As the only vendor currently producing CPUs, GPUs, and motherboard chipsets, AMD is uniquely positioned to market its entire product line as a unified PC gaming platform. It began this effort last year with its Spider platform (the original Phenom X4, Radeon HD 3000-series CPUs, and its 700-series chipsets), and with today's launch of its new Phenom II desktop chips, AMD also announced its new Dragon platform. Dragon marries Phenom II with the Radeon HD 4800-line of 3D cards and AMD's 790-series chipsets into a complete, AMD-made gaming PC.
The big news with Dragon is really the Phenom II chips. Available as the 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 940 and the 2.8GHz Phenom II X4 920, these new quad-core CPUs are AMD's first 45-nanometer desktop processors, and they finally bring AMD in line with Intel's 45-nano manufacturing process, used in its Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, and Core i7 chips.
Phenom II X4 940 isn't designed to overtake Intel's Core i7 965-Extreme Edition as the fastest desktop chip around, but it also doesn't have a $1,000 price tag. At $275 (at price per chip by the thousand, anyway), the 3.0GHz Phenom II X4 940 instead competes with Intel's midrange CPUs. Leaked benchmarks (big grain of salt here, folks), show the X4 940 holding up well against Intel's 2.93GHz Core i7 940 part, which currently retails for over $550. You can expect various other scores and full reviews will hit the Web today. We'll have our own once we get a break from CES, so be sure to check around for the full picture.
Below you'll find the overall speeds and feeds for Phenom II X4:
- L1 Cache: 64K instruction, 64K data cache per core (512KB total per processor)
- L2 Cache: 512KB data cache per core (2MB total L2 per processor)
- L3 Cache: 6MB (shared)
- Memory Controller Type: Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller
- Types of Memory Supported: Up to DDR2-1066MHz
- Packaging: Socket AM2+ 940-pin
- Approximate Transistor count: ~758 million (45nm)
- Approximate Die Size: 258 mm2 (45nm)
Of those, the 6MB of L3 cache represents one of the biggest gains over the original Phenom design, which had just 2MB shared among the various cores. And if you find the DDR2 memory and AM2+ memory support alarming given Intel's support for faster DDR3 on its Core i7 X58 motherboards, AMD informs us that DD3 compatibility will come shortly into 2009 when it introduces its AM3 chipsets, although that will also require a new batch of AM3-compatible Phenom II's That might give you pause about adopting Phenom II before AM3 hits, knowing that the updated chipset is apparently just around the corner. Of particular interest to overclockers for the moment, though, the Phenom II X4 940 is also one of AMD's "Black Edition" chips, which ships with an unlocked clock multiplier.
For the Dragon platform as a whole, AMD has a few interesting programs that you can only use with a complete Phenom/Radeon/790 chipset PC. AMD Fusion is an application that lets you set your PC to gaming state with the click of a button, shutting down all ancillary programs and processes. And AMD's OverDrive lets you set application specific overclocked settings on the fly. It's great to overclock your PC for gaming, but for power consumption and overall issues of wear-and-tear, you don't necessarily need that extra speed for Web browsing.
We didn't see broad adoption of AMD's Spider platform from system builders, but we know of several desktop vendors who will be selling Dragon systems in the near future. If Phenom II's price-performance offering holds up, we expect we'll see enthusiastic support for Dragon from the DIY community as well.