It's an odd relation that underdogs often seem to garner stronger public support than the leaders when the very reason the latter group is at its position is because of their better performance/capabilities. Of course, the converse is equally true that underdogs require more cheerleading to keep them going in an effort that they would one day succeed the leader. Sounds rather familiar, doesn't it? That's because the tale of AMD and Intel go way back to the early days of the 286 and 386 days when AMD's clone processors offered a great alternative to Intel and so this race/competition has remained ever since. Fast forward to current times, we see AMD still in the same situation of trying to offer more value, but it has unfortunately not been successful. Unable to replicate the fast technological push that Intel has achieved and a quicker cycle of product refreshes from its Silicon Cadence (also known as the Tick-Tock effect), plus the fact that AMD has been unable to keep-up with demand and still saddled by its hopeful acquisition of ATI, this has left AMD between a rock and a hard place - both in its position and its financial books.
Despite this drawbacks and repeated delays, the highly anticipated AMD Barcelona processor using their K10 architecture finally made its way to the workstation and server space late last year. Though boasting several enhancements over the last iteration of the K8 architecture, it fell short of expectations by a large degree. In fact, in our own detailed Showdown article of Barcelona versus Clovertown versus. Harpertown processors, we found clock speeds of the Barcelona far lower than shown in past tech demos, as well as inferior performance and power efficiency when compared to the equivalent Intel platform. The differences were by no means small and that's what aggravated the situation.
That wasn't all of Barcelona's woes. A TLB bug was later found and that further had implications on the Barcelona's system stability in certain scenarios - unless when patched with a BIOS fix that further hindered its overall performance. These issues also echoed on the consumer equivalent chip, the Phenom. After more months of waiting, frustration and beating around the bug, just two weeks ago AMD officially launched an updated Phenom processor series that utilizes the new B3 stepping which fixes the TLB bug for good and restoring a little performance back. To differentiate the original Phenom processors with the new set launched recently, there's been a slight update in the product model numbering. The added "50" to the processor model numbers denote processors using the bug-free core and the below table illustrates the renewed lineup.
|Processor Model / Processor Characteristics||Clock Speed||No. of Cores||L2 Cache||Front Side Bus (MHz)||Max TDP (W)||Demand-Based Switching (DBS)||Estimated Price (US$)|
Updated price points for these new chips too look to try and peck at Intel's offerings, but the narrow pricing delta would mean that it would make more sense for prospective buyers to top up a little more to grab the better edition. Perhaps the pricing differential would mean more to the developing countries where the differences in currency value might make for a better proposition. The Phenom X4 9850 'Black Edition', as per naming tradition, denotes that this SKU is multiplier unlocked and should be an attractive target for tweakers, while the 9650 model is currently slated for an OEM-only market, but you'll also likely find these as 'tray-edition' processors in time to come. The retail market still sells the equivalent 9600 model with the B2 core stepping, which should exit the market as stock depletes. That about sums up our introduction with the new Phenom X4 processors so take the next hop to get into our detailed performance analysis and see if AMD's second coming has any hot air left in it.