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.
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.
- A consistent performer
- Comfortably performs alongside it's rivals
- 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
Thanks to AMD for sending the 965 BE in for review. Discuss in our Forums