AMD Phenom X4 9850 Processor Review – B3 Stepping

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Finally A Phenom Processor That Runs Right

When the AMD Phenom series of processors launched back on November 19th, 2007 no one could have expected just how rough things were about to get for AMD. First, they sent out Phenom 9900 processors to the press that were was unable to keep up with the Intel Core 2 series of processors. Second, the Phenom 9700/9800/9900 processors that AMD sent out to the media were pulled at the last second and replaced with the lower clocked Phenom 9600 (2.3GHz) and Phenom 9500 (2.2GHz). Then after the Phenom series was lauched it got caught up in the TLB erratum 298 controversy and found itself plauged by benchmark problems. On top of all this AMD kept telling the media, who in turn told consumers, that everything was fine and AMD was on track to deliver the Phenom 9700 and 9800 later in Q1 with a new 3GHz model in Q2 of 2008.

AMD is committed to bring quad-core to the desktop market in Q4, and we are meeting that commitment with the launch of AMD Phenom quad-core processors 9500 and 9600 (2.2GHz and 2.3GHz) on Nov. 19th. AMD is going to initially introduce these two mainstream AMD Phenom quad-core processor models in order to satisfy customer demand in 2007. Since the October meeting, AMD has decided to launch our AMD Phenom 9700 (2.4GHz) quad core product in Q1 2008, along with our AMD Phenom 9900 (2.6 GHz) quad core processor. The launch of these two higher performance processors models will coincide with the introduction of related, significant performance enhancements in the platform; namely CrossFireX and our new enthusiast graphics product. Higher performance AMD Phenom processors will follow the introduction of the AMD Phenom 9700 and 9900 models, with a 3.0 GHz model in Q2 2008. AMD has a great history of delivering faster parts through a product’s lifecycle, and we are confident that this will remain true. – AMD PR 11/14/2007

The past four months could not have gone by fast enough for Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), but there does seem to be a new hope for Phenom as the latest revision of the core (stepping B3) fixes the TLB erratum along with many other erratums that were on the list.  The TLB fix is now done at the silicon level, so the performance hit users were seeing with the BIOS workaround should be gone.  AMD has now stopped production on the older core steppings as a result of this change.  If you see a Phenom 9500 or Phenom 9600 in a system or for sale at a retailer you know that the procesor is a B1 or B2 stepping that has the TLB issue.  All of the new Phenom B3 steppings will be named with the nomenclature of what AMD is calling the ’50 series’ of processors. The four new AMD Phenom X4 processors that AMD is announcing today are the 9550 (2.2GHz), 9650 (2.3GHz), 9750 (2.4GHz) and 9850 Black Edition (2.5GHz). AMD has told us to expect the new 50-series processors to perform the same, clock-for-clock as older revision (B2) processors operating in a platform that is not implementing the TLB erratum fix. For example, the 2.2GHz Phenom 9550 processor will replace the Phenom 9500 (B2) processor. AMD is basically ‘fixing’ Phenom and is making the model numbers clear to make sure consumers know what processors they are getting without having to open the retail box.

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Not only is performance the same clock-for-clock, but so is pricing as it should be. AMD has an interesting pricing table on their site that can be seen above. It seems that AMD is having a price cut on April 7th, 2008 and the Phenom 9850 will end up costing less than what a Phenom 9600 costs today.  Enough chat about the details!  Let’s take a look at the latest and greatest processor from AMD.

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Our Phenom 9600 Black Edition on the left has been the fastest Phenom X4 processor that money could buy for a number of months now, but it is being replaced by the Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition processor that is seen above on the right. What is shocking is the fact that our Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition has a production date code of the tenth week of 2008.  It is obvious that AMD was in a hurry to get these in our hand just days after these rolled off the production line.

The AMD Phenom X4 9850 that we will be benchmarking today is a 2.5GHz processor manufactured using AMD’s 65nm Silicon on Insulator process technology. The chip has a Max TDP of 125W and it is a ‘Black Edition’, which means its multiplier is unlocked for better overclocking. Since the bus speed can’t be raised that high on Phenom processors the best way to overclock is by increasing the multipler and the Black Edition was designed just for that. The one feature that is new and exclusive to just the AMD Phenom X4 9850 processor is a 2.0GHz memory controller. All of the other new and old Phenoms had a memory controller clocked in at 1.8GHz, so this is a slight improvement. In case you are wondering there will not be a non-black edition Phenom X4 9850 at launch nor would we guess that AMD is planning on launching one.

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