Several weeks ago AMD launched its new series of Opteron processors, which pair two six core processor dies on one package to create a 12 core beast for heavy lifting tasks. Today desktop users get their chance at hexa-core AMD CPUs, with the launch of its new 'Thuban' processors. These bear the Phenom II X6 name and come in two varieties, the 1090T and the 1055T.
|The Phenom II X6 1090T uses AMD's AM3 socket and is designed to be paired with the 890FX chipset.
On these CPUs the T stands for Turbo Core, which is analogous to Intel's Turbo Boost. This technology kicks in when all six cores aren't in use and pumps up the clock speed on three of the cores for better performance. In practice this means that the top of the line 1090T will normally run at 3.2GHz, but pumps up to 3.6GHz when Turbo Core kicks in.
The new chipset
These CPUs are being launched alongside a new chipset, the 890FX with AMD's SB850 southbridge. The 890FX is a performance-focused chipset, designed to support AMD's crossfire technology. Graphics can be run via two x16 PCI-e slots or four x8 slots. This allows for users to run 'quadfire' solutions with four ATI graphics cards running over x8 slots.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the chipset is native support for SATA 6Gb/s. This has yet to appear on Intel's chipsets and while there are currently only a handful of disk drives that support the technology AMD's implementation will only encourage more drive manufacturers to make the move to it.
|Our testing is being done with an ASUS Crosshair IV Formula, an enthusiast board based upon the 890FX chipset.
AMD has been stressing that this is a platform launch, with the third part of the puzzle being its 5000 series graphics cards. These have been on the market for some time now, there are no new cards being launched alongside the processor and chipset.
The price for 6 cores: Intel vs AMD
One of the ways in which the Phenom X6 CPUs and 890FX chipset are similar to the 5000 series graphics cards is price. Whereas Intel's only hexa-core processor, the 'Gulftown' Core i7-980X Extreme edition, is retailing around $1500, the Phenom II X6 1090T comes in over $1000 cheaper at around $300. Make no bones about it, the Core i7-980X is a faster processor. But AMD's offerings are so incredibly cheap that they are priced in the same range as the Core i7-930 and the Core i7-860.
Despite the cheap price, the Phenom II X6 and 890FX combo allow for all sorts of tweaking. This includes AMD's Black Edition Memory Profile software, which will poll on online database for the optimal setup for supported DDR3 modules. It also includes its Overdrive software, which not only monitors Turbo Core performance but also automatically overclock the CPU. Of course, even though the overclocking is via an official AMD utility, it still technically voids your warranty to do so.
Conclusion - solid foundation for a reasonably priced powerhouse PC
From our initial experiences this is a great CPU for those who need serious multiprocessing grunt. While it is no slouch in single core performance it isn't quite up to the standard set by Intel. Where the strength of the Phenom II X6 really lies is in the combination of multicore performance and ridiculously cheap price point.
When you add the great feature set of the 890FX chipset to the mix, and the top of the range performance of the RADEON 5800 series of graphics cards then AMD's new platform provides a solid foundation upon which to build a reasonably priced powerhouse PC.
[Update: We now have official confirmation of pricing. The Phenom II X6 1090T will retail for $371 and the 1055T at $254]