AMD Phenom II X4 (Deneb) 940 Launch, Review & Overclocking

Author: William Henning
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/amd_phenom_ii/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Introducing the Phenom II 940

Deneb is finally here.

The original 65nm Phenom took its sweet time to market, and frankly, underwhelmed us compared to Intel's Penryn.

The TLB bug did not help.

AMD must have pulled out all the stops in bringing the "K10.5" aka Deneb as quickly as possible, but it was still later than everyone (except Intel) would have liked.

The Phenom II 940 - and the Phenom II 920 - are the first two 45nm Deneb processors that are being released by AMD - and AMD is finally hitting the clock speeds it was originally intending for the 65nm parts, with the Phenom II 920 coming in at 2.8GHz and the Phenom II 940 running at 3.0GHz.

Ok, so what's different between the Phenom X4 and the Phenom II?

What does all of the above boil down to?

Now for the technical specifications:

Now was that not a lovely bit of techno-bable?

What all of this boils down to is AMD hoping that the Phenom II X4 will be able to compete with Penryn-class 45nm processors from Intel, and not be too far behind the lower end of the Core i7 lineup.

With this in mind, I decided to benchmark the Phenom II X4 940 against:

I wanted to see where the Phenom II X4 940 would sit :-)

AMD 790FX, 4870 & Phenom II X4 940 - the Dragon platform

In its Reviewer's Guidelines, AMD strongly recommended testing the Phenom II on its "Dragon" platform, and I saw no reason not to use the "Dragon" to test it - after all, all it really consists of is a 790GX based motherboard, a Radeon HD 4870 video card, and a Phenom processor - which would also make it highly comparable to our previous Core i7 920 and QX9770 results :-)

Dragon Platform used for testing:

According to AMD:

"Dragon" is a synthesis of power, strength, and wisdom.  Specifically, it is the fusion of the AMD Phenom™ II processor, ATI Radeon™ HD 4800 series graphics, AMD 7-series chipsets and AMD software that puts you in control. It's the PC platform designed for high-definition gaming, video processing and entertainment at an affordable price.  The AMD Phenom II processor at the heart of Dragon platform technology is AMD's highest performing processor ever with superior efficiency. 

AMD also provides the excellent AMD Overdrive and Fusion software for monitoring and overclocking the GPU, chipset and processor easily from the desktop. Mind you, some changes require a reboot, and if you are too agressive, it is easy to hang up Overdrive - but it is still a very valuable tool for overclocking the Dragon platform.

AMD is also heavily pushing GPU computing these days, pointing out that the 4xxx GPU's do an excellent job of decoding HD, playing games, and can even be used as highly parallel compute engines - as proof, AMD offers a free download, the ATI Avivo Video converter, that uses the stream processing capabilites of the 4xxx GPU's to convert video's far faster than even a quad core processor can convert them.

All 4xxx series GPU's Catalyst driver now support stream computing through the "CAL" (Compute Abstraction Layer)

 

Test Setup

For this article, we used the Core 2 Quad QX9770 and Core i7 920 data from our Core i7 review which used the equipment listed below. We used the same benchmarks, and the same hardware (video card, SSD etc) with the only difference being the i7 motherboard and using a Noctua 12P with the new Socket 1366 mounting kit on the MSI Eclipse.

Hardware used for the Phenom II 940 & Phenom X4 9950:

Hardware used for Core i7 920 testing:

Hardware used for Core 2 Duo QX9770 testing:

Hardware used for Core 2 Duo QX650 testing:

Benchmarks Used

For now, here is a listing of the tests performed:

For the additional gaming tests we used

Video drivers used were the latest Catalyst drivers 8.10.

 

 

Business Winstone

The stock performance of the Phenom II X4 940 is excellent for Business Winstione, beating all the processors it is compared to:

Content Creation

Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed does pretty well here:

The Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed does lose a bit to two results - however these setups used an Intel SSD

WinRAR

Please excuse the split charts due to mixing CPU and motherboard results.

The stock Phenom II X4 940 beats most other results here:

The Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed only loses to the Core i7 920 which is 54.2% faster here due to its insane memory bandwidth.

HDTach

The Intel results, using an SSD win by a large margin here - duh.

HDTune

For HD Tune, it was SSD beating non-SSD systems.

 

Sandra CPU

At stock speeds, the Phenom II X4 940 was:

Sandra Memory

Very interesting - the Phenom II X4 940 does quite well here:

Sandra Latency

For latency, the Phenoms were faster than the Core i7 & Quad  stock results.

 

RightMark Read

At stock speed, the Phenom II X4 940beats the Phenom X4 9950 and Core 2 Quad QX9650 - however it loses to the Core i7's massive bandwidth, and very slightly (0.06%) to the QX9970.

RightMark Write

For writes, the Phenom II X4 940 only beats the Phenom X4 9950 - the Intel chips do significantly better.

 

RightMark Latency

Very interesting.

As we would expect, the FSB based Intel results have the worst RightMark latency - yes, that means that the Phenom's beat the Intel chips there - however the Core i7's are in a different league, beating the Phenoms - even though they use DDR3.

