Eight months ago AMD introduced their 2nd generation of Phenom 2 X4 Processors that was designed to use the AM3 socket while remaining backwards compatible with previous AM2/AM2+ motherboards. Although the Phenom II X4 965 was AMD’s flagship desktop processor, it wasn’t the performance that glued users on to it but rather the value for money it brought to the table. Alongwith processors like X 2 550/555 which could be unlocked to 4 cores depending upon the combination of chip and motherboard. Whether your allegiance lies with AMD or Intel, there is no denying the fact that competition is a good thing for us the consumers. Now you would ask, why should Intel affiniatos be happy about AMD’s hexa-core processor launch. Intel has a hexa-core Processor, the i7 980X aka gulftown but it retails for 1000$ and out of reach for majority of the enthusiast who are in their sane minds and without any roadmap for launching an affordable hexa-core CPU. We will find out in the next few pages whether the new hexa-core processor from AMD 1090T Black Edition pressurises the competition enough that Intel would be forced to do price cuts or maybe new product launches.
The new Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition that we are benchmarking today operates at 3.2GHz with a 16x clock multiplier (200Mhz slower than the 965) but with a turbo speed of 3.6Ghz which should make non-overclockers very happy because when using single thread applications it means free performance. This new Phenom is based on the new new Thuban architecture and features 9MB L3 cache, with each core having its own dedicated 512KB of L2 cache (3MB total L2 cache).
And before we forget its not just X6 1090T which is getting launched today but there are other processors as well. Do find the basic specs of the processors listed below.
Lets have a quick look at the die picture of the 1090T. We wont waste your time with blabbering on the conclusions drawn from the picture.
• True Six Core Processing
• AMD Turbo CORE Technology
• L1 Cache: 128KB (64KB Instruction + 64KB Data) x6(six-core)
• L2 Cache: 512KB x6(six-core)
• L3 Cache: 6MB Shared L3
• 45-nanometer SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
• HyperTransport™ 3.0 16-bit/16-bit link at up to 4000MT/s full duplex; or up to 16.0GB/s I/O bandwidth
• Up to 21GB/sec dual channel memory bandwidth
• Support for unregistered DIMMs up to PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3 10600
• Direct Connect Architecture
• AMD Balanced Smart Cache
• AMD Dedicated Multi-cache
• AMD Virtualization™ (AMD-V™)Technology
• AMD PowerNow™ 3.0 Technology
• AMD Dynamic Power Management
• Multi-Point Thermal Control
• AMD CoolCore™ Technology
In AMD’s words – “AMD Phenom™ II X6 Processors were designed for extreme megatasking, multi-threaded applications, and entertainment. To enable you to do more than you’ve ever imagined: create, edit, render, encode/decode and transfer dense HD content while watching HD content, burning CDs or DVDs while downloading music and video.” We certainly will see in the upcoming pages if they have been successful in their endeavor or not. But first lets look at the difference between the various new chipsets AMD has come out with.
New AMD Chipset comparison and architecture
And before we move on just so that you get to know a bit more about the 890FX chipset, do check the architecture of 890FX below.
System Specs and Benchmark List
Due to shortage of time, there is only a limited amount of setups that we have for comparison. But I guess this should be enough to see where does 1090T stands when compared to its existing product line and the target competition.
We would be comparing the setups with below mentioned benchmarks
Multithreaded 2d Benchmarks
Everest CPU Queen
Main Concept Encoding
Memory Bandwidth Benchmark
3d Synthetic Benchmarks
Lets talk about the new feature in the x6 series of CPU, in my understanding Turbo CORE is something which plays with CPU’s TDP headroom when three or more cores are idle by automatically boosting the remaining three cores and throttling down the idle cores. On the Phenom II X6 1090T, 3.2 GHz CPU it can boost the CPU up to 400Mhz and put the final speed to 3.6Ghz. Quite impressive if you ask me.
