When we probed AMD if we would ever see a 3GHz Phenom in retail since clock speed is something they could really use now, John Taylor had the following comment on it:-
"That's something that we're looking at right now. As you know, you can overclock a Phenom X4 9850 stably to 3GHz or more. We've some secret things in the works that you'll here more about later this quarter; that will allow people to get significantly above 3GHz even with a Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition. These are things we're doing more at the chipset level and some updates to some chipsets coming soon. So watch that space; I've said too much already, but you'll see significantly above 3GHz performance from Phenoms for those who really understand and know what they are doing when overclocking."
So there you have it - interesting developments coming our way, direct from the source (though we've not heard much of Phenoms making it past 3GHz normally). Now, AMD being a smaller company than its competitor in both resources and finances, it has to optimize the use of its engineering resources. So while they would like to make a 3GHz Phenom right now, they've tradeoffs to make. Right now, its OEM partners/customers just want more processors, but they aren't asking for a 3GHz Phenom since they don't sell such high-speed quad-core machines and only those who deal in the boutique end of the market selling $3000 to $4000 machines to gamers really deal with this sort of needs. AMD explained that their major partners like HP, Dell, Lenovo and others aren't asking for 3GHz quad-core Phenom processors. However, they are requesting for ever more energy efficient chips, so that they can keep making machines smaller and cooler. For the moment in this quarter, AMD will be pushing out a 2.6GHz Phenom 9950 which will be 100MHz speedier than the current 9850 Black Edition. While it won't break any records from what we've seen in its performance by means of the unreleased Phenom 9900, it's nonetheless a step in the right direction for them.
Even if their OEM's aren't demanding high-speed processors, as they deal with more mainstream volume movement, AMD's upcoming transition to the 45nm process technology (also often know as the "Stars" core update on the desktop side and "Shanghai" on the server side) is another reason why they can't entirely devote themselves to cranking higher clocked Phenoms. John commented that they've a lot of engineering resources channeled in this area as they are committed to getting it out right and want a clean launch and delivery execution. Of course they are doing more than just transitioning to a 45nm process, as they have some core enhancements, 6MB of L3 cache, supports DDR3-1333 memory and comes in a new AM3 socket packaging (which is fortunately backwards compatible with older platforms like AM2 and AM2+). By AMD's estimation, a 2.6GHz Phenom today, when making the jump to the new 45nm process node, should perform 10 to 20% better. So a 2.6GHz 45nm Phenom later this year would perform about the same as a 2.8GHz Phenom of the current generation. While most of the performance gain is mainly attributed to the enlarged L3 cache (still using the same exclusive caching policy), the gains sound much more than what Intel got when making their transition to 45nm. We'll check these claims when the processor becomes available, but yet another salient point about the transition is that AMD can bring down the wattage further on some of their processors.
So right now, they are at a juncture if they should introduce higher clocked SKUs of the existing 65nm quad-core processors or stay put and shift their engineering resources to delivering their newer 45nm processors which should hopefully give a notable performance boost at even the same clocks speeds. So that's something they'll figure out along the way as they get more industry feedback on what they require. By third quarter of this year, we should be able to get a clearer picture of the situation and their direction.