RightMark Bandwidth

The Phenom II X4 940 stock and overclocked results beat the stock Phenom X4 9950 and Intel QX9650 & QX9770 results, however the Core i7 920 results slaughter the Phenom's.

 

LAME MP3

The Phenom II X4 940 at stock speeds does pretty well here:

It is however beaten by the other Intel chips:

TMPGEnc

The Intel processors are also better at MPEG2 ecoding than the Phenom's. The stock Phenom II X4 940:

 

CineBench

The stock Phenom II X4 940 at CineBench

POVRay

At stock, the Phenom II X4 940 is

 

Doom 3

Doom 3 (low resolution) provides some interesting results for the Phenom II X4 940.

The Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed showed quite an improvement:

It does lose to the QX9650, QX9770 and i7 920 - but not nearly as badly as the stock 9950 did:

Overall, a very impressive improvement for the Phenom II 940.

Quake 4

The Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed presents us with similar results to the Doom 3 ones for Quake 4:

It again loses to the Intel chips:

Still, a VERY good improvement over the Phenom X4 9950

 

Halo

The Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed

Mind you, the Intel chips are only so much faster because the test was running at 640x480

Jedi Knight

A repeat performance for the Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed

Again, the Intel chips are only so much faster because the test was running at 640x480

UT4K

Let's see how the Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed fares for UT4K

Not bad at all, considering the price differential and low resolution test.

 

Call of Duty

And the saga continues... the Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed

Please note, the test was run at low resultion - and the ridiculously high result for the QX9650 is probably due to the much faster memory on that test setup.

Commanche 4

Once more into the breach... the Phenom II X4 940 at stock speed

Again, impressive gains over the previous Phenom, and not much slower than Intel - even with the low resolution.

 

World In Conflict

Gamers keep asking for tests at gaming resolutions - so I've been running them lately.

For World in Conflict, there are significant performance differences at 1024x768 low settings - it is fair to say that the Core i7 and the QX9770 dominate there.

However once the eye candy is added, the differences start dissapearing even at 1024x768!

By the time we reach 1280x1024, high settings, only the stock Phenom X4 9950 is noticably left behind - there is less than 8 FPS between the Core i7 and the stock Phenom II 940!

When we reach 1600x1200, the results are the same within the margin of experimental error.

That's right.

The Phenom II X4 940 performed just as well as the QX9650, QX9770 and Core i7 920 at high details.

 

Crysis

Ah Crysis - eye candy for gamers, tough benchmark for gaming systems. It will still bring pretty much any system to its knees at high resolution with the eye candy turned up.

Once again, we have the usual pattern - significant difference in performance with different processors at 1024x768 low eye candy settings, still significant difference with high settings at the same resultion.

The differences shrink to less than 5 fps between best and worst result at 1280x1024 with eye candy, and TOTALLY dissapear at 1600x1200.

Moral of the story: GPU matters far more than CPU.

 

Devil May Cry 4

The differences at gaming resolitions with full eye candy are small, and they are not much bigger without the eye candy. DMC4 tends to give very high frame rates with good GPU's, and frankly, with > 100 fps @ 1600x1200 with eye candy, who cares about the processor or small differences in frame rates?

 

Dynasty Warriors 6

As we are looking at gaming benchmarks, let's just analyze the "high settings" results.

The Phenom II X4 940 does pretty well here

Here we can conclude that the benchmark is far more CPU bound than real world games.

 

Overclocking

Overclocking the Phenom II X4 940 was an interesting experience.

It overclocked up to 3.6GHz by merely changing the multiplier - and I only had to add a +0.10 Vcore offset to stabilize the most difficult benchmarks; so I think it is fair to say that most people should be able to reach at least 3.6GHz with air cooling.

Getting to 3.8GHz was more of a problem as it involved upping Vcore to levels I did not really like raising it to, only using air cooling - even if I was using a capable Noctua-12P with two 63CFM 12cm fans. However, the CPU temperatures were under 40'C under full load, so I just kept on increasing the Vcore, until I reached a total of 1.65V (which I don't recomend without excellent cooling)

Once I got 3.8GHz rock solid, I tried for the magic 4.0GHz mark. While I could post at 4.0 GHz, run CPU-Z, any non-trivial activity would blue screen Windows. But I am quite certain that 4GHz can be exceeded with liquid cooling - or perhaps with having a bit better luck in the particular sample of the processor.

Nevertheless, I must congratulate AMD with the Phenom II X4 940, and the heat-pipe heatsink AMD ships: 3.6GHz should be within reach of most people at near-default Vcore settings simply by increasing the multiplier from 15 to 18, and 3.8GHz being quite attainable with somewhat better cooling.

This is a HUGE change from the limited overclocking available with the 65nm Phenom parts, where 3.1GHz was pretty much the top one could get from a 2.6GHz 9950 without extreme measures.

65nm Phenom X4 9650: About 500MHz OC headroom with high end air cooling

45nm Phenom II X4 940: About 800MHz OC headroom with high end cooling - and it starts at 3GHz!

