The story sounds familiar: Intel hits a new milestone in nanometre architecture, and AMD waits a while to follow up. It happened with 65nm processors, and it's happening again now. Two days shy of a year since Intel launched Penryn, its first 45nm chip, AMD is finally ready to counter with a few 45nm CPUs of its own - Phenom II has finally arrived.
But based on PC World US magazine's hands-on testing of two Phenom II machines - the Dell XPS 625 and the Maingear Dash - the chip isn't quite as dominating as AMD would have you believe.
AMD Phenom II Explained
AMD is positioning Phenom II in between Intel's Core 2 Quad and Core i7 offerings. Phenom II chips are available in two versions, the X4 920 and the X4 940 Black Edition, which compete tit-for-tat against Intel's highest Core 2 Quad CPU frequencies at 2.8 and 3.0 GHz, respectively.
AMD Phenom II CPU
AMD bumped the shared L3 cache of the Phenom II processors up from 2MB to 6MB, giving each CPU a total cache of 8MB. L3 cache serves as a shared memory space for the cores to draw from. Increasing the amount improves the CPU's ability to pull data from this faster memory space instead of having to issue slower requests to the system's main memory. The move puts Phenom II processors right in the middle of Intel's Core 2 Quad lineup for cache size, but the result is still short of the 12MB caches found on higher-end Core i7 chips.
Though limited overclocking of the 920-edition processors is available through AMD's OverDrive software, the company is tipping its hat toward the extreme-performance crowd with its Black Edition processors. These CPUs run multiplier-unlocked, which liquid-nitrogen-armed enthusiasts have been able to exploit to frequencies above 6GHz, surpassing the world record for Intel Core i7 processors, which stands at 5.5 GHz.