AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE Page: 1
AMD's release new quad core processor!
 
AMD Phenom IIAs time has gone by, it’s become widely accepted that AMD’s 45nm processors have much to offer to a vast number of consumers. Starting from the runt of the pack, the Sempron 140 2.70GHz single core all the way to the bang per buck monster, the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition, the CPU manufacturer has aggressively pitched their processors against the entire Intel Celeron, Pentium and Core 2 range, often with lower price tags and/or higher clock-speeds. That's not all because there's also a cracking selection of motherboards from £40 to around £150, most of which sporting the infamous AMD SB710/750 southbridges, which can often unlock the cores of selected CPU's, unlock CPU Multipliers and unlock missing L3 cache. When you factor in that LGA775 will soon be as dead as a dodo and with AMD's plans to retain the same socket for future releases at least into 2011 (according to road maps), Socket AM3 CPU's have arguably become the #1 choice for all users barring the "extreme" performance enthusiasts.
 
So you'd think that after making so much progress after over two years of falling considerably short of Intel's offerings, AMD have some scope to feel a little smug? Sadly, far from it I'm afraid. They may have Intel's line up attended to, right up to the Core 2 Quad Q9650 with it's Phenom II X4 955 3.20GHz Black Edition but only in a matter of weeks, there'll be a new kid on the block who goes by the name of Lynnfield. To be more precise, Lynnfield is Intel's mainstream variant of the existing Nehalem Core i7 but on a new socket, LGA1156. Boasting the same architecture as the number crunching LGA1366 Core i7's, minus Triple Channel Memory, Quickpath Technology, the upcoming lineup is expected to pack a considerable punch within a smaller and less complex package which will inevitably cost the consumer considerably less. It remains to be seen how well these processors will perform and how well they will overclock but if one thing is for sure, now of all days would be the worst time for AMD to sit back with their favourite glass of single malt, watch some television then perhaps go for a nap. After all, if one fail's to prepare then one must prepare to fail and this is exactly what happened when the previous performance champion, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 series received a punch in the face by the well received Core 2 Duo "Conroe" core...And on that bomb shell I wish to present to you the latest addition to the Phenom II family. Meet the AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition.
 
Model Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache Voltage TDP
Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition 3.4GHz 2MB 6MB 0.875 - 1.5v 140w
Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz 2MB 6MB 0.875 - 1.5v 125w
Phenom II X4 945 3.0GHz 2MB 6MB 0.85 - 1.25V 95w
Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition 3.0GHz 2MB 6MB 0.875 - 1.5v 125w
Phenom II X4 920 2.8GHz 2MB 6MB 0.875 - 1.5v 125w
Phenom II X4 910 2.6GHz 2MB 6MB 0.875 - 1.425v 95w
Phenom II X4 905e 2.5GHz 2MB 6MB 0.825 - 1.25v 65w
Phenom II X4 900e 2.4GHz 2MB 6MB  0.850 - 1.25v 65w
Phenom II X4 810 2.6GHz 2MB 4MB 0.875 - 1.425v 95w
Phenom II X4 805 2.5GHz 2MB 4MB 0.875 - 1.425v 95w
  
So here it is. Another AMD Phenom II based on the Deneb core. 6MB of unified Level 3 cache, 512kB of Level 2 Cache per core and a frisky 2000MHz on the Northbridge Clock. Aside, a 200MHz clockspeed increment, it is no different to the previous Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition. Ah, though it does have a 140W TDP, a 15W increase from the 955BE. From what I gather so far, it's essentially the existing Phenom II with a clockspeed hike along with an increase in reference CPU Voltage to compensate for varying yields on the production line. Going by my previous experiences with overclocking AMD Phenom II processors, I would hope that this is more of a precaution rather than a requirement and that the yields of the Deneb core are improving quite nicely. All should soon be revealed when we get round to overclocking our sample.
 
So here's a couple of questions that need answering. How much of a performance gain can be had from another 200MHz increment? Is this processor worth the £175 price tag? We'll soon find out.
 
As usual at Overclock3D, to ensure all reviews are fair and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used when ever it is possible. The systems we will be using today will consist of the following;
 
AMD Phenom II Systems
CPUZProcessors
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.2GHz
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition 3.4GHz

Motherboard
Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P

Cooling
OCZ Gladiator MAX

Memory
4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 Corsair Dominator

Graphics Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX260 896MB

Hard Disk Drive
500GB Maxtor DiamondMax 22 (SATA 3Gb/s)

Power Supply
Tuniq Ensemble 1200w

Graphics Drivers
Geforce WHQL 190.38

Operating System
Windows Vista Ultimate SP2 (x64)
 
Intel Core I7 System
Processors
Intel Core i7 920 2.66GHz

Motherboards
Biostar TPower X58A

Cooling
OCZ Gladiator MAX

Memory
6GB (3x2GB) DDR3-1333 Corsair Dominator

Graphics Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX260 896MB

Hard Disk Drive
500GB Maxtor DiamondMax 22 (SATA 3Gb/s)