FYI, the "ACC" Advanced Clock Calibration did not seem to help in reaching higher clock rates.

Power Consumption

The shrink to 45nm definitely helped the Phenom II X4 940 - the "LOADED" power consumption is 47W (20%) less than for the 65nm Phenom X4 9950 overclocked to the same 3GHz as the stock speed of the Phenom II 940. For some strange reason, the idling power consumption of the 45nm part is actually higher - I have no explanation for this.

The Phenom II X4 940 consumes 3W more than the 3.2GHz Core 2 Quad QX9770 - so it looks like that architecture is still a bit more miserly with electricty.

Conclusion

Before summarizing the benchmark results, we have to consider a few things:

Pricing (as of January 7th, 2009)

Usage Pattern:

Ok, so what have the benchmarks shown us?

When comparing the Phenom II X4 940 to the Phenom X4 9950 we get:

Phenom 2 Wins by 9950 9950-3GHz
Bus. Winstone 10.0% 6.5%
Bus. Cont Crea 20.0% 8.5%
WinRAR 16.7% 8.3%
Sandra CPU Int 16.0% -0.4%
Sandra CPU Float 16.8% -1.0%
Sandra Mem Float 9.2% 8.8%
Sandra Latency 2.7% 0.0%
RightMark Read 9.3% 9.3%
RightMark Write 19.5% 20.8%
RightMark Latency 1.9% -1.3%
RightMark Bandwidth 3.8% 1.5%
LAME MP3 18.0% 4.5%
TMPGEnc 9.7% -0.4%
CineBench 15.0% 1.8%
PoVRay 34.0% 16.0%
Doom 3 25.6% 15.9%
Quake 4 27.4% 12.4%
Halo 30.6% 28.1%
Jedi Knight 33.5% 15.0%
UT4K 35.0% 16.8%
Call of Duty 22.1% 13.8%
Comanche 19.4% 8.9%
WIC 1600x1200 ON 29.7% 6.6%
Crysis 1600x1200 ON 1.5% 0.6%
DMC4 avg-of-avg 3.6% 1.7%
Dynasty High 40.9% 24.8%
     
  18.2% 8.8%

Over our testing, the Phenom II X4 940 beat the stock Phenom X4 9950 on average by 18.2%, and when the X4 9950 was overclocked to the same 3.0GHz as the Phenom II X4 940, it was still beaten by 8.8% on average, by the 940!

Comparing the Phenom II X4 940 to the Core 2 quad Q9650, the Phenom II wins in six of the tests, loses in 9, and ties in 5 - basically winning for business use, losing for transcoding/rendering and tieing for gamers.

The Core 2 Quad QX9770 pretty much has the same relative result as the Q9650, winning for business use, losing for transcoding/rendering and tieing for gamers.

The Core i7 920 loses in two cases, wins in 20, and ties in the gaming cases.

I'll get to the punch line right now.

For gamers, who have a nice video card - say at least an ATI Radeon HD 4830 or Nvidia 8800GT - and game in at least 1280x1024 with some eye candy turned on - the processor does not matter much, and I really doubt they would notice a performance difference between the $1400 QX9770, the $200+ more expensive Core i7 920 setup, or a Phenom II X4 940 running even at stock speed. The GPU matters far more in this situation, and they'd get more gaming bang for the buck by getting a better video card than a "faster" processor.

For business use, Business Winstone puts the Phenom II X4 940 right at the top of the heap - beating the much more expensive Intel setups as well as its less expensive predecessor - but frankly, even the older Phenom X4 9950 is more than enough horse power for most business uses.

For casual home use, all of these processors are way over powered, so take your pick.

Now we come to the category where the Phenom II X4 940 is not the best choice: video transcoding and graphics rendering.

If you are a video professional, and make money transcoding and rendering, spend the bucks on a high end Core i7 system - you will spend a lot more, but you will also render & transcode far faster.

Mind you, with both Nvidia and ATI releasing GPU accelerated transcoding software, and GPU accelerated rendering for non-gaming professional applications starting to appear, even this category may not need the raw processor performance of a Core i7 system that much longer.

Now some of you may argue with my conclusion, saying that more processor power never hurts. You'd be partially correct in the absolute sense - however for high end gaming, with the current generation of GPU's, it simply does not matter much - once you reach a certain level of processor performance required to keep the hungry GPU's fed.

Personally, if I was building a gaming machine right now, I'd probably get a Phenom II X4 940 with a nice 780GX or 790GX motherboard with good DDR2 memory, and spend whatever I had available to buy the most GPU power I may need - an Radeon HD 4830 or Nvidia 8800GT thru 4870's CrossFired or the upcoming GT295 SLI'd. Most users would find a single HD 4830 or 8800GT could do the trick.

If I needed a video editing / transcoding / rendering machine, I'd bite the bullet and get a Core i7 940 or 960, and save money on the video card - unless those GPU based transcoders and renderers can make good use of it.

Who knows - maybe the next generation (or two) of GPU's will change the CPU/GPU balance once again and need more powerful CPU's to feed them - but currently, a Phenom II 940 will do just fine, at a quite affordable price.

 

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