Saturday, November 13, 2010

AMD Phenom II Six Core 1090T V/s Intel Core i7 920


Eight months ago AMD introduced their 2nd generation of Phenom 2 X4 Processors that was designed to use the AM3 socket while remaining backwards compatible with previous AM2/AM2+ motherboards. Although the Phenom II X4 965 was AMD’s flagship desktop processor, it wasn’t the performance that glued users on to it but rather the value for money it brought to the table. Alongwith processors like X 2 550/555 which could be unlocked to 4 cores depending upon the combination of chip and motherboard.
Whether your allegiance lies with AMD or Intel, there is no denying the fact that competition is a good thing for us the consumers. Now you would ask, why should Intel affiniatos be happy about AMD’s hexa-core processor launch. Intel has a hexa-core Processor, the i7 980X aka gulftown but it retails for 1000$ and out of reach for majority of the enthusiast who are in their sane minds and without any roadmap for launching an affordable hexa-core CPU. We will find out in the next few pages whether the new hexa-core processor from AMD 1090T Black Edition pressurises the competition enough that Intel would be forced to do price cuts or maybe new product launches.
The new Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition that we are benchmarking today operates at 3.2GHz with a 16x clock multiplier (200Mhz slower than the 965) but with a turbo speed of 3.6Ghz which should make non-overclockers very happy because when using single thread applications it means free performance. This new Phenom is based on the new new Thuban architecture and features 9MB L3 cache, with each core having its own dedicated 512KB of L2 cache (3MB total L2 cache).
And before we forget its not just X6 1090T which is getting launched today but there are other processors as well. Do find the basic specs of the processors listed below.
1090T Featureset

Lets have a quick look at the die picture of the 1090T. We wont waste your time with blabbering on the conclusions drawn from the picture.

*Die Picture
• True Six Core Processing
• AMD Turbo CORE Technology
• L1 Cache: 128KB (64KB Instruction + 64KB Data) x6(six-core)
• L2 Cache: 512KB x6(six-core)
• L3 Cache: 6MB Shared L3
• 45-nanometer SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
• HyperTransport™ 3.0 16-bit/16-bit link at up to 4000MT/s full duplex; or up to 16.0GB/s I/O bandwidth
• Up to 21GB/sec dual channel memory bandwidth
• Support for unregistered DIMMs up to PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3 10600
• Direct Connect Architecture
• AMD Balanced Smart Cache
• AMD Dedicated Multi-cache
• AMD Virtualization™ (AMD-V™)Technology
• AMD PowerNow™ 3.0 Technology
• AMD Dynamic Power Management
• Multi-Point Thermal Control
• AMD CoolCore™ Technology
In AMD’s words – “AMD Phenom™ II X6 Processors were designed for extreme megatasking, multi-threaded applications, and entertainment. To enable you to do more than you’ve ever imagined: create, edit, render, encode/decode and transfer dense HD content while watching HD content, burning CDs or DVDs while downloading music and video.” We certainly will see in the upcoming pages if they have been successful in their endeavor or not. But first lets look at the difference between the various new chipsets AMD has come out with.
New AMD Chipset comparison and architecture
Unluckily todays benchmarks were carried out on a 890GX chipset and not the 890FX chipset which is supposed to give the best overclocking results.

And before we move on just so that you get to know a bit more about the 890FX chipset, do check the architecture of 890FX below.
System Specs and Benchmark List

Due to shortage of time, there is only a limited amount of setups that we have for comparison. But I guess this should be enough to see where does 1090T stands when compared to its existing product line and the target competition.
We would be comparing the setups with below mentioned benchmarks
Multithreaded 2d Benchmarks
Everest CPU Queen
Main Concept Encoding
PCMark Vantage
Memory Bandwidth Benchmark
Sisoft Sandra
3d Synthetic Benchmarks
Crysis Warhead
FarCry 2
Turbo CORE

