AMD Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition Review: Last of the Breed
Phenom II End of Line
It was January, 2009 when AMD released their first 45 nm product to the desktop market. While the server market actually received the first 45 nm parts some months earlier, they were pretty rare until AMD finished ramping production and was able to release the next generation of Phenom parts into the wild. The Phenom II proved an able competitor to Intel’s seemingly unstoppable Core 2 architecture. While the Phenom II typically had to be clocked slightly higher than the competing products, they held up well in terms of price and performance.
AMD was finally able to overcome the stigma of the original Phenom launch, which was late, slow, and featured that wonderful revision B2 bug. The Phenom II showed none of those problems, per clock performance was enhanced, and the chips were able to run at speeds of 3.0 GHz. These chips were able to hit speeds of 4+ GHz on water cooling, and 5+ GHz using LNO2. AMD seemed finally back in the game. The Phenom II looked to propel AMD back into competitiveness with Intel, and the leaks pertaining to the 6 core versions of the architecture only made consumers all the more excited for what was to come.
Unfortunately for AMD things did not turn out as rosy as they had hoped. Intel released the i7 based CPUs and these redefined power and performance. Even though the i7 part was similar in die size and transistor count, the design of the Intel part was a generation ahead of what AMD had just put out. The Phenom II was quickly overshadowed. Not to fear though, as it was thought that AMD would be the first to release a desktop 6 core processor! Well, that turned out to be wishful thinking as well. Intel was able to release their 32 nm, 6 core part several months before AMD was able to get out the Phenom II X6 1090T. This double whammy must have been similar to hearing helicopters swooping into the high rent district of Abbottabad.
Oh hey, remember me?
Admittedly, the Phenom II and the derivative Athlon II have kept AMD afloat through these rather hard times. We must also consider that the overall performance of these parts is not as bad as we have seen historically. Products like the K6 vs. Pentium 2 come to mind, especially when Intel was able to crank the clockspeed up well past 300 MHz and AMD had major issues getting 250 nm parts up and running. AMD has also been able to compete in the price/performance arena pretty effectively over the past two years. The 800 series chipsets from AMD have done very well for them, and considering the issues that the second generation i7 architecture from Intel suffered upon their release, AMD’s boat has been kept afloat long enough to get ready to deliver their upcoming 32 nm parts.
The Last Release Before Bulldozer and Llano
AMD will not shut down 45 nm production anytime soon. The Phenom II and Athlon II series have done very well for AMD, and it will take a while to ramp up production of Llano (32 nm APU) and Bulldozer (32 nm performance) processors. We do not have an official release date for these products, but we do expect them this summer. A few months back AMD released a new member of the Phenom II family with the Phenom II X4 975, but due to its very odd timing, and lack of any significant performance improvement over the previous X4 970 (there is a 100 MHz difference between the two), we were unable to provide a review for said product. We were not the only ones.