Author: Carl Poirier
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/amd_phenom_ii_twkr_black_review/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
On May 22nd, I shared with you what I have seen at the AMD Overclocking Event in Austin, Texas. K|ngp|n & others had achieved quite respectable scores, beating some of the world records. AMD now updated us with a new video that summarizes the whole event. Read carefully what is written at 3min 55sec and you will understand why this video is relevant.
Did you see? In fact, the processors used were diguised TWKR Editions, since it was written "Phenom II X4 955" on their heatspreaders. But it is only 21 days later that we learn about the TWKR Edition. We did not have any idea about its nature. I thought it could have been a new flagship, even if I already saw what it was able of, without knowing it.
Well, AMD was very kind; a few days ago, one of these limited edition processors showed up at Neoseeker's labs doors so we got the chance to play with this little jewel. But before jumping on benchmark scores, let's investigate what it looks like and what it really is.
It arrived in a nice little metal box that opened like a jewel box, thanks to its hinge on its back.
Upon opening it, I discovered a chip that had some traces of thermal paste remaining, which changed the way light reflected on the heatspreader, hence making it much more apparent in the picture than in reality. In the second picture, a fade fingerprint can be seen on it.
This is how I clean my processors after usage. So here it is, the TWKR Edition in all its beauty!
As you have probably seen, this processor is "Not for Sale". Only a few of them were made, targeted to the extreme overclocking community in appreciation for their record performance feats with the new AMD Phenom II processors at the heart of the Dragon Platform. AMD will distribute these units through promotional means only, and there won't be any on sale on popular e-tailers.
So in what different are the internals compared to the Phenom II X4 955? Since it is geared toward the extreme overclocking crowd, it is a high SIDD chip. This is an engineering term which means it has a high leakage. In simpler words, the TWKR processors can be supplied more voltage, thus power, and handle it without any glitch. Since the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we all know that Phenom IIs scale very well at low temperatures. This is why a high leakage is a great step up on a Phenom II chip, because it can then achieve über high frequencies. All in all, the X4 42 really shows the technology and sound engineering that is hidden under each of the Phenom II's heatspreaders. So, it is time to slap it in a motherboard and see what it can do.
To be able to exploit the power of the TWKR Edition, I will go extreme cooling and use dry ice. Keep in mind this substance is around -80C. It is still far from the liquid helium setup used at the AMD Austin Overlocking event we talked about in the first page, but it should allow me to go much higher than what can be achieved on air or water.
As for the benchmarks, they will be very different than what you see in our standard reviews. Most of them would be pointless with a temporary extreme cooling setup. I will concentrate on benchmarks people are more used to, and that we can find lists of scores with different setups. I will run two system benchmarks and two processor benchmarks, and I will also attempt the highest suicide run in CPU-z.
I will put all the chances on my side and use the test setup that will yield the best scores. Because of its great performance, I will use the ASUS M4N82 Deluxe, despite the fact that it supports only DDR2 memory. At the same time, it will allow me to throw in an extra GTX 260 alongside the one I use normally and run the duo in SLI. As for the operating system, Windows XP is not a choice because I want to run 3DMark Vantage. So I chose Windows 7 over Vista.
Without losing anymore time, let's get to overclocking and see what the TWKR can achieve!
When loading the Optimized Settings in the BIOS, the X4 42 defaults at a lowly 2000MHz on the core, 1800MHz on the CPU-NB and HT link, at 1.18V. In fact, it does not really have a stock clock, since it is meant to be overclocked. So I first decided to clock it up to the X4 955's stock frequency. I was then surprised it would run at that low 1.18V.
So let's play with it. Can it do better? I put the voltage on manual settings and I slowly decreased it. I was amazed to see it would run stable at a tiny 1.12V!
Now it's time to increase frequency. Let's see what it can do at the 955's maximum clock on air cooling. Once again, it runs at a very low voltage; it needs only 0.04V more than the 955's stock voltage.
That was pretty much its maximum on air, though. However, we know that it is meant to be overclocked under extreme cooling, don't we? So I then traded the Cooler Master V8 for the dry ice cooling setup. While staying benchmark stable, it could go up to 4.6GHz. Anything higher was too much. I tried to make compromises between 4.6GHz and the next higher multiplier, but since the ASUS M4N82 Deluxe could not provide me with a HT reference clock precise to the MHz, I did not achieve anything higher. It could not provide anything between 200 and 203MHz, and at much higher clocks it simply would not boot. I tried much higher voltages but it simply would not help. Really, the X4 42 would have needed much colder temperatures to show what it is able of.
Even if it was no more stable, I knew the X4 42 would go a bit higher. I finally took a suicide screenshot at 4.8GHz and that is the highest I got.
Therefore, I will go through the benchmarking suite at the highest 'benchmark stable' overclock I reached: 4.6GHz. Let's begin testing.
These very popular benchmarks scale with both the processor and graphics card. The Vantage Edition features two CPU tests based on PhysX and artificial intelligence.
I ran the GTX260 SLI overclocked to 700MHz on the GPU and 1100MHz on the memory to maximize the score.
Here is the compare url for 3DMark06: http://service.futuremark.com/compare?3dm06=11294239
First of all, what can be noted is that the difference between the Phenom II X4 955 and the X4 42 is well within the fluctuation of these synthetic benchmarks, which further supports the fact that the processor is the same, except it has a high leakage. At 4.6GHz, the X4 42 provided a great increase in all benchmarks, which lead to astounding scores.
SuperPI and wPrime are two calculation benchmarks. SuperPI is single-threaded whereas wPrime is multi-threaded so it makes use of all four cores.
Once again, the difference between the X4 955 and the X4 42 was almost null. However, the TWKR took the lead by a big margin when overcloked to 4.6GHz, as expected.
Overall, I am not that proud of the frequencies I achieved with the Phenom II TWKR Edition, however I do not put the fault on the processor. In fact, I was very impressed by the low voltage required by the X4 42 and I am sure it will perform much better on a more adequate test setup. I thought using the ASUS M4N82 Deluxe would have been a great idea because it performed well for overclocking on air cooling, but it was not the case under dry ice. Furthermore, I began to miss the AMD Overdrive software, as it cannot be used on NVIDIA chipsets. It really gives a big helping hand normally.
Also, we saw that dry ice is still far from what the TWKR needs to demonstrate its real power. When I was raising the voltages beyond 1.60V, I felt the processor became too warm for its liking. At the same clock speeds, it was more stable at lower voltages, around 1.50V than around 1.60V. Unfortunately I still need to acquire one piece of equipment to be able to run liquid nitrogen, but if can get it in the following weeks, I will make sure to test the TWKR properly and update my article, as this benchmarking session sincerely has left me hungry.
In conclusion, those getting their hands on one of these limited edition processors must make sure to exploit its potential. These units are not meant to be overclocked on air only. The potential of these great chips can only be revealed by low temperatures. So to those who get the chance to play with one, I say: Have fun!
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