A few years ago AMD introduced its AM2 socket which was used as the basis for many of their processors. This provided a very stable and cost effective upgrade path for users as it enabled them to purchase a motherboard, and then drop each new CPU directly into their system.
As DDR3 started to appear on the market AMD upgraded to the AM3 socket which could still handle all the AM2 and AM2+ chips, but now could also accept the AM3 chips which had DDR3 controllers on board. The AMD Phenom II processors have been churned out regularly ever since, in multiple guises. We've had cut down dual core models for the budget conscious, slightly cut down quads for those seeking maximum bang-for-buck, and the full fat AMD Phenom II Black Edition 965 for those who want to obtain the ultimate performance from their AMD system.
It's been a while since AMD have introduced a wholly new processor rather than a variant on the hugely successful Phenom II models, but today is such a day.
AMD Phenom II X6
The Phenom II X6 is the newest processor from AMD and replaces the 965BE as their flagship model. Thankfully, unlike Intel, they aren't introducing yet another new socket for you to fork out for, once again showing AMDs commitment to the end-user who already has a motherboard they're happy with. However to get the most out of your new six processor cores you should upgrade to the new 890 chipset which supports SATA 6Gb/s and discreet USB 3.0. Of course a new motherboard is always a sensible option when transitioning to a premium processor, but it's wonderful to see AMD not demanding you do so.
In this initial release we have two models, the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T which has 2.8GHz as standard and the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T which begins at 3.2GHz. AMD have also introduced Turbo CORE technology which will increase the speed of three of the six cores when under heavy loading and in this form the 1055T will clock to 3.3GHz and the 1090T increases to 3.6GHz.
3.6GHz of Six Core Processing. There aren't going to be many users complaining about a lack of power here.
Today we have the all-singing, all-dancing AMD Phenom II X6 1090T on the bench, so let's take a closer look at the new technologies we have under our fingertips.
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Up Close
Firstly let's take a look at the processor itself. Not the worlds most interesting thing as it looks like pretty much any other AMD processor. Which is a good thing because, as we said before it allows you to just drop it into your current motherboard and use your current cooler.
You can see the die on the right here. We have each of the six full cores along with 512KB of L2 cache per core. Below this is 6MB of L3 cache which should help keep the processor running flat out as much as possible.
These feed into the System Request Interface and then the Crossbar Switch.
Finally the data is moved to the Memory and the HyperTransport technology link.
The memory when run at DDR3-1333 provides nearly 13GB/s of bandwidth and the HyperTransport link can give up to 19.2GB/s of peak bandwidth per processor.
The rest of the important information is :
64KB Instruction + 64KB Data L1 cache per core.
45nm SOI technology
AMD Balanced Smart Cache
AMD Dedicated Multi-cache
AMD Virtualization Technology
AMD PowerNow 3.0 Technology
AMD Dynamic Power Management
AMD CoolCore Technology
Multi-Pount Thermal Control
And of course the aforementioned AMD Turbo CORE Technology.
Before we move on to the testing, here are two slides from AMD that hopefully explain some of the finer details.
So far all the numbers are certainly there for this processor to definitely earn the flagship title.
Test Setup and Overclocking
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T @ Stock and 4.1GHz
ASUS Crosshair 890FX
G.Skill ECO 2x2GB Low volt @ 1600MHx
Noctua NH-D14 with MX-3
HIS Radeon HD5870
Windows 7 64 Bit Ultimate
If there is one thing AMD have always been good at it's providing great performance at a sensible price. Overclocking allows us to gain even greater performance without any outlay. So hopefully if the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T will overclock well it should be the bargain of the Century.
Firstly we need to establish what is the maximum Bus Speed obtainable with this configuration. It didn't take long to find the limit at a very impressive 265.9 MHz. This should allow us to break 4GHz.
Having established what the maximum Bus Speed available is it's time to find the maximum available speed from the processor. Obviously with this being a very new processor we haven't had huge amounts of experience or even know what to expect. Nonetheless it wasn't long before we so a hugely impressive 4269.5 MHz. Not very stable, but it definitely has potential.
Striking a balance between the multiplier and the Bus Speed took a lot of tweaking and eventually, although we definitely feel there is more to be had, we settled for a 4110GHz stable speed.
4.1 GHz out of a Six Core processor is mightily impressive and we'll use this for our overclocked testing.
Great stuff. How does it fair in our testing.
For our testing we're going to compare the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T against the two most likely rivals. Firstly the previous top dog from the AMD stable, the Phenom II 965BE, and the equally priced offering from Intel, the i7 930. We will be running all three processors at stock and at around the 4GHz mark too.
Obviously the 965BE has 4 cores, the i7 930 has four cores with HyperThreading and the X6 1090T has six cores, so the results will vary in processor core-heavy applications.
Lavalys Everest Ultimate
We have a few interesting results from Everest. Primarily in heavy CPU applications the 965BE is outclassed by some margin. However the zLib test provides a very surprising result, and hopefully the first of many. Despite zLib compression being a hyper-threaded test, the 1090T spanked the 930. Six genuine cores obviously trounce 4 pretend ones.
