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AMD Phenom II X4 940 Processor

Performance tests and comparison with rivals.

January 20, 2009

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If we take a look at the detailed results, we'll see that Phenom II and Core i7 perform on a par in 7-Zip and WinRAR. And the advantage of the processor from Intel in the total score is provided by an insignificant difference (less than 10 seconds) in the single-threaded Ultimate ZIP, where Turbo Boost shows its worth. So from the practical point of view, these processors are identical. They break away from the other processors.


It's almost a regular ladder again, just like in the first chart. Detailed results again demonstrate that the new processor outperforms its competitors. Only top models will probably be able to fight for the honor of Core i7 (and Intel processors in general) in Canopus ProCoder. It goes without saying that Phenom II is not so strong in all tests (in one of them (XviD) it's even outperformed by the Q9300). You can see the average score on the chart.

It's a very pleasant situation for a tester -- strictly speaking, CPU reviews make sense when the market offers similar competing models. But they should differ in architecture, so that they have individual features, which will let us say that this processor is good for Photoshop, and that one is a must have for gamers. Speaking of games...


Brilliant performance of Phenom II! Unlike other tests, this victory in games was easy to predict. Even Phenom 9850 is not an absolute outsider, if we take a closer look at it. Many testers registered a funny phenomenon, when this Phenom was defeated in lower resolutions and got a little advantage with higher graphics quality settings. If we look back at the comparison of Phenom and Athlon, it was games where advantages of the new architecture manifested themselves distinctly. It's become obvious that the K10 potential in Phenom was not revealed completely for some reasons. Now that we see Phenom II demonstrate its full potential, it's logical to predict a noticeable progress in games as well. On the other hand, games turned out to be a weak spot of Core i7, where the new core demonstrates minimal advantage over the previous solution.

We can congratulate AMD in the New Year. Just like in the previous year, when graphics cards from this company (Radeon HD4800) distinguished themselves. So the gaming platform from AMD needed a Mid-End processor, just like HD4850/HD4870, to provide performance on the level of more expensive competitors. In this case we speak of Phenom II as an entire series -- we have all reasons to believe that cheap quad-core, and may be triple- and dual-core processors will be attractive products for gaming (in combination with graphics cards of different levels, of course, because a balanced configuration is very important for a gaming computer). What concerns Phenom II X4 940, even extreme modifications of Core i7 will hardly outperform this processor. So those users, who want maximum performance in games, will also choose Phenom II (keeping overclocking in mind), and the money saved on a processor will go to a 3-Way SLI or Quad CrossFire.

Non-professional photo processing

Perhaps, Phenom II likes rendering game scenes so much that processing the same array of photos with five different editors was too boring, and so it lost the competition here! In fact we are not surprised to see such mediocre behavior in this test, as the first revision of Phenom was not impressive here either, and Phenom II has no principal differences in its microarchitecture. On the other hand, Core i7 already demonstrated its photo processing skills in Photoshop, and does the same here. What can we say here? This test imitates professional work to some degree (it's not typical for non-professional photo editors to batch process a gigabyte of photos). What concerns any simple operations over single photos taken with any camera, such editors perform them in real time, that is instantaneously, on any processors mentioned in this review, even on weaker ones. It does not diminish test results of Core i7, of course. On the contrary, it shows that it's objectively difficult to compete with this processor in a number of integer tasks. AMD most likely won't try to compete in such applications by increasing frequencies, cache, and especially by overhauling its successful core. The company will just sidestep this issue -- a Photoshop plugin to use resources of a graphics card. It's a perfect solution for AMD, as a GPU manufacturer. Besides, developers promise that even inexpensive graphics cards will accelerate such computations to an unprecedented level. We'll see.

Total non-professional score

Our "average temperature in a hospital" looks undisturbed, unlike results in separate tests. As yours truly played out all his witty remarks, you may offer your own in our forum. And the best comments will be added to the article.


First of all, these tests show an encouraging sign (for users, testers, and the entire IT industry) that competition in the CPU market is growing interesting again. Phenom II is evidently a success. Moreover, in a number of tasks we can speak about it even without mentioning prices.

However, AMD is not going to become greedy. That is the recommended price for the top Phenom II model is below the price of the cheapest Core i7. But we already mentioned that in terms of platform prices (motherboard and memory) it will be correct to compare the new processor from AMD with Core 2 Quad CPUs, where AMD enjoys an apparent advantage (this advantage remains even if we take more expensive Q9400/Q9450 models). What concerns games, only extreme models from Intel can challenge the new processors from AMD, which are 4-5 times as cheap. Moreover, AMD added more functions to its chipsets last year (especially those with integrated graphics). We wrote about it. The choice of attractive processors growing wider, more users will appreciate these efforts. It goes without saying that high results of Phenom II will also please those users, who already bought a computer based on the Socket AM2+ platform (with an Athlon or Phenom) and planning to upgrade.

Overclockers will also be interested in this processor (we'll get back to this question). We should also note the reduced heat release owing to the 45-nm fabrication process. AMD states that it's reduced by 35-50% depending on the load (for processors with TDP=125 W from the previous and new series). We installed a box cooler from Phenom 9550, designed for 95-W heat release and performed an entire series of tests, the cooler speeding up to maximum only in rare cases. It's a quick-and-dirty test at least because the cooler's algorithm can be adjusted. But you should keep in mind that any power consumption tests based on a single processor are just advisory, nothing more. And here is the main practical conclusion: it won't be a problem to set up inexpensive low-noise cooling even for top Phenom II processors, including moderately overclocked ones (hardcore users may buy noiseless liquid-cooling systems or the like). However, most users will be satisfied with the stock cooler (by they way, it's a copper model with heat pipes) included into the bundle. To all appearances, AMD has no problems with upgrading its processors to the 95-W thermal package to coincide with the rollout of Socket AM3 platform and product line extension.

Speaking of plans, we can expect that the next wave of chipsets will be accompanied by motherboards with Socket AM3 and processors supporting dual-channel DDR3-1333. DDR2 support will be preserved. That is these processors can be installed on motherboards with Socket AM2+. So this migration will be even more painless than the upgrade from Socket 939 to AM2. Advantages of the new memory type will most likely reveal themselves only in some applications. The incentive to choose AM3 will most likely be some functional advantages of the new chipsets (which may have to do with the integrated graphics core) and just new interesting motherboards. Meanwhile, it's absolutely normal, if owners of modern AM2+ motherboards are reluctant to upgrade them and memory after purchasing an AM3 processor. By the way, gradual migration looks self-evident, because most readers interested in processors and platforms have heard about it many times. It became common knowledge long before the first revision of Phenom. In practice, preserving electrical and logical compatibility of connectors, to say nothing of support for different memory types in a CPU memory controller, certainly implies many original technical solutions. And we'll have an opportunity to appreciate it all. It's another reason to welcome Phenom II -- all advantages of convenient migration make sense only if you are interested in this upgrade.

We express gratitude to Corsair Memory for the help in equipping our testbeds.

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