AMD Phenom X4 9850 (2.5GHz) review:

AMD Phenom X4 9850 (2.5GHz)

CPU-limited Quake 4 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024 x 768, low-quality, no AA/AF  
AMD Phenom X4 9850

iTunes is the only test on which the X4 9850 was able the beat Intel's Q6600 chip. If music encoding is your passion, perhaps this new Phenom is the chip for you. For everyone else, the Intel chip is the better choice, be it for multitasking, photo editing, video encoding, and gaming.

Perhaps demonstrating awareness that its new chip generally can't beat Intel's older quad-core CPU, AMD suggested that if we look at the complete platform involved in owning a Phenom, we'd find that AMD has a price edge. Because the CPU dictates the motherboard you need to buy, we found AMD's suggestion fair, so we looked into that as well. Over on, we found motherboards for each chip ranging from $35 to $60. Considering that the price of the CPUs is the same (if you count the $239 OEM version of the Intel chip, $249 if you don't), AMD's claim of a holistic price advantage doesn't hold up.

You could, we suppose, make an argument for the Hybrid Crossfire feature on AMD's 780G motherboards. With that chipset, you get a 3D boost if you also spring for an ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card, because it can then work in tandem with the 780G's integrated processor. If 3D gaming is what you're after, though, you'd be better off with either a less-expensive dual-core chip and a better 3D card, or by saving your money to match a faster 3D card to go with your quad-core rig.

Finally, while we always like it when you can overclock a CPU, we can't get too excited about the Phenom X4 9850's overclockability, either. The Core 2 Quad Q6600 has proved imminently overclockable as well, which would further extend its lead over the Phenom chip.

While we remain disappointed in the Phenom thus far, we hold to our caveat from the Phenom 9500 and 9600 that the X4 9850 could become more attractive if AMD can drop the price at retail, or if its pricing to system vendors lets them build competitive Phenom-based desktops. As we've seen in the Gateway FX7020 and the Acer Aspire M5100, Phenoms have already shown up in retail desktops that compare very well with their Intel-based counterparts on bang for the buck. Until that happens, Intel remains the clear choice for anyone interested in building or buying a quad-core desktop with a chip in the $230-to-$240 price range.

What you'll pay

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