Review Index:

AMD Phenom X4 9850 Processor Review - Long Awaited B3

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Phenom X4 9850 - First B3 CPU

While our testing for today will revolve around the new AMD Phenom 9850 processor, AMD is actually refreshing the entire lineup of Phenom processors with the B3 stepping update.  AMD has also presented as confusing a picture of availability as possible to boot!

As you would expect, any of the still available B2 stepping quad-core Phenom processors have reached the end of their short lives and will either be sold at a discount or sent back to AMD.  Keep your eyes open for deals!  What you get instead is all quad-core Phenoms, known as the X4, running on the updated and fixed B3 stepping along with some new clock speeds.  The X4 9850 that we are testing runs at 2.5 GHz, a cool 200 MHz increase over the previous B2 stepping top frequency of 2.3 GHz.  It is also a fully unlocked processor, though AMD has not given it the "Black Edition" moniker for whatever reason. 

Also notice that the Phenom X4 9850 is the first Phenom to use an updated bus speed of 4.0 GHz, with the 2000 MHz HyperTransport bus in full duplex mode.  This also means that the memory controller on the Phenom X4 9850 is running at 2000 MHz versus the 1800 MHz that it ran at on the first series of Phenom CPUs.  We are very curious to see how this change affects the processors performance overall.

The X4 9750 runs at 2.4 GHz but still uses the 3.6 GHz bus speed and the 1800 MHz memory controller speed.  You can also see that AMD is making both a 125W and a 95W version of the CPU; but you'll only be able to buy the 125W version in the channel at places like Newegg, etc.  In fact, of all the brand new CPUs listed in the table above, only the ones in the orange font are going to be available for you to buy; the rest are going straight to the system builders and OEMs. 

That means that you won't see any results for the Phenom X3 triple-core processors today here either; AMD has assured us that a launch for the channel is imminent for April so you won't have to wait long.

We only received pricing on the channel parts as follows:

  • Phenom X4 9850 - $235
  • Phenom X4 9750 - $215
  • Phenom X4 9550 - $195

The rest of the prices remain a mystery for now, but you can see that with the triple core parts AMD is going to have price them pretty low - good news for consumers bad news for AMD's bottom line still.

Here rests the new Phenom X4 9850 on our AMD 790FX motherboard, the MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard.  The four cores on the CPU are still built on AMD's 65nm process and feature about 450 million transistors on a 285 mm^2 die.  With the 125W TDP rating, it's no surprise the X4 9850 uses a somewhat higher 1.2-1.3v rating. 

Note: these pictures were taken with the Phenom X4 9850 installed on a Gigabyte motherboard though our testing was done on the MSI board

Our updated Gigabyte motherboard BIOS correctly recognized the processor as a Phenom 9850 and was running at DDR2-1066 memory speeds without much trouble at all. 

In the BIOS we can see that the processor is indeed running at a 2000 MHz clock rate with the memory controller at a 1.25v Vcore setting. 

The latest version of CPUZ properly recognizes the new B3 stepping of the Phenom processor as the X4 9850 -
2.50 GHz clock rate and 2000 MHz HyperTransport link and all.  Our memory window shows the system running at DDR2-800 speeds in dual channel, unganged mode which basically refers to running each 64-bit memory controller separately rather than combining them (ganged mode) into a larger, single 128-bit controller.

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