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AMD Phenom II X4 Quad Core 940 Black Edition


Reasonable choice for building a cost-effective quad-core system

Very good price/performance ratio

Not a patch on Intel’s Core i7


AMD’s original quad-core Phenom processors weren’t very well receiving. Unfashionably late to the party and unable to keep up with even low-end Intel quad-core processors, Phenom was a brand looking for a quick death. A lot can happen in a year. AMD has been working hard over the past year. Hence, Phenom II is here. As the insertion of the ‘II’ suggests, this new processor isn’t simply a new stepping, but a heavily redesigned chip. The two most notable improvements are a die shrink from 65nm to 45nm transistors (allows faster speeds while cutting power consumption), and 6MB of Level 3 cache instead of 2MB.

Major improvements include a larger L2 cache and higher core frequencies. The flagship Phenom II 940 Black Edition (Best Current Price: £199) represents AMD’s high-end and clocks in at 3.0GHz. Good news is that the processor doesn’t require a motherboard upgrade, unlike Intel’s Core i7, which requires you to buy a new motherboard, cooler and RAM. Any socket AM2+ motherboard capable of handling a 125W processor can support all of Phenom II’s features, although a BIOS update will likely be needed. Having said that, the Phenom II doesn’t support the latest super-speedy DDR3 memory (DDR2 only). AMD has plans for an upgraded Phenom II with a DDR3 memory controller later in the year. The Phenom II 940 Black Edition also doesn’t have a mental feature like Intel’s Core i7 Turbo Boost, but its core clock multiplier is unlocked for overclocking up to 3.6GHz (this entailed increasing the CPU multiplier from 15 to 18, and boosting the vcore from 1.336V to 1.45V).

The Phenom II X4 Quad Core 940 Black Edition is undoubtedly AMD’s fastest and most overclockable Phenom yet, but it’s still a million miles away from competing with Intel. While AMD can’t keep up with Intel on raw performance, the company is at least keeping high-end computing within reach of mass market. As an added bonus, AMD-based 790GX motherboards are cheaper than those using Intel’s X58 chipset, so you can build a quad-core system much more cheaper than an Intel-based solution. While that’s true, X58 boards generally offer more robust overclocking features, including BIOS setup programs which make life easier for seasoned tweakers. With the Phenom II X4 Quad Core 940 Black Edition you get what you pay for. If you want maximum performance and cost isn’t an issue, you’ll want Intel’s Core i7.