If you're in the market for a new computer this Christmas, there are so many questions to ask. How long will the X58 platform be king for? Should I wait for Intel's Sandy Bridge? Or in this game of Intel vs AMD Roulette, should I place £200+ on green?
In April we had already come to realise that AMD's range topping Hex Core processor could exchange punches with the value for money (and critically acclaimed) Core i7 930. Only once one ignores that AMD need six of their finest cores to fend off Intel's quads, it really becomes clear that these processors are a reasonable alternative to the Core i7. Particularly when you factor in the rising GPU dependency in games and the lower platform acquisition costs of Socket AM3, it suddenly seems as though the Phenom II X6 is holding its own rather well.
There are problems however. Within a month, Intel are due to release a range of new Core i5/i7 processors with higher clock speeds and even more architectural tweaks. Meanwhile AMD's Socket AM3 is set to be axed in favour of AM3+, where you will have to purchase a new motherboard for "Bulldozer" CPU support next year. On the flipside, Phenom II is proven technology and available now for 2010's Christmas season. So many decisions, indeed...
As the name of the review suggests, there is a new king in town. AMD have been kind enough to retain the 1090T and drop its price just shy of £200, leaving space for the new flagship processor. At 3.30GHz, the 1100T only offers a modest improvement over it's displaced sibling but in lieu of the Core i7 950 replacing the 930 in the £225 price range, every additional burst of clock cycle frequency counts.
|AMD Phenom II X6 1075T ||AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE||AMD Phenom II X6 1100T BE|
|Core Frequency ||3000MHz||3200MHz||3300MHz|
|Turbo Frequency ||3500MHz||3600MHz||3700MHz|
|IMC Frequency ||2000MHz||2000MHz||2000MHz|
|Multiplier Unlocked ||Downwards Only||Yes||Yes|
|Current Price ||~£185||~£200||Estd. £225|
Well lets get this show on the road, shall we?
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T BE 3.30GHz Processor
MSI 870A FUZION Power Edition Motherboard
Corsair Dominator GT 4GB 2000mhz
ATi Radeon HD 5770 1GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
Corsair AX1200w PSU
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Noctua NH-D14 Cooler
Whenever a flagship processor is replaced with a counterpart with a higher frequency, one can't help but wonder if we might see greater overclock potential as well. The Phenom II X6 1100T is no exception to this, but will the new range topper deliver as we hoped? Lets find out...
The Fun Bit - Max Attainable Frequency
Bearing in mind that our test processor is air cooled, it is only really possible to crank those core voltages up to a certain level. Regardless, we pushed this new processor for all its worth and we achieved this -
4500MHz for a suicide run is certainly not terrible by any stretch; especially as far as 45nm Thuban cores are concerned. At 1.55V however, the processor is running rather warm and would require a greater voltage to enter stable realms.
Big numbers are great, but what about maximum stable frequencies? Undoubtably this is more important. For testing purposes we will determine maximum Hypertransport and Northbridge (IMC) frequencies. This will help determine how flexible the processor is and how unreliant (or not) it can be without its unlocked multiplier ranges. Finally we will leverage all overclock parameters to find the highest overall overclock, which offers the best compromise between multipliers and IMC & HTT frequencies.
Max Stable Base HTT Frequency
Finding the highest base frequency helps us determine the quality of the processor's memory controller. For the purpose of this test, we used the 400MHz+ capable MSI 870A FUZION Power Edition motherboard.
Unfortunately our test sample couldn't match our golden 1090T processor nor take advantage of the 870A Power Edition's capabilities, however 350MHz is still considerably more than you would ever need in practice.
Max Stable NB Frequency
Really, high base HTT frequencies don't do an awful lot for the Socket AM3 platform. If anything (other than raw core frequency) else really enhances performance, it is without doubt the Northbridge (IMC) frequency. Once pushed above its nominal frequencies of 2000MHz, you will see sizeable increases in effective memory bandwidth; this goes a long way towards real performance boosts.
While trying to maintain a high Base HTT, we found ourselves with a max NB frequency of 3000MHz; one couldn't ask for much more here.
Max Stable Overall Overclock
Last but certainly not the least, we considered maximum overall frequency.
