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AMD Phenom II X4 840 & X4 975 Black Edition Processors Review

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MAC

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Exactly 24 hours ago, Intel revealed their brand new Sandy Bridge architecture and for the most part the accompanying processors were well received. In an effort to add to the pre-CES deluge of product announcements, AMD has decided to join in on the fun by introducing two new products of their own. While we won’t be seeing a new desktop architecture from AMD for the next little while, upcoming Phenom and Athlon processors will feature an increased focus upon performance per dollar. Make no mistake about it: that’s good news for consumers.

This isn’t necessarily a response to Sandy Bridge - that’s coming in a few months - but rather an attempt by AMD to flesh out their Q1 2011 lineup with two parts that are cut from very different pieces of cloth. The star of this show is the enthusiast friendly 3.6Ghz Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition which is supposed to provide an affordable upgrade path for budget-conscious users who still have older AM3 processors. With a price of just under $200, we can see this being highly appealing for AMD’s intended audience.

The other processor being launched may not have the star status that comes with the “Black Edition” moniker but in our eyes it is just as interesting as its enthusiast-marketed big brother. AMD has high expectations for the new Phenom II X4 840; a native quad core processor that’s priced at a mere $102. No matter which way you look at things, this is a simply amazing value regardless of the 840’s lack of an L3 cache structure.

For the time being, Intel has a strangle hold on a large portion of the current high-end CPU market and for the most part AMD’s has been content to let them have it. The X4 975 BE and X4 840 likely won’t change things all that much but their goal isn’t market leading performance. What AMD is after here is a balance of price, performance and adaptability to the upcoming AM3+ platform which they hope will appeal to an ever-expanding customer base.

 

MAC

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Phenom II X4 840 & X4 975 Black Edition Specs

Phenom II X4 840 & X4 975 Black Edition Specs



Deneb Die vs. Propus Die - L3 cache takes up a lot of die space

As enthusiasts await the launch of the much hyped Bulldozer microarchitecture, AMD have been keeping everyone distracted with a constant stream of new Athlon II and Phenom II processor models. In September alone they released the Phenom II X6 1075T, Phenom II X4 970 BE, Phenom II X2 560, Athlon II X4 645, Athlon II X3 450, and Athlon X2 265. Subsequently, less than one month ago, they unveiled the flagship six-core Phenom II X6 1100T, the Phenom II X2 565 Black Edition, and the Athlon II X3 455. Today, AMD are unleashing two additional quad-core models, the enthusiast-oriented Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition, and a value-oriented model in the form of the $102 3.2Ghz Phenom II X4 840.


Usurping the only 2 month old Phenom II X4 970 BE, the new X4 975 Black Edition now holds the title of the most highly clocked processor that AMD has ever produced. It is intended for overclockers and those who want the best possible performance in today's applications, most of which can't utilize more than 4 cores. This new model only costs $9 more than the previous X4 970, quite reasonable, but it is also only $5 cheaper than the X6 1075T, and we suspect that many are going to be swayed into paying the slight price premium in order to gain two additional cores.


After a long hiatus, we were admittedly surprised to see a brand new Phenom II X4 800-series model, and even more surprised that this new model featured no L3 cache. This in effect puts the X4 840 in the same class as the de-cached Athlon II X4 processors. We suspect that this model is based on the Athlon II X4's L3 cache-less Propus die, and not simply made up of Deneb cores with defective L3 cache. It will be very interesting to find out whether the additional clock speed is sufficient to overcome the significant deficit caused by the cache reduction. This potential shortcoming will likely make itself evident in games, so definitely keep an eye on that.


As our media samples come packaged differently, you can expect the Phenom II X 975 Black Edition and Phenom II X4 840 to ship in these respective boxes. Unchanged from previous Phenom II Black Edition and Phenom II models.


As you can see, both of these chips were manufactured in the 39th week of 2010. That is a full month later than our Phenom II X6 1110T sample. That's 4 weeks of potential manufacturing process improvements, which might equate to improved overclocking headroom and lower operating temperatures. If you are anxious to find out how these chips fared, check out our Overclocking Results section.


