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By • Apr 24th, 2009 • Category: ! Daily Info & Reviews, Computers & Internet

amd-phenom-ii-x4-955The 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 processor had been spotted last month,  at the XtremeSystems Forum and anticipated its launch in April.  AMD has officially introduced Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor for their Dragon desktop platform aimed at enthusiasts and gamers. This quad-core Phenom II X4 955 will compete with Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q9550.

Today AMD launches its fastest CPUs to date: the 955 Black Edition and 945 CPUs, which are built using 45nm Phenom II (K10.5) technology, running at 3.2GHz and 3.0GHz respectively. Unlike the 940 and 920 released in January, these CPUs are AM3 based affording a DDR3 and DDR2 dual memory controller crammed inside.

Phenom II X4 955 CPU has 6MB L3 cache and tops at 1.5V voltage settings. AMD has optimized their 45nm process technology and the quad-core Phenom II X4 955 smoothly hit higher clock frequency without much drastic changes in the voltage settings.

Apart from Socket AM3 support, AMD has made Phenom II X4 955 backwards compatible with Socket AM2+ motherbaords. AMD boasts of new AMD OverDrive 3.0 software that has AMD Smart Profiles for tuning the performance for specific CPU-heavy applications as per the requirement. Likewise, AMD Black Edition Memory Profile will allow enthusiasts to overclock DDR3 memory modules as per their requirements.

AMD Phenom II X4 is listed at price range $259-279

Despite the fact it takes up more die space and the DDR3 memory controller is somewhat limited to just 1,333MHz with four DIMMs or 1,600MHz with just two, we think AMD is onto a winner because it affords a cheap upgrade for current AM2+ owners, or those who can only afford one of the very cheap 4GB 1,066MHz DDR2 kits out now, as it still offers a clear upgrade path. This is what the 940 lacked, and despite the fact we recommended the CPU at the time, it’s partly why we don’t recommend it in our monthly buyer’s guides.

The 955 is another Black Edition product, meaning that it features an unlocked multiplier, affording much easier overclocking by just cranking it up without taking the more sensitive HyperTransport out of spec. The 945 doesn’t follow the same dark trend, but like all 45nm Phenom IIs, the northbridge frequency is free and happy to overclock with extra frequency and voltage, affording directly improved memory performance given the right motherboard.


Model / Processor Frequency: AMD Phenom II Processor Model X4 955 (3.2GHz) / 945 (3.0GHz)
L1 Cache Sizes:  64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)
L2 Cache Sizes: 512KB of L2 data cache per core (2MB total L2 per X4 processor)
L3 Cache Size (shared):  4MB
Memory Controller Type: Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller, capable of being configured for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes
Memory Controller Frequency: Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
Types of Memory:  Unreg. DIMMs up to PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3 1333 (DDR3-1333MHz)
HyperTransport 3.0:  One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4000MHz full duplex
Total Processor Bandwidth: Up to 33.1 GB/s bandwidth
Packaging: Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA) (backward compatible with Socket AM2)
Fab location: GLOBALFOUNDARIES Fab 1 module 1 Dresden, Germany
Process Technology: 45nm (.045-micron) DSL Silicon on Insulator (SOI)
Approximate Transistor count: approx. ~758 million (65nm)
Approximate Die Size: 258 mm2 (45nm)
Nominal Voltage: .0875-1.5 Volts
Max Ambient Case Temp: 62 degress Celsius
Max TDP: 125 Watts
 *Note: MC configurable for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes
 **Note: for DDR3-1333, AM3 boards will support 1-DIMM-per-channel @ 1333MHz

Ranking as the more exciting release, at 3.2GHz AMD’s Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition comes clocked faster than any other Phenom processor to date. And like the 945, the 955BE works with both AM2+ and AM3 motherboards, the latter of which brings support for DDR3-1333MHz memory. When paired with DDR3, AMD says to expect up to 37.3GB/s of total processor-to-system bandwidth, or up to 33.1GB/s when paired with DDR2-1066 memory and an AM2+ board.

No changes in cache separate the 955BE from the 945 or 940BE, but like all of AMD’s Black Edition processors, the 955BE sports an unlocked multiplier, and AMD tells us its new chip “should demonstrate substancial overclocking headroom.”

In part keeping with the company’s aggressive pricing strategy, and out of necessity given the pressure being applied by Intel, the 955BE should see street pricing set to around $245. According to AMD, this makes the new chip a better buy than Intel’s $270 Core 2 Quad Q9550, not only in price, but performance too, where a suddenly spunky AMD tells us the 955BE “definitively bests quad-cores within its price range.”

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