Unfortunately it seems to me this is simply a marketing gimmick or fail engineering. I tried running a couple of single threaded programs like super-pi and pi-fast at stock speeds of 3.2Ghz but at no point of time any of the cores jumped to 3.6Ghz. At the max one of the cores jumped over to 3.4Ghz only to fall back on 3.2Ghz and at no point of time did any of the cores throttle down.
Though I should also add, that I was not using a 890FX board but I dont think Turbo Core is chipset restricted or atleast it simply should not be. On another thought it might be bios dependent and needs a motherboard bios update??? We will wait for the verdict to come out on this in the next couple of weeks.
This is the section which excites me the most, afterall I write reviews so that I can have access to the latest hardware(whoops!!! spilled the secret out). Lets then push it to the limits, ofcourse only on air. But there is more to come, LN2 results should be out in a week or two.
Before we begin let me tell you that the sample we have is a retail unit so though we would expect other processors to reach to the same level or better but many factors come into play when overclocking. First off we tried with the stock cooler which has seen some improvement from the 965′s stock cooler. Hold on to your breath, we were able to reach speeds of upto 4.4Ghz which was only 2d stable though. 4.2Ghz was 3d stable on stock cooler under an airconditioned room. Hugely impressed with the initial overclock on the stock cooler we slapped on a sample of CoolerMaster V10 cooler that we had. Though temperatures decreased but our overclock didnt improve. So next was disabling cores (remember this wont give much performance boost to most users, but can be done just to get maybe a second faster time in superpi). With the Gigabyte motherboard we had we were able to disable all but 2 of the cores from Bios. And with vCore pushed to 1.6V we were able to achieve 4.6Ghz which was stable enough to run superpi. Afterall things said and done, now the reviewer can go to sleep in peace.
Our retail review sample was able to reach 4.6Ghz with only 2 cores and 1.6V, but for 24/7 setup we were able to achieve 4.2Ghz at 1.55V. This is certainly good news since in our opinion 1090T would have a higher overclocking headroom than the 965BE processors out there judging by our retail review sample while adding 2 extra cores to it.
We will be starting our tests with this multi-threaded benchmark application which gains from both higher frequency speeds and more cores as well. We will be running 1024m tests for this one.
The stock 1090T packs a great punch at stock clocks when compared to the Intel offering, however when both the processors are overclocked to 4.2Ghz, timings are almost neck to neck, with Intel i7 920 having a slight edge.
Next up in the benchmark is the universal compression tool Winrar. We are not going ahead with its synthetic benchmark but we would be compressing a 500MB folder in each of the system and measure the time it takes to compress the folder. Lesser the time better the performance.
Winrar – Compression 500MB Folder
Looks like 920′s HT paying off here, Intel has a healthy lead here both at stock and when overclocked.
SiSoftware Sandra is one of the most popular synthetic memory benchmark utilities. Sisoftware Sandra (System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) that you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices.
Here we see Read and write speeds of the memory which is set at 1600Mhz Cl8-8-8-24.
Intel with its triple channel memory has a huge lead here as expected both at read and write speeds. And 1090T sees gain over the 965. No surprises here.
Lavalys EVEREST is a system diagnostics and benchmarking utility that provides system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities, including tests for the memory subsystem. It also includes various CPU benchmarks, one of them is CPU Queen which is what we are going to use today. This particular test is sensitive to both frequency and active number of cores.
Everest CPU Queen
Another synthetitic benchmark, but here 1090T takes a huge lead over Intel i7 and the amount of lead is surprising for sure. If only in real life applications we could have seen such leads by 1090T.
PCMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed for Windows Vista and now Windows 7 offering one-click simplicity for casual users and detailed, professional grade testing for industry, press and enthusiasts.
A PCMark score is a measure of your computer’s performance across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity and security.
Once again we see Intel scoring a huge lead over the hexa-cores even at stock clocks.
Main Concept is a multi-threaded video encoding application. We used a downloaded MPEG-2 file and converted it to H.264 format on all our systems.
