AMD's new Phenom II X6 is not the first six-core CPU aimed at consumers. Intel's Core i7 980X Extreme claimed that honor.
In addition to introducing six-cores, the Core i7 980X Extreme earned the single-chip speed crown, complete with a high-end $1,100 price tag. AMD's new Phenom II X6 won't beat Intel on speed, but at a top-end price of $295 for the Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition, AMD makes six-core computing far more accessible. It may also make life uncomfortable for Intel's quad-core chips at that price.
The Phenom II X6 actually has two iterations launching Monday--the overclockable 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition ($295), and the 2.8GHz Phenom II x6 1055T ($199). Specs for both include 125W power draw, 3MB L2 cache, 6MB L3 cache, 4000MHz HyperTransport bus, and socket AM3/AM2+ motherboard support.
To run either new chip you'll need either to update the BIOS of an existing Socket AM3 or Socket AM2+ motherboard, or pick up one of the new 800-series boards. Boards withhave already launched, and the 890FX, 880G and 870-based boards all come out today.
In addition to moving to six-cores, the Phenom II X6 series also brings with it a new clock speed tweaking feature called Turbo Core (which AMD unveiled). Essentially a less-nuanced competitor to Intel's TurboBoost technology, Turbo Core can shift the Phenom II X6's clock speeds and active core configuration on-the-fly, depending on the application demands. The 1090T can go from six cores running at 3.2GHz to three cores at 3.3GHz. The 1055T gets the larger relative gain, moving from six cores/2.8GHz to three cores/3.3GHz.
While applications that support multiple CPU cores are becoming more prevalent, raw CPU speed is still important for gamers, digital media artists, and others. The Intel Core i7's TurboBoost, combined with its HyperThreading to simulate additional processing threads, is more versatile than Turbo Core because it allows for gradual clock speed bumps across all six cores, as well as down-clocking to save energy. Enthusiasts would likely rather have Turbo Core than not, but AMD has room to innovate here.
As of launch, NewEgg.com had the 3.2GHz 1099T listed for $309, and the 2.8GHz 1055T for $209, slightly ahead of AMD's suggested prices. Intel's quad core Core i7 860, 920, 930, also fit in that price range. While the Core i7 920 and 930 are both highly overclockable, out of the box Intel's chips come in no higher than 2.8GHz. We'll update with the results from the various enthusiast sites once they've posted their reviews of AMD's new chips, but we expect with this launch, the $200 to $300 desktop CPU bracket will become newly competitive.