Power Supply
Tuniq Ensemble 1200w

Graphics Drivers
Geforce WHQL 190.38

Operating System
Windows VIsta Ultimate SP2 (x64) 
 
Intel Core 2 Duo System
Processors
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 3.0GHz

Motherboards
ASUS ROG Maximus II Gene P45

Cooling
OCZ Gladiator MAX

Memory
4GB (2x2GB) DDR2-1066 Buffalo Firestix

Graphics Card
NVIDIA GeForce GTX260 896MB

Hard Disk Drive
500GB Maxtor DiamondMax 22 (SATA 3Gb/s)

Power Supply
Tuniq Ensemble 1200w

Graphics Drivers
Geforce WHQL 190.38

Operating System
Windows VIsta Ultimate SP2 (x64) 
  
Now let's move on to the results... 


AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE Page: 2
SiSoftware
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
SuperPI
 
SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers. It's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. It should be noted that while the application is fantastic as a measure of a processor's performance compared to another processor of the same product family, it is known to be a mediocre choice of application to compare processors between different product families and brands. Also note that SuperPi is a single threaded application.
 
Once again, testing was performed a total of 5 times, with an average being calculated from the middle three results.
 
 
 
 
PassMark Software
 
PassMark is a popular benchmarking suite which test all aspect of PC hardware.The CPU test examines Mathematical operations, compression, encryption, SSE, 3DNow! instructions and more. Each CPU test was performed a total of 5 times, with an average being calculated from the middle three results.
 
 
Result Analysis
 
As we can see, the higher default clock speed of the 965 gives it an advantage in the CPU benchmarks. The i7 920 is still faster in all of these benchmarks, despite it's slower clock. The hyperthreading technology obviously does it's job here.


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SiSoftware Sandra
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
Everest
 
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
The 920 again wins every benchmark hands down, but interestingly enough, the 965 is slower than the 955 in the SiSoft memory benchmarks. There isn't much in it but there is a difference. This is quite strange as the 965 is clocked faster.


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Cinebench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to gauge the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
POV-Ray
 
POV-Ray is a Persistence of Vision Raytracing tool for producing high-quality computer graphics. The freely available software suite is bundled with a benchmarking scene that uses many of POV-Ray's internal features to heavily test the abilities of the CPU in both single and multi-core modes.
 
 
 
3DMark
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
Nothing unusual here really, the 920 still wins in the multi core benchmarks due to it's 8 logical cores vs the 4 physical cores of the 965 and 955. However, in the single threaded benchmarks the 965 does take the lead due to being almost 700Mhz faster than the 920 at stock speeds. 3DMark 06 also favours the 965 over the 920 due to it's higher clock speed. Vantage however does take advantage of the multiple cores of the 920.


AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE Page: 5
Crysis
 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
FarCry 2
 
Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
 
RaceDriver GRID
 
 
Results Analysis
 
As usual, the 965 loses out to the 920 here in Crysis and Far Cry 2 due to the support for multiple cores. The 965 does edge away in GRID however with it's higher clock. All 4 processors do deliver frame rates that are acceptable however, all very close to 60FPS.


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PCMark Vantage
 
PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks. Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
As usual, the 920 beats the 965, and the 965 beats the 955. Apart from in the memory benchmarks, where the 965 shines due to the mature intergrated memory controller rather than Intel's new solution. The 920 delivers the higher scores due to the hyperthreading support but the 965 does give a nice boost over the 955 due to the higher clock of 3.2GHz


AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE Page: 7
Overclocking
 
After a rummage through our Gigabyte MA770T UD3P's BIOS, we managed to overclock our Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition to 4.00GHz with a stock voltage of 1.400V. This was proven completely stable however our test sample seemed to have met it's demise, while attempting to push it further. It should be noted however that this occurred while testing the AMD Overdrive Software Tool, and we believe that it was a voltage increase that occurred while testing the "Auto" overclock tool that killed our CPU. Sadly as a result, we're unable to offer any CPU-Z Screenshots let alone performance results with the overclock applied. As unfortunate as this was, we were very pleased with the result of 4.00GHz @ 1.40V that was achieved. While it seems quite evident that the 4.00GHz barrier remains strong and the Phenom II continues to overclock slightly worse under a 64bit operating system this didn't particularly matter as the result was achieved at a voltage that is considerably lower than those required with Phenom II X4 955's and the older X4 940. One thing to note is that while it is possible to overclock by means of the base HTT Frequency, the unlocked CPU and Northbridge Multipliers available on the Black Edition Processor is an absolute godsend, allowing for easier overclocking but also to ramp up the frequency of the Northbridge, which is known to make the Phenom II faster clock for clock.
 