Obviously, both of these chips are based on the 938 pin AM3 socket. The longevity of the AM3 form factor, and potential for backwards compatibility with AM2+, has consistently been a main factor in keeping AMD's processors attractive and relevant when compared to Intel's generally faster offerings.


As we suspected, the "BL-C3" revision for the Phenom II X4 840 signifies that it is in fact based on the Propus die used in Athlon II X4's. The Phenom II X4 975 uses the familiar C3 revision that was unveiled all the way back in November 2009.

Nothing surprising on the northbridge frequency front, just the same 2000Mhz as all previous Athlon II/Phenom II chips. We would love to see AMD increase this to 2200Mhz or 2400Mhz since it would have a considerable impact on overall performance.
 

MAC

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Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology


For this review, we have prepared four different test setups, representing all the popular platforms at the moment, as well as most of the best-selling processors. As much as possible, the four test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

AMD Phenom II AM3 Test Setup​


Intel Core i5/i7 LGA1155 Test Setup​


Intel Core i3/i5/i7 LGA1156 Test Setup​


Intel Core i7 LGA1366 Test Setup​


*Although Windows Vista SP1 was our principal OS for the majority of benchmarks, we did use Windows 7 (with all the latest updates) when benchmarking AIDA64 and HDxPRT 2011.*

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks were applied to Windows Vista and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • Sidebar – Disabled
  • UAC – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Windows Search – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan - High Performance
  • NVIDIA PhysX – Disabled
  • V-Sync – Off

D) Programs and games are then installed & updated followed by another defragment.

E) Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged. If they were any clearly anomalous results, the 3-loop run was repeated. If they remained, we mentioned it in the individual benchmark write-up.

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v1.50.1200 (Windows 7)
  • ScienceMark 2.0 32-bit
  • MaxxMEM2 Preview
  • wPrime Benchmark v2.03
  • HyperPI 0.99b
  • PCMark Vantage Advanced 64-bit Edition (1.0.2.0)
  • Cinebench R10 64-bit
  • Cinebench R11.5.2.9 64-bit
  • WinRAR 3.94 x64
  • Photoshop CS4 64-bit
  • Lame Front-End 1.0
  • X264 Benchmark HD (2nd pass)
  • 7-Zip 9.20 x64
  • POV-Ray v3.7 beta 40
  • Deep Fritz 12
  • HDxPRT 2011 v1.0 (Windows 7)
  • 3DMark06 v1.2.0
  • 3DMark Vantage v1.0.2
  • Crysis v1.21
  • Far Cry 2 1.02
  • Left 4 Dead version 1.0.2.3
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
  • Word in Conflict v1.0.0.0
  • Resident Evil 5 1.0.0.129
  • X3: Terran Conflict 1.2.0.0


That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 

MAC

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Synthetic Benchmarks: AIDA64 / MaxxMEM²

Synthetic Benchmarks: AIDA64 / MaxxMEM



AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.50 - CPU & FPU Benchmarks





AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.50 - Cache Benchmark




AIDA64 Extreme Edition 1.50 - Memory Benchmarks





MaxxMEM² - Memory Benchmarks



 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Synthetic Benchmarks: SuperPI 32M / wPRIME 1024M

Synthetic Benchmarks: SuperPI 32M / wPRIME 1024M



SuperPi Mod v1.5


When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. We are running one instance of SuperPi via the HyperPi 0.99b interface. This is therefore a single-thread workload.



wPRIME 2.03


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload.

 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: Cinebench R10 / Cinebench R11.5

System Benchmarks: Cinebench R10 / Cinebench R11.5



Cinebench R10


Cinebench R10 64-bit
Test1: Single CPU Image Render
Test2: Multi CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


Developed by MAXON, creators of Cinema 4D, Cinebench 10 is designed using the popular Cinema software and created to compare system performance in 3D Animation and Photo applications. There are two parts to the test; the first stresses only the primary CPU or Core, the second, makes use of up to 16 CPUs/Cores. Both are done rendering a realistic photo while utilizing various CPU-intensive features such as reflection, ambient occlusion, area lights and procedural shaders



Cinebench R11.5


Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
Test1: CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R11.5 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.

