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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

AMD is launching today their first six-core CPUs: Phenom II X6 1055T (2.8 GHz) and Phenom II X6 1090T (3.2 GHz). Let’s see what kind of performance level the fastest CPU from AMD can deliver and compare it to competitors from Intel.

As you may be aware, Intel has already released their first six-core CPU, Core i7-980X, a socket LGA1366 processor running at 3.33 GHz with a price tag that puts it very distant from regular users (USD 999 in 1,000-quantity lots). These two new releases by AMD are way more affordable: Phenom II X6 1055T is quoted at USD 199 and Phenom II X6 1090T is quoted at USD 295.

Both new CPUs are manufactured under 45-nm process and are based on the AM3 socket. Although most of “older” socket AM3 motherboards will accept the new CPUs (a BIOS upgrade may be necessary), AMD is also launching a new chipset, AMD 890FX (the most important feature is the native support for SATA-600 ports). We benchmarked the new CPU on a motherboard based on this new chipset.

Something new with these new CPUs is the adoption of a boost technology similar to Intel’s Turbo Boost. When the CPU “feels” that three or more cores are idle, it will increase the clock rate from the active cores. On Phenom II X6 1055T the clock is increased from 2.8 GHz to 3.2 GHz, while on Phenom II X6 1090T the clock is increased from 3.2 GHz to 3.6 GHz.

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.

Now let’s make a quick comparison between Phenom II X6 1090T and the other CPUs we included in our benchmarking.

[nextpage title=”The Tested CPUs”]

On 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). We only included one CPU from AMD because Phenom II X4 965 is the fastest CPU AMD has available and it is positioned at a lower price range (see table). AMD has announced that they will be also launching a six-core CPU this year, called Phenom II X6.

CPU Cores HT Internal Clock Turbo Clock QPI/DMI/HT 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 999
Core i7-965 4 Yes 3.20 GHz 3.46 GHz 6.4 GB/s 133 MHz Bloomfield 45 nm 130 W 1366 USD 999
Core i7-870 4 Yes 2.93 GHz 3.60 GHz 2 GB/s 133 MHz Lynnfield 45 nm 95 W 1156 USD 562
Core i5-750 4 No 2.66 GHz 3.20 GHz 2 GB/s 133 MHz Lynnfield 45 nm 95 W 1156 USD 196
Phenom II X6 1090T 6 No 3.2 GHz 3.6 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Thuban 45 nm 125 W AM3 USD 295
Phenom II X4 965 4 No 3.4 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Deneb 45 nm 140 W * AM3 USD 185

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 are the official prices for distributors based on 1,000 quantities. The end-user price is higher than the prices listed.

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 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.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On the overall score from PCMark Vantage, the new Phenom II X6 1090T was only faster than Phenom II X4 965 (5%). Core i5-750 was 6% faster, Core i7-965 was 8% faster, Core i7-870 was 11% faster and Core i7-980X was 30% faster than the new AMD CPU.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On the TV and Movies benchmark Phenom II X6 1090T was 6% faster than Core i5-750 and 9% faster than Phenom II X4 965. Core i7-870 was 9% faster, Core i7-965 was 11% faster and Core i7-980X was 22% faster than the reviewed CPU.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On the Gaming set the new Phenom II X6 1090T was only faster than Phenom II X4 965 (11% faster). Core i5-750 was 20% faster, Core i7-870 was 32% faster, Core i7-965 was 35% faster and Core i7-980X was 53% faster than Phenom II X6 1090T.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On the Music benchmark Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Phenom II X4 965. Core i5-750 was 5% faster, Core i7-980X and Core i7-870 were 13% faster and Core i7-965 was 16% faster than the new CPU from AMD.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On the Communications tests Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Core i7-965, Core i7-870 and Phenom II X4 965, being 10% faster than Core i5-750. Core i7-980X was 63% faster than the reviewed CPU on this test.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

And finally on the Productivity benchmark Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Phenom II X4 965, being 5% faster than Core i5-750. Core i7-870 was 5% faster, Core i7-965 was 7% faster and Core i7-980X was 12% faster.

[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 r
emarkable.

