Head to head - AMD Phenom II vs Intel Core i7

Head to head - AMD Phenom II vs Intel Core i7

The Phenom II from AMD is here, and it has been billed as the company’s big comeback after a 2008 in which it was pummelled by Intel. So how does the CPU stack up against Intel's Core i7?

Using 45nm manufacturing technology, AMD has managed to increase the core clock speed of the processor with Phenom II, reduce heat and power consumption as well as introduce a few architectural improvements.

The result is a processor that handily outperforms the original Phenom processor, with the performance of the Phenom II X4 940 being roughly 15% greater than that of the Phenom X4 9950.

Of course, the real question is how well the Phenom II stacks up against the Intel Core i7. First, a quick look at the comparative specs of the processors:


AMD Phenom II

Intel Core i7


Clock rate 2.8GHz-3.0GHz 2.66GHz-3.2GHz
Cores 4 4, plus 4 "virtual" cores with HyperThreading
L2 Cache 512KB per core 256KB per core
L3 cache 6MB 8MB
Thermal design power (ie. maximum normal power usage) 125W (95W models are reportedly coming in Feb) 130W
Transistor count 758 million 731 million
Memory controller Dual DDR2 up to 1066MHz (DDR3 models coming in Feb with socket AM3) Three DDR3 800/1066MHz
Manufacturing process 45nm 45nm
Socket AM2+ (AM3 models coming in Feb) LGA 1366
Price (in $US for 1,000 units quanitites) 920 (2.8GHz): $195 940 (3.0GHz): $225 920 (2.66GHz): $284 940 (2.93GHz): $562 965 Extreme Edition (3.2GHz): $999

What matters -- performance

The technical specs are one thing, but when it comes down to it, it’s the performance of the chip that matters, right? The good news for the Phenom II is that it outperforms the Phenom handily, largely thanks to the increased clock speed.

The bad news for AMD is the Core i7 still whoops it in every benchmark.

The cheapest Core i7, the 2.66GHz 920, which you can get at retail for about $600, beats the 3GHz Phenom II 940 Black Edition (street price approx $520) by about 10% in most benchmarks. The Phenom II 940 actually matches up pretty evenly with Intel’s older Core 2 processors.

In CPU benchmarks, the Phenom II X4 940 is about equal to an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400, a processor that regularly retails for about $480. The Phenom II 920, meanwhile, matches pretty evenly with the Core 2 Quad Q9300.

So while AMD more or less matches Intel on a price/performance scale, and compares well with the older Core 2 Quad processors, it just can’t compete at the top end of the scale.

If you’re interested in seeing some benchmark results for yourself, there are plenty of in-depth comparisons online. Our sister publication, Atomic MPC has reviewed the Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition here.

You can also check out: Tom’s Hardware Guide, The Tech Report, Anandtech

AMD’s Dragon

Dragon isn’t a product but a bundle of specific components – in this case a Phenom II X4 processor, an ATI Radeon HD 4800 series graphics card and AMD 7-series chipset.

At this stage, Intel doesn’t have a comparable branding system for desktop PCs, probably because it doesn’t have a graphics chip that’s even remotely worth advertising.

Of course, AMD with have to market the Dragon platform heavily if it wants to get any traction. Ever heard of AMD’s Spider? Thought not. Spider was AMDs previous effort at a marketable platform specification, incorporating Phenom X4 9000 series processors, Radeon HD 3800 GPUs and 7-series chipsets. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Also see AMD vs Intel - here's the hammer blow

Most Read Articles

Review: WD Blue 3D &  Sandisk Ultra 3D 1TB SSDs

Review: WD Blue 3D & Sandisk Ultra 3D 1TB SSDs

The 31 best podcasts of 2017

The 31 best podcasts of 2017

Are these the biggest gaming franchises in history?

Are these the biggest gaming franchises in history?

Explainer: Who was Ada Lovelace?

Explainer: Who was Ada Lovelace?

Would you like to receive

Our Newsletter?