Sandra nicely backs up the results we saw from Everest, with the 1090T in stock form in third place, the overclocked i7 930 in second and the overclocked 1090T in a healthy lead.
Impressive stuff indeed from AMD.
PC Mark Vantage
The PC Mark Vantage test is primarily one that rewards immense clock speeds, and the graphs here reflect this. The major winner is the i7 930 but this is primarily because the tri-channel RAM setup allows for far greater bandwidth, which is rewarded within the tests.
Despite the handicap of dual-channel RAM the 1090T still holds up it's end of the deal, especially in overclocked trim.
wPrime runs a very complex mathmatical equation and is a good test of the pure computational power of each CPU. As you can clearly see the 1090T is no slouch at all and in overclock trim actually bests the i7 930. The more tests we run, the more impressive this Six Core beast from AMD becomes.
Maxon's CineBench Release 11.5 is a rendering benchmark that pushes a CPU to its limits. If anything will take advantage of all the horsepower you can give it, it's rendering. Once again we see that even heavily overclocked the 965BE has been roundly overtaken as the weapon of choice for AMD owners, and the overclocked AMD Phenom II X6 1090T takes first prize again.
The Persistence Of Vision Raytracer is probably the ultimate test. If rendering takes a lot of power, Ray-Tracing has never shied away from eating CPUs up and spitting them out for breakfast. Thankfully modern CPUs are such that the "leave it overnight" days of early Raytracing are long behind us.
In a total non-shock the X6 1090T romps home in first place again when overclocked, and easily takes third. The low "Per CPU" score of the i7 demonstrates that Hyper-Threading most definitely isn't overhead free. Although it reports 8 cores it clearly can't utilise all the threads all the time, hence the low Per CPU score.
*Please note that our gaming tests are 1920x1200, maximum in game settings with 8xMSAA.
3D Mark Vantage
Following on from our PC Mark Vantage results, the other major player from the Futuremark stable is equally happier with Clock Speed grunt rather than pure cores. Our P-Score graph is handily split with the overclocked variants of the three processors on test easily winning out, the edge just going to the i7 930 this time.
For the gaming tests we'll concentrate on the i7 930 vs the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T.
Need For Speed Shift
Wow, look at that. NFS Shift definitely loves the combination of the Radeon HD5870 and the X6 1090T. An advantage of 15FPS average is enormous in anyones books.
15 FPS average in Need For Speed Shift not good enough for you? The overclocked 1090T has a 23FPS advantage in Dirt 2 with even the stock clocked one absolutely spanking our 4GHz 930.
Crysis Warhead responds as it always does to "the more the merrier". The major shock is that our average framerate shoes the overclocked i7 930 just edging ahead, yet the 1090T has triple the minimum framerate.
Despite what the graph shows the 1090T was a vastly smoother experience. That's why we log the data, but personal opinion says otherwise.
We love all hardware here at OC3D and many of us cut our teeth on Thunderbirds and the like. For a while now AMD have been the value choice, providing decent performance for decent money.
The original AMD Phenom was a bit disappointing, the Phenom II regained a lot of ground but for absolute performance Intel held a healthy lead.
Every new AMD release we held our breath and hoped for something stunning that would not only put AMD firmly back on the map as a major player in the CPU market, but also force Intel to reduce their mad prices down to a more sensible level so everyone wins. No more do we have to let out a slight sigh of disappointment at a processor that is great for the money but just not quite at the cutting edge.
Being a six core processor we'd expect it to perform well in tests that are heavily CPU reliant, such as the POV-Ray and CineBench tests. The real surprise we found was how well it performed even in gaming. Anyone who has an opinion to voice, and with hardware that's everybody, has long held the belief that games don't take advantage of extra cores enough to justify spending your cash on anything other than a mental dual-core.
All of our results showed this belief to be absolute rubbish. The Dirt 2 test had the stock AMD Phenom II X6 1090T beating our 4GHz i7 930 system, despite giving up 800MHz in processing power, having dual rather than tri-channel RAM, and being priced at a similar level.
The AMD Phenom II X6 1090T is so brilliant that, given its expected retail of around £250, nothing under £800 gets near it. Sure the Intel i7 980x is vastly superior. But you can buy the an entire system based on the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T for the price of one of those elite chips.
Although not strictly covered by our review there is another small thing to take into consideration. Firstly if you already own a AM3 system then this is a simple drop-in upgrade, saving enormous amounts of money. But if you are going for the full upgrade route then the all-singing, all-dancing, top of the line monster 890GX or FX motherboard will cost you substantially less than its X58 equivalent. The value models reach prices Intel can't even imagine, much less produce.
The conclusion is simple.
If you, like us, have been waiting for AMD to stand proud atop the podium, they do now.
If you've been hanging on to a AM2+ or 775 system and weren't sure which direction to go, your mind has been made up.
For providing the best performing processor in the sub-£300 mainstream CPU bracket, we award the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T our Best in Class.
Thanks to AMD for providing the AMD Phenom II X6 1090T for todays review. Discuss it in our forums.