 

MAC

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Location
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System Benchmarks: Deep Fritz 12 / POV-Ray 3.73

System Benchmarks: Deep Fritz 12 / POV-Ray 3.73



Deep Fritz 12 - Chess Benchmark




POV-Ray 3.73 beta 40


 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: HDxPRT 2010 / PCMark Vantage

System Benchmarks: HDxPRT 2010 / PCMark Vantage



HDxPRT 2010


Intel High Definition Experience and Performance Ratings Test 2010

HDxPRT 2010, otherwise known as the Intel High Definition Experience and Performance Ratings Test 2010, is a new platform evaluation tool for measuring digital media experience. HDxPRT evaluates the capabilities of a media PC using real world usage scenarios and popular media applications. The benchmark's results are illustrated in the Create HD Score, which represents the overall digital media creation performance of a test system.

HDxPRT 2009 workloads are based on usages performed with popular programs, like Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0, Apple iTunes 9.x, Cyberlink PowerDVD 9, DivX Pro Codec 6.8.5, HDRsoft Photomatix 3, HDR PhotoStudio 2.x, and Windows Media Player 11.




PCMark Vantage x64


PCMark Vantage Advanced 64-bit Edition (1.0.2.0)
PCMark Suite / Default Settings
Comparison: Generated Score

The main focus of our General Tasks category lies with the most recent installment of the PCMark series, Vantage. While still classified under the description of a Synthetic benchmark, PCMark Vantage uses many of Vista's (Note - Vantage is Vista-only) built-in programs and features along with its own tests, so it is "real-world" applicable in regards to CPU performance. The following is a general list of the tests in the PCMark suite, very much in line with tasks of an average user: Data encryption, Data compression, CPU image manipulation (compression/decompression/resize), Audio transcoding, Video transcoding, Text editing, Web page rendering, Windows Mail, Windows Contacts, and CPU game test.


 
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MAC

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System Benchmarks: LFE / x264 HD / WinRAR

System Benchmarks: LFE / Photoshop CS4 / x264 HD



Lame Front End


Lame Front End v1.0 is a single-threaded application, which means that it only utilizes a single processor core. This will obviously limit performance but it will allow us to gauge a processor's single-threaded performance as well as test any turbo feature that it might have. We will be encoding a WAV rip of Santana’s Supernatural album and converting it to MP3 using the highest fidelity VBR 0 quality preset.



Photoshop CS4


For the image editing portion of this review, we will use Photoshop CS4 in coordination with Driver Heaven’s Photoshop Benchmark V3, which is an excellent test of CPU power and memory bandwidth. This is a scripted benchmark that individually applies 15 different filters to a 109MB JPEG, and uses Photoshop’s built-in timing feature to provide a result at each test stage. Then it’s simply a matter of adding up the 15 results to reach the final figure.



x264 HD Benchmark


x264 HD Benchmark v1.0
Test: MPEG-2 HD 720P Video Clip Conversion to x264
DVD Video Length: 30 Seconds
Comparison: FPS of Second Pass

x264 is quickly becoming the new codec of choice for encoding a growing number of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC videos. Think of it as the new Divx of HD and you can understand why we felt it critical to include. Tech Arp's recent development of the x264 HD Benchmark takes a 30 second HD video clip and encodes it into the x264 codec with the intention of little to no quality loss. The test is measured using the average frames per second achieved during encoding, which scales with processor speed and efficiency. The benchmark also allows the use of multi-core processors so it gives a very accurate depiction of what to expect when using encoding application on a typical full length video.


 

MAC

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System Benchmarks: WinRAR / 7-Zip

System Benchmarks: WinRAR / 7-Zip


WinRAR


WinRAR 3.94 x64
Test: Compression of 1GB of Assorted Files
Comparison: Time to Finish

One of the most popular file compression/decompresion tools, we use WinRAR to compress a 1GB batch of files and archive them, timing the task until completion.




7-Zip


9.20 x64
Test: Compression/Extraction of 1GB of Assorted Files, with AES-256 encryption
Comparison: Time to Finish


 
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