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

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On DivX encoding the new Phenom II X6 1090T was 8% faster than Phenom II X4 965 and 12% faster than Core i7-870. Core i5-750 was 10% faster, Core i7-965 was 14% faster and Core i7-980X was 18% faster than the reviewed 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.

Athlon X6 1090T Review

On Photoshop CS4 Phenom II X6 1090T was 5% faster than Phenom II X4 965 and 7% faster than Core i5-750. Core i7-870 was 5% faster, Core i7-965 was 13% faster and Core i7-980X was 16% faster than the reviewed CPU.

[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.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On After Effects CS4 Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Core i5-750, being 21% faster than Phenom II X4 965. Core i7-870 was 26% faster, Core i7-965 was 28% faster and Core i7-980X was 49% faster.

[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.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

Phenom II X6 1090T was 7% faster than Phenom II X4 965 on WinRAR, with Core i5-750 being 18% faster, Core i7-870 being 25% faster, Core i7-965 being 29% faster and Core i7-980X being 37% faster.

[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.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On Cinebench Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Core i7-965, losing only to Core i7-980X, which was 56% faster. The reviewed CPU was 5% faster than Core i7-870, 41% faster than Phenom II X4 965 and 74% faster than Core i5-750.

[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).

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Phenom II X4 965 on this game. Core i7-870 was 5% faster, Core i5-750 was 6% faster, Core i7-980X was 8% faster and Core i7-965 was 9% faster than the reviewed CPU.

[nextpage title=”Fallout 3″]

Fallout 3 is based on the same engine used by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it is a DirectX 9.0c (Shader 3.0) game. To measure performance, we used the FRAPS utility running an outdoor scene at God mode, running through enemy fire, triggering post processing effects, and ending with a big explosion in front of Dupont Circle. First we tried to run this program at 1440×900 with all image quality settings at “low” with the motherboard on-board video enabled. Only AMD785G could run this program (achieving 20.35 frames per second); Intel G45 could not run Fallout 3. Then we installed a GeForce 9600 GT and ran this program with image quality set to “high.” The results for this scenario are presented below.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

The performance achieved by all CPUs was within the same level; there is no statistic
ally significant difference between Phenom II X6 1090T and the other CPUs included in this review on this game.

[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.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On Crysis Warhead Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Phenom II X4 965. All other CPUs were faster than the new AMD product: Core i5-750 was 6% faster and Core i7-980X, Core i7-965 and Core i7-870 were 16% faster.

[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.

Phenom II X6 1090T Review

On Far Cry 2 Phenom II X6 1090T achieved the same performance level as Phenom II X4 965, Core i5-750 and Core i7-870. Core i7-965 was 4% faster and Core i7-980X was 7% faster than the new CPU.

 

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The new Phenom II X6 1090T isn’t faster than Core i7 CPUs from Intel. In fact, it doesn’t compete with Core i7, as we are talking about a complete different price range. Therefore on the very high-end CPU market Intel is still the only game in town.

However, the main advantage of Phenom II X6 1090T is its price, which puts it to compete against Core i5 CPUs.

The only Core i5 CPU we had available was Core i5-750, which is 33% cheaper than Phenom II X6 1090T. For this huge price difference, we were expecting Phenom II X6 1090T to destroy Core i5-750, which was not the case. In fact, in several applications the quad-core Core i5-750 was faster than the six-core Phenom II X6 1090T (PCMark overall score, PCMark gaming score, PCMark music score, VirtualDub, WinRAR and some games). They tied in some applications (some games and After Effects CS4) and the new CPU from AMD was faster in others (PCMark TV and Movies score, PCMark communications score, PCMark productivity score and Photoshop CS4). When Phenom II X6 1090T was faster, it was by only a small margin (5% to 10%), not justifying the extra price.

There is one important exception, though: Cinebench. On this 3D rendering program Phenom II X6 1090T simply crushed Core i5-750, being 74% faster than this CPU from Intel. So this new CPU may be an outstanding CPU for professionals building a computer for 3D modeling and rendering that don’t want to buy an expensive Core i7-based system. For the average user, however, we find it hard to recommend this new processor.