**19th September 2009 UPDATE**
 
A month on, we are glad to be able to revisit the AMD Phenom II X4 965 with a fresh sample. With our second attempt to overclock team green’s best we are here to report both good and bad news. The good news is that despite the electrical and thermal beatings exerted on our test sample, it remained with us and did not evaporate to that heavenly cloud in the sky. The bad news can infact be deciphered from the last sentence in that overclocking our second 965 Black Edition was not so easy. Unlike the first sample, which flew to 4.0GHz on stock voltage, the maximum bootable frequency was just over 3.80GHz and the maximum stable overclock with a default VID of 1.400V a paltry 200MHz over stock speeds. We finally found ourselves at 3.70GHz with an operational voltage of 1.5250V and a modest Northbridge Frequency of 2200MHz.
 
 
 
While a processor is only guaranteed to operate at it’s intended frequencies, I still can’t help but feel as though I’ve opened the front door to be greeted by a flaming brown bag of excrement on my doorstep. Perhaps I am being unnecessarily harsh and perhaps borderline offensive for which I could apologise for but the bottom line is that purchasing even the finest of AMD silicon does not make you immune from the weaker of Deneb Core batches as we have clearly demonstrated. What we can demonstrate however is that even a comparatively small overclock is far from futile as can be seen below.
 
 
Conclusion
  
As the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition is a mere refresh of the previous 955 Black Edition 3.20GHz part, we already had an idea of how the processor should perform and it did exactly as it should. Once again, AMD continue to fall behind in the Media scene, particularly with heavily multi-threaded applications and this will be a let down for those who predominantly use their system to encode/convert/encrypt gigabytes of data in huge batches. The Core i7 has proven itself to be a stunning number cruncher and nothing short of an updated architecture from AMD is likely to take said crown away from them. The Phenom II however fights back admirably in games, exchanging beatings with the Core i7 920. One must also consider that 1280x1024 in this day and age is a relatively low resolution to play games in and very few in reality would decide to play their games at such resolutions after spending considerable money on a gaming rig. Baring this in mind, it's worth noting that games at typical widescreen resolutions today will be much more GPU dependant and chances are, the gains that one processor may have had against the other would be greatly diminished. Ultimately, AMD's fastest processor is now another step in the right direction toward Core i7 performance and this is exactly what the brand needs to at least remain competitive against the upcoming LGA1156 Core i5/i7 range of mainstream processors.
 
As before, AMD wins the price:performance war with Socket AM3's comparatively lower overall system ownership costs thanks to affordable motherboards and dual channel DDR3 approaching £40 for a 4GB 1333MHz set making it the best value choice. This has been a point that many including myself have been harping on about for months now however and this applies to AMD's platform and not necessarily the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition itself. So we return to the original question. Is the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition worth it's £180 price tag? Since we've already established that Core i7 clearly has it's benefits in media based areas and that the AMD platform is relatively inexpensive, we should now consider what the 965 Black Edition offers compared to the rest of the Phenom II family. As it stands, the end user is paying £30 more for a 200MHz clockspeed bump and a voltage increase. But hang on, surely even a novice could take a Phenom II X4 955 Black, raise it's multiplier from 16x to 17x and raise it's operating voltage by 0.025V just to be safe? Maybe, but many put a high value on a guaranteed frequency of operation. Not only that, it should be noted that all of the higher quality silicon will now find it's way in 965BE packaging, while the 955BE now consists of speed binned cores, which have either been allocated to a lower grade pile simply to fill a quota of a given model's production or cores which genuinely can't meet the 965BE grade. Overclocking is a risky business and your mileage may vary. A new product placement above the 955BE has introduced another factor into overclocking yields but as we've proven with two separate samples, anything can happen. At any rate, I'm tempted to say that the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition is not worth the extra outlay. This however doesn't mean that I deem the processor a poor product but it is an opinion that is exactly why I would rather buy the £125 Core 2 Duo E8400 over the £145 Core 2 Duo E8500 for example.
 
**An updated verdict** - Now that we've observed the release of the new LGA1156 Lynnfield Core i5/i7 processors, one has to think carefully when purchasing processors in this price bracket. While it remains to be seen amongst our own testing whether the 965BE can hold it's own against the £150 Core i5 750 processor, choosing either processor is not as simple as black and white. What we can say for sure however is that the Phenom II X4 965 offers an additional speedbump for a proven bang per buck platform and is certainly a solid performer but so long as it's older 955 BE sibling exists for as little as £134.55 , it will never be everyone's cup of tea.
 
 
The Good
- A consistent performer
- Comfortably performs alongside it's rivals
 
The Mediocre
- 140W TDP makes this processor considerably more power hungry than some of it's rivals.
- With the recent arrival of the Core i5 750, it's simply priced too high
 
The Bad
- None
 
 
Recommended Award 
 
Thanks to AMD for sending the 965 BE in for review. Discuss in our Forums.