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AMD has been targeting mainstream computing for a while now.
Its combination of good performance for affordable price has seen it claw back into the graphics market with its most recent generation of cards, and now it looks positioned to do the same with the CPU side of the business. While it doesn't intend to challenge Intel's top performing Core i7 CPUs for now, AMD's latest, the Phenom X4 955 Black Edition (BE), launches a broadside across the bow of Intel's mainstream quad-core processors — in particular the Core 2 Q9550.
Black boxed bliss (Credit: AMD)
Based on AMD's AM3 socket, the 955 is a quad-core, 45nm process CPU running at 3.2GHz, as a result of a 16x multiplier on top of a 200MHz bus. It has 6MB shared L3 cache, along with 64+64KB data + instruction L1 and 512KB L2 cache per core. Being a flagship chip, it's quite a power sucker, at 125W TDP. Being a Black Edition chip, it's also multiplier unlocked — and this combined with the split plane voltage introduced on AM2+ should mean some fairly decent DIY speed increases.
Moving to 938-pin AM3 means a few things; firstly DDR3 support, and secondly the 128-bit integrated memory controller has had its Hypertransport link bumped from 1.8GHz on AM2+ to a healthy 2.0GHz. The processor should be backwards compatible with AM2+ boards, but be warned you'll only be able to use DDR2 on these, and your vendor will need to have released a BIOS update to support the CPU.
We've compared the Phenom II X4 955 BE against its price match competitor from the Intel camp — the Core 2 Q9550. Let's take a closer look at the CPUs on test.