Lets talk about the new feature in the x6 series of CPU, in my understanding Turbo CORE is something which plays with CPU’s TDP headroom when three or more cores are idle by automatically boosting the remaining three cores and throttling down the idle cores. On the Phenom II X6 1090T, 3.2 GHz CPU it can boost the CPU up to 400Mhz and put the final speed to 3.6Ghz. Quite impressive if you ask me.
Unfortunately it seems to me this is simply a marketing gimmick or fail engineering. I tried running a couple of single threaded programs like super-pi and pi-fast at stock speeds of 3.2Ghz but at no point of time any of the cores jumped to 3.6Ghz. At the max one of the cores jumped over to 3.4Ghz only to fall back on 3.2Ghz and at no point of time did any of the cores throttle down.
Though I should also add, that I was not using a 890FX board but I dont think Turbo Core is chipset restricted or atleast it simply should not be. On another thought it might be bios dependent and needs a motherboard bios update??? We will wait for the verdict to come out on this in the next couple of weeks.
This is the section which excites me the most, afterall I write reviews so that I can have access to the latest hardware(whoops!!! spilled the secret out). Lets then push it to the limits, ofcourse only on air. But there is more to come, LN2 results should be out in a week or two.
Before we begin let me tell you that the sample we have is a retail unit so though we would expect other processors to reach to the same level or better but many factors come into play when overclocking. First off we tried with the stock cooler which has seen some improvement from the 965’s stock cooler. Hold on to your breath, we were able to reach speeds of upto 4.4Ghz which was only 2d stable though. 4.2Ghz was 3d stable on stock cooler under an airconditioned room. Hugely impressed with the initial overclock on the stock cooler we slapped on a sample of CoolerMaster V10 cooler that we had. Though temperatures decreased but our overclock didnt improve. So next was disabling cores (remember this wont give much performance boost to most users, but can be done just to get maybe a second faster time in superpi). With the Gigabyte motherboard we had we were able to disable all but 2 of the cores from Bios. And with vCore pushed to 1.6V we were able to achieve 4.6Ghz which was stable enough to run superpi. Afterall things said and done, now the reviewer can go to sleep in peace.
Our retail review sample was able to reach 4.6Ghz with only 2 cores and 1.6V, but for 24/7 setup we were able to achieve 4.2Ghz at 1.55V. This is certainly good news since in our opinion 1090T would have a higher overclocking headroom than the 965BE processors out there judging by our retail review sample while adding 2 extra cores to it.
Price and Conclusion
1090T and 1055T are the first real hexa-cores which is in reach of 99% enthusiasts, since Intel’s 980X retails for around 1000$(more than Rs. 55000 in Indian retail market), though if you are looking at purely performance numbers then I am sure 980X has simply no competition. We will have a 980X as well for comparison very soon, so stay glued to Erodov, :p. As of now 1090T is selling for around Rs. 15000 and 1055T for Rs. 10100 in India.
Though 1090T is impressive but which group of enthusiast should really be looking forward to upgrade?. I will say anyone involved in video work, photoshop, rendering would be my first target group. AMD’s new flagship processor is easily able to keep up with the Intel’s 920 and in some test better it. Gamers I would say would not really see much benefit from either going to Intel or AMD’s hexacore just now. There is really no benefit of having extra cores when they are not being used for gaming. If you are a gamer and want more performance out of your C2D or Phenom 2 computer then will suggest a SSD as an upgrade for sure, specially if you play multiplayer games. Ofcourse if you are a overclocker at heart and would like to buy a future proof system for the next 2-3 years then 1090T has plenty to offer. Our system was able to do 4.6Ghz for a very small fraction of time for some 2d benchmarking, 4.4Ghz for benchmarking all cores with 2d benchmarking softwares like wprime, and 4.2Ghz for all our benchmarking suite. It will be interesting to see how much it can do under Liquid Nitrogen which we will be doing most probably this weekend. We have been told that these hexacore’s better overclocking headroom is mostly because of GlobalFoundrie’s addition of low-k dielectric in their 45nm manufacturing process, because of which these chips leaks less current, drawing less power and outputting less heat. Just uptill a few months ago, AMD had a 140W quad core and today they are delivering an hexacore within a 125W power envelope. Thats quite a feat if you ask me.
In the end, we are at a crossroad where 1090T has brought AMD much closer to Intel than they have ever been in recent times. Its pretty hard to clearly announce a winner and to recommend one company over the other but whichever company you choose to build your rendering/gaming/enthusiast system, you’re probably not going to regret it.

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