Mainstream Quad Core Processors Compared from AMD and Intel

CPU by massman @ 2008-04-30

In this review we compare AMD´s latest AM2+ based Phenom X4 9850 to Intel´s mainstream Q9300 Processor. Which one gives you more performance for the buck? Answering this question is not as straightforward as you might think. With AMD aggressive pricing and new B3 revision does it stand a chance against an upgraded Q6600? Let us find out.

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Introduction to the AMD Phenom

The history of the alternative choice:

Madshrimps (c)

Advanced Micro Devices, or AMD as we know, has been around for quite some time now. In the early personal computer era, Intel had more than one competitor, such as Cyrix and Via, but only one of them is still competing at the highest level: AMD. About ten years ago, when the K5 was released, AMD had to compete price-wise as their chips were not at as fast as Intel's. That decision has been included in AMD's policy ever since, as we all know that AMD produces chips that are meant to be best in the price/performance field rather than pure power.

K7, or Athlon XP, was a big change, as for the first time AMD released processors that were clock per clock faster and cheaper than Intel's solution. Still, AMD kept its prices pretty low and were thus loved by both the usual home user and the hardcore overclocking enthusiast. Released at the end of the year 2001, the Athlon XP-saga continued until May 2003, when the last Barton model, the 3200+ clocked at 2,2GHz, was released. However, AMD was working on a revolutionary chip, one that would let them control the market a bit longer.

K8, the Athlon64, the first desktop 64-bit processor. In September 2003, AMD released a desktop platform, namely the socket 754, which later would be replaced by the socket 939 platform which introduced PCIe lanes and re-introduced dual channel memory, which was abandoned on s754. The new chip featured an IMC, internal memory controller, which made the memory bandwidth skyrocket. The processors were loved as well, Intel did not have an answer ready yet and the prices were reasonable. For the 24/7 overclockers, these cpu's were a dream come true: most of the processors with newer cores, such as the Venice and San Diego, clocked fairly easy to 3GHz on air cooling. For the hardcore enthusiast, these chips were not that great as the IMC introduced the coldbug which basically comes down to the processor failing to work when temperatures got too low.

Madshrimps (c)

January 06, the reign of AMD was over. Intel introduced the first 'Intel core' series processors, the Yonah, which simply blew the A64 away, especially overclocking-wise (little anecdote: Madshrimps reviewer, Gamer, was one of the first to test the Yonah subzero, which lead him to the Superpi 1M WR). Later on, the Core2 series were introduced: Allendale, Conroe and Kentsfield, each faster than its predecessor. With the Kentsfield, Intel introduced the first desktop quad core processing unit, well ... two dual cores under one IHS. The performance was, astonishing enough, pretty good, although no one really needed a quad core at that moment, as almost no software supported four cores. Just a few months ago, Intel released the 45nm based Core2Duo/Quadro cpu's, already tested by Madshrimps here.

In the meanwhile, AMD introduced AM2, a new processor platform, but never could compete with Intel when it comes to performance. Although price-wise still nearly unbeatable (only the high-end chips were pretty expensive), AMD saw the sales go down and had to introduce a new processor: K10, also known as the Phenom series. They've worked quite some time to get the chip work good at higher frequencies, but still are stuck at about 2-2,5GHz stock, while Intel is able to release products clocked at 3Ghz and higher. The new technology did not rock our world; the chip was not noticeable faster than Intel, the mainboards were unstable, the B2 revision had a terrible TLB-bug, the cold bug did not disappear... this all according to observations and reading articles on the world wide web.

BUT, the latest Phenom was recently introduced which fixes the TLB-bug, comes at higher clockspeeds and better pricing. So now instead of ranting on about AMD, we decided to try and get our hands on the new silicon to get it a twirl. Straight from AMD we received the latest: Phenom X4 9850, the high-end B3 revision processor, in this performance review we will compare it to the Intel Q9300, Intel's similarly priced quad core CPU so see what the new Phenom X4 revision has to offer to the average Joe, as well as the hardware enthusiast.

In the following pages, we'll compare both in a series of benchmarks: 2D, 3D and games. Further on, we'll inform you about the overclocking and finish with the final verdict.

On with the show ->
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Comment from Gamer @ 2008/05/01
Great article there Massman !!!
Comment from Massman @ 2008/05/01
Thank you Gamer :-)
Comment from goingpostale1 @ 2008/05/13
Great article, surprised me to see the Phenom so close to the Core Quad. Thanks for another great review.
Comment from jmke @ 2008/05/13
if you're not into overclocking the AMD Phenom offers a very interesting price/performance ratio, only in the power usage department will it lag behind due to the larger manufacturing process