 achieved the same performance level, with the Core i5-750 being 25% faster than the Phenom II X4 970. The Phenom II X6 1090T was 5% faster than the Phenom II X6 1075T, and the Core i5-750 was 23% faster than this new CPU from AMD.

[nextpage title=”Cinebench 11.5″]

Cinebench 11.5 is based on the 3D software, Cinema 4d. It is very useful to measure the performance gain given by having more than one CPU installed on the system when rendering heavy 3D images. Rendering is one area in which having more than one CPU helps considerably, because usually, rendering software recognizes several CPUs. (Cinebench, for instance, can use up to 16 CPUs.)

Since we were interested in measuring the rendering performance, we ran the test called “Rendering x CPUs,” which renders a “heavy” sample image using all available CPUs (or cores – either real or virtual, as on CPUs with Hyper-Threading technology, each core is recognized as two cores by the operating system) to speed up the process.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

On Cinebench, the Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X4 965 achieved the same performance level, with the Phenom II X4 970 achieving a score 26% higher than Core i5-750’s (which is a dual-core CPU with Hyper-Threading technology). The Phenom II X6 1090T achieved a score 6% higher than Phenom II X6 1075T, with this new CPU achieving a score similar to Core i7-870’s (which is a quad-core CPU with Hyper-Threading technology) and 64% higher than Core i5-750’s.

[nextpage title=”Call of Duty 4″]

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

We ran this game under 2560×1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was put on the maximum values on the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the game internal benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo for downloading here if you want to run your own benchmarks. The game was updated to version 1.7. We ran this test five times, discarding the lowest and the highest scores. The results below are an arithmetic average of the three remaining values, given in frames per second (FPS).

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

The new Phe
nom II X4 970 achieved the same performance level of the Core i5-750, being 9% faster than the Phenom II X4 965. The Phenom II X6 1090T was 4% faster than the Phenom II X6 1075T, and the Core i5-750 was 10% faster than this new CPU from AMD.

[nextpage title=”Super Street Fighter IV”]

Super Street Fighter IV is a DirectX 9 game that implements a vast array of shaders and its own physics engine. The game was originally designed for consoles and, thus, its physics engine is CPU-bound.

We tested this program at 2560×1600 resolution and at 8x anti-aliasing and 8X anisotropic filtering, and configuring all the settings to their maximum values and the “Extra Touch” feature to “Brush.” Our results are a score number given by the game’s internal benchmarking feature.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T 

Here the Phenom II X4 970, Phenom II X4 965, Phenom II X6 1075T, Core i5-750, and Core i7-965 achieved the same performance level. The Phenom II X6 1090T achieved a score 5% higher than Phenom II X4 1075T’s.

[nextpage title=”Crysis Warhead”]

Crysis Warhead is a DirectX 10 game based on the same engine as the original Crysis, but optimized (it runs under DirectX 9.0c when installed on Windows XP). We ran this game under 1920 x 1200 resolution, setting image quality to “high” and disabling both anisotropic filtering and anti-aliasing using the Airfield demo. The results below are the number of frames per second achieved by each processor.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

From the results we can definitely see that this game is GPU-bound, meaning that is the video card, not the CPU, that is limiting its performance. Here the Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X4 965 achieved the exact same result, with the Core i5-750 achieving similar performance. The Phenom II X6 1075T was 10% faster than the Phenom II X6 1090T, though, reaching the same performance level as the Core i5-750.

[nextpage title=”Far Cry 2″]

Far Cry 2 is based on an entirely new game engine called Dunia, which is DirectX 10 when played under Windows 7 or Windows Vista with a DirectX 10-compatible video card. We used the benchmarking utility that comes with this game, setting video resolution to 1920 x 1200, image quality to “high,” disabling both anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, and running the “Ranch Long” demo. The results below are expressed in frames per second.

AMD Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X6 1075T

On Far Cry 2, the Phenom II X4 970, Phenom II X4 965, Phenom II X6 1090T, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Core i5-750 achieved the same performance level.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking”]

We did some basic overclocking with both CPUs. We used the AMD stock cooler and didn’t play a lot with all options available, so with more time and patience you may achieve results even better than ours. We ran Call of Duty 4 to test the system stability.

With the Phenom II X6 1075T we were able to increase its base clock from 200 MHz to 223 MHz, making the CPU basic internal clock to be 3,345 MHz, an 11.5% increase on its internal clock rate. In order to achieve that we had to reduce the memory multiplier, as it was the component limit our overclocking, and increase the CPU voltage to 1.300 V.

The Phenom II X4 970, on the other hand, proved to be a fantastic overclocker, thanks to its unlocked clock multiplier. We increased the clock multiplier from x17.5 to x21 and were able to immediately see our CPU running at 4.2 GHz stable. Then we played with the base clock, which we were able to increase to 206 MHz after increasing the CPU voltage to 1.425 V. The final result: 4,326 MHz, a 23.6% increase from the CPU’s 3,500 MHz default clock.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

We didn’t see any considerable performance increase with the new Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition compared to the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition. Therefore, if you looking for the fastest quad-core CPU from AMD, you can buy the Phenom II X4 965 and save some money. Unless, of course, you are into overclocking. The new Phenom II X4 970 is in a class of its own, and we were able to easily overclock it past 4.3 GHz. With more time and patience you will surely be able to achieve an even better result.The Core i5-750 was faster than the Phenom II X4 970 and Phenom II X4 965 in most programs, but it is more expensive.

As for the new Phenom II X6 1075T, it is nice priced for a six-core CPU, but it only makes sense buying it if you really need a six-core CPU – for example, if you are a professional working with 3D rendering. If you are just a regular user, buying the Core i5-750 makes more sense: it is faster in several applications and costs less.