We found ourselves with a frequency of 4.20GHz with a 2.40GHz IMC frequency and a reasonably tight DDR3-1600 configuration. While stable, this required over 1.600V to achieve; a victory all the same but does not avoid Thuban's inferior overclocking ability when compared to Core i7.
One 900MHz overclock later, lets get testing.
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.
The CPU arithmetic test ascertains the processor's capabilities in terms of numerical operations. Two subtests named Dhrystone and Whetstone are carried out respectively. This is not a measure of latency and thus higher is better.
In terms of raw arithmetic performance, the Phenom II X6 processors waddle off to a pretty depressing start. Only at 4.20GHz does the Phenom II show any ability to keep up with the reference clocked i7 950.
The CPU Multimedia Test focuses on CPU based operations that may occur during multimedia based tasks. The magnitude of the score depends on the processor's ability to handle Integer, Float and Double data types.
...and then all of a sudden the tables turn in a big way. Here the i7 950 cannot keep up with either 1090T or 1100T, let alone once they are overclocked.
CPU Queen is based on branch prediction and the misprediction penalties that are involved.
The 100MHz increase over the 1090T offers a small performance boost as shown above, while at 4.20GHz the 1100T BE is miles ahead. The reference frequency i7 950 is positioned between the default and overclocked results; a clear win for team blue.
PhotoWorxx as the name may suggest tests processors by means of invoking functions that are common to Photo Manipulation including Fill, Flip, Crop, Rotate, Difference and Colour to B&W conversion.
Clearly Intel's performance reign is most noticeable with media/photo editing based tasks. Not even the 4.20GHz Phenom II is a match for the identically priced i7 950 at reference speeds.
This is an integer based benchmark that will test the CPU and Memory by means of the CPU ZLib compression library.
The tables turn yet again, with the Core i7 950 falling behind the pack of hex core processors. The next page will cover some more synthetic benchmarks.
WPrime is an excellent multicore compliant alternative to SuperPi.
Interestingly we find the 1100T BE and the i7 950 very well matched in the WPrime benchmark.
Persistence Of Vision RAYtracer is an application for creating three dimensional graphics. Within the program is a very popular benchmark that measures the processor's ability to render such images.
The PovRay result was particularly strange. Not only did the i7 950 lose out in terms of the overall Multithreaded score, the Intel also left with a low "Per CPU" score as well.
The latest iteration of Cinebench's rendering benchmark takes greater advantage of multiple cores. With this in mind, what better way to test a processor with no less than six cores?
Here we see the 1100T BE taking a small lead over the equivalently priced i7 950. Unsurprisingly, the overclocked processor is nothing short of unstoppable.
PCMark Vantage is Futuremark's flagship "System Wide" benchmark. With a large focus on day to day operations, it's an excellent means of judging the capability of a computer as a whole.
Another win for team Green. Despite a high Game score, the i7 950 fell short in all other sub tests. From here on we will be taking a look at 3D and Game benchmarks.
Futuremark 3DMark Vantage - Performance
3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.
Here we see the Intel platform sitting squarely in between reference and overclocked 1100T scores. On the basis that the i7 950 hasn't even been given the opportunity to perform above its default clockspeed, we definitely have a winner here.
Futuremark 3DMark Vantage - eXtreme
The eXtreme mode is considerably more demanding than the previously used Performance mode. This is a heavily GPU intensive mode but regardless, the end result could be interesting.
While GPU scores remain level across all systems, the i7 950 is clearly more efficient per clock cycle. This is shown by the CPU test results, which once again position the i7 950 somewhere between the reference and overclocked AMD results.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Recently Unigine produced the fantastic Heaven Benchmark. Based around a ficticious floating village the benchmark makes full use of the Direct X 11 API, most notably with the implementation of Hardware Tesselation.
Contrary to the results shown in Futuremark's 3DMark Vantage, the GPU intensive Heaven benchmark shows all platforms performing evenly. Will the same hold for real world gaming?
Lets find out.
Crysis Warhead is without a doubt one hard nut to crack, especially at higher resolutions.
The results are largely even, however the overclocked 1100T Black Edition and i7 950 hold a small advantage over the reference speed 1090T and 1100T. That said, the difference in frame rate is far from noticeable.