Main Concept Encoding MPEG-2 to H.264
AMD 1090T outperforms i7 920 easily on stock clocks. But when matched clock to clock 920 takes a small lead. As usual we see much better performance from 1090T when compared to 965BE.
Although this benchmark is a couple of years old, it still hasn’t lost its sheen. 3DMark06 is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX9 performance of your graphics card. A 3DMark score is an overall measure of your system’s 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests. We ran only the CPU Test to measure the performance of our CPU’s.
3dMark06 – CPU Test
We already knew that 3dMark 06 favors Intel CPU a lot. Though at stock clocks 1090T soared ahead of i7 920 but again when compared clock to clock at 4.2Ghz, i7 920 took the lead back. 965BE as expected is at the bottom of the table.
The latest installment (some say the big brother of 3DMark 06) of the famous 3D benchmark. This version added support for DX 10. This pushes the graphics sub system a lot harder than its younger brother and gives an idea of how your machine would perform under stressful games:
3dMarkVantage – CPU Test
Its Intel all along. i7 920 takes the lead even at stock clocks, which is almost 600 Mhz lower than the clocks of 1090T and further increases the lead when running at 4.2Ghz. 965BE retains its bottom most position.
CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms.
This is where 1090T really shines. At stock clocks 1090T has a healthy lead. Though when compared at 4.2Ghz, i7 920 reduces the lead quite a bit but still the leader is 1090T.
We see a marginal improvement after overclocking the CPU. But not much difference to pick between Intel and AMD. Pick any and you will be satisfied as far as your gaming needs are concerned.
Far Cry 2
Pretty clear that Far Cry 2 is not CPU limited but GPU limited atleast in our case. If gaming is your concern then you can pick any one of them and you will certainly not be disappointed.
Price and Conclusion
1090T and 1055T are the first real hexa-cores which is in reach of 99% enthusiasts, since Intel’s 980X retails for around 1000$(more than Rs. 55000 in Indian retail market), though if you are looking at purely performance numbers then I am sure 980X has simply no competition. We will have a 980X as well for comparison very soon, so stay glued to Erodov, :p. As of now 1090T is selling for around Rs. 15000 and 1055T for Rs. 10100 from SMC International and other retailers in India.
Though 1090T is impressive but which group of enthusiast should really be looking forward to upgrade?. I will say anyone involved in video work, photoshop, rendering would be my first target group. AMD’s new flagship processor is easily able to keep up with the Intel’s 920 and in some test better it. Gamers I would say would not really see much benefit from either going to Intel or AMD’s hexacore just now. There is really no benefit of having extra cores when they are not being used for gaming. If you are a gamer and want more performance out of your C2D or Phenom 2 computer then will suggest a SSD as an upgrade for sure, specially if you play multiplayer games. Ofcourse if you are a overclocker at heart and would like to buy a future proof system for the next 2-3 years then 1090T has plenty to offer. Our system was able to do 4.6Ghz for a very small fraction of time for some 2d benchmarking, 4.4Ghz for benchmarking all cores with 2d benchmarking softwares like wprime, and 4.2Ghz for all our benchmarking suite. It will be interesting to see how much it can do under Liquid Nitrogen which we will be doing most probably this weekend. We have been told that these hexacore’s better overclocking headroom is mostly because of GlobalFoundrie’s addition of low-k dielectric in their 45nm manufacturing process, because of which these chips leaks less current, drawing less power and outputting less heat. Just uptill a few months ago, AMD had a 140W quad core and today they are delivering an hexacore within a 125W power envelope. Thats quite a feat if you ask me.
In the end, we are at a crossroad where 1090T has brought AMD much closer to Intel than they have ever been in recent times. Its pretty hard to clearly announce a winner and to recommend one company over the other but whichever company you choose to build your rendering/gaming/enthusiast system, you’re probably not going to regret it.
We would like to thank Mr. Saini from SMC International and AMD for providing us with the review sample.