Tom Clancy's HAWX2 is an action oriented flight game, which was released around the same time as the Radeon HD 5800 series of graphics cards. How appropriate.
We see a slight change in the theme of results, where the 1090T and i7 950 perform identically, while the 1100T BE, both stock and overclocked hold a fractional lead. In practice, the difference in results mean very little however.
Metro 2033, is another popular game we were curious to see if a 900MHz boost in core frequency would push those framerates out of the gutter.
Metro2033 shows somewhat "like for like" average framerates across the board although the i7 950 seems to have fallen behind slightly.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 is based on a rather demanding engine and also has a fair level of GPU dependancy at higher resolutions. Many of today's graphics cards can play this game to a reasonable standard however it remains to be an excellent benchmark.
Far Cry 2 indicates near even performance across the board, with no real outliers.
Resident Evil 5
RE5 is the latest 3rd party shooter of the collection, released in 2009. Will the Resident Evil performance title be held by Intel or AMD this time round?
Once again we have a very strong tie.
Aliens vs Predator
This game is a very recent hit that utilises many Direct X 11 features, including Tesselation. What a perfect way to stretch our Radeon HD 5870's legs.
Aliens vs Predator by comparison is much more demanding than Resident Evil 5, with minimum framerates dropping towards 30 on all test configurations. We end our benchmark suite with another tie.
Alas the barrage of benchmarks have come to an end and its time to conclude.
So what do we think of AMD's refreshed hex core? Unsurpringly it left us with the same positive impressions that the preceding 1090T gave us, but with a mild performance boost to sweeten the deal.
It may seem as though my comments are somewhat bland, but the fact remains that the 1100T was both necessary and expected. Given the recent consolidation of the Core i7 lineup, which ousted the 2.80GHz i7 930 in lieu of the price dropped i7 950 it was about time AMD responded accordingly.
Our previous 1090T review showed the processor successfully fighting against the outgoing Core i7 930; following the 950's price drop the 1090T is inevitably at a disadvantage. Thankfully this is where the 1100T fights back. Our benchmarks show both CPUs winning and losing against each other, although game performance was largely equivalent. In theory, it would seem as though AMD's Phenom II X6 holds its own reasonably well against the Core i7 Quads.
There are slight problems however. If you're an overclocker, you will find that (at least on air) you will be nearing your limits just north of the 4.0GHz mark. While it has been shown that an overclocked Phenom II X6 is no slouch, there is no denying that a Core i7 at the same frequency would be faster in many applications. Moreover, today's Core i7's can often push further than 4.20GHz on conventional air cooling.
The next problem relates to those who are thinking of upgrading to the Socket AM3 platform; this means a new CPU, Motherboard and perhaps RAM as well. You should all be taking platform longevity into account. As it has been already confirmed that Socket AM3 boards will not support upcoming AM3+ "Bulldozer" architecture, there is no opportunity to upgrade to a faster processor without a motherboard swap.
On the other hand, the next month will see the release of Intel's new LGA1155 Sandy Bridge architecture. Our reports have shown that the upcoming Core i5 2500k 3.30GHz and Core i7 2600k 3.40GHz processors will be priced ~£20 less & more than the 1100T respectively. Given that these processors boast new architectural tweaks and have been spotted overclocking as high as 5.0GHz on air, one really has to wonder if now is the time to consider a Socket AM3 system.
So to summarise, what is the 1100T Black Edition to us? In a nutshell it is a slightly faster 1090T BE for the price that the 1090T used to retail at. For most of the part it does not overclock significantly better either. Our view is that the whole purpose of opting for AMD's Socket AM3 is for sheer "Value for Money". With this in mind you may as well save your £20 and purchase the 1090T BE; so long as the 1090T BE exists, it is the more sensible processor to buy.
If however you are bent upon upgrading your system on or before the new year and you wish to sample the technological of delights of AMD, the 1100T Black Edition is without doubt the most capable weapon of choice.
- A reasonable i7 950 competitor
- Novice friendly overclocking
- Cool operation at stock speeds
- Socket AM3 platform is at the end of the road
- Sandy Bridge Processors round the corner - wait?
- No better than 1090T BE for overclockers
Thanks to AMD for the 1100T on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in the forums.