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Phenom II X6 1090T – AMD Enters the Six-Core Arena

Date: April 28, 2010
Author(s): Rob Williams

In March, it was Intel’s turn, and this month, it’s AMD’s. That’s right, we’re at the point when Phenom II X6’s are hitting the market and giving consumers a much less expensive six-core CPU to chose from. We’re taking a look at AMD’s top-end offering, the 1090T BE, and also a brief look at the company’s new 890FX chipset.



Introduction

When Intel released its first-ever six-core (or hexa-core) processor in early March, we already knew at the time that it wouldn’t be too long before AMD hit the scene with its own six-core models. This was reassuring, because as things have gone for AMD on the CPU side lately, it’s been hard to predict just how far the company could fall behind the “Sponsors of Tomorrow”.

It’s one thing to match Intel with a six-core product, but it’s another to deliver the same kind of performance. Based off of what we’ve seen with Phenom II models up to this point, it was easy to surmise what kind of performance gains we’d see with an X6 chip. It’s clear that the performance won’t match up evenly, but AMD would certainly win from a value aspect.

That aspect is one thing AMD is highlighting pretty heavily with this launch. While Intel offers only a single six-core processor, the Core i7-980X Extreme Edition at $999, AMD states that you could save a lot of money by buying one of its processors and building a PC around it. Think about it for a moment. The X6 1090T is $299, an ATI Radeon HD 5870 is $399 and a sweet AM3 890FX motherboard is at most $199. That’s about $900… still less than Intel’s only six-core offering by itself.

Intel’s six-core aside, the fairest competition to the X6 1090T is the Core i7-930, a quad-core offering. While we don’t have that particular CPU model here (we have the slightly slower i7-920), it will be interesting to see how the two match up. Can Intel’s quad-core with HyperThreading beat AMD’s six-core without? That’s the big question.

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Six Core Processor
CPU-Z: AMD’s Phenom II X6 1090T

There’s a lot more to AMD’s X6 launch models than the fact that each include six cores, though, as these “Thuban” parts also introduce the company’s implementation of Turbo, called Turbo CORE. Like Intel’s version, AMD’s overclocks individual cores if an extra boost is required. On the 1090T in particular, three of the cores can be ramped up to 3.60GHz each if need be (that equates to a +400MHz boost * 3).

Thuban models aren’t much different from Deneb (X4) Phenom II’s, with Turbo CORE being the big addition. The CPU’s still have 6MB of L3 Cache, 512KB L2 Cache per core, and 4000MHz HyperTransport speeds. They’re also built on the same 45nm process, and despite the extra cores, the rated TDP still sits at 125W (Intel’s Core i7-980X is rated at 130W).

Before we jump ahead, it’s always interesting to take an overview look of AMD’s current models so let’s not break tradition and do that here:

CPU Name
Cores
Clock
Cache (L2/L3)
HT Bus
Socket
TDP
1Ku Price
Phenom II X6 1090T BE
6
3.0GHz
3+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
125W
$295
Phenom II X6 1055T
6
2.8GHz
3+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
125W
$199
Phenom II X4 965 BE
4
3.4GHz
2+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
125W
$185
Phenom II X4 955 BE
4
3.2GHz
2+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
125W
$165
Phenom II X4 945
4
3.0GHz
2+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
125W
$155
Phenom II X4 910e
4
2.6GHz
2+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
65W
$175
Phenom II X4 905e
4
2.5GHz
2+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
65W
$165
Phenom II X2 555 BE
2
3.2GHz
1+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
80W
$105
Phenom II X2 550
2
3.1GHz
1+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
80W
$93
Phenom II X2 545
2
3.1GHz
1+6MB
4000MHz
AM3
80W
$88

Although AMD has plans for future X6 models, only the 1090T Black Edition and 1055T models have been released so far. The 1090T BE is clocked at 3.20GHz and can reach a 3.60GHz Turbo CORE, while the 1055T is a 2.80GHz offering and can reach 3.30GHz using Turbo CORE. The pricing of these two models, not surprisingly, varies by a rather wide margin; $295 for the 1090T and $199 for the 1055T. It can be assumed that the latter will be the more popular of the two.

890FX Chipset; AMD’s OverDrive

Rather than simply release its six-core processor and be done with it. AMD has followed-up to its last-month launch of the 890GX chipset with the introduction of 890FX. This is AMD’s enthusiast chipset and improves upon the GX with improved PCI-Express bandwidth, additional PCI-Express slot capabilities and the addition of improved memory management, called IOMMU (I/O Memory Management Unit).

To put things into perspective, you can see a simple table below that shows the differences between the 890FX, 890GX and 870 chipsets:

Feature
AMD 890FX
AMD 890GX
AMD 870
HyperTransport
HT3
HT3
HT3
Graphics Slots
2×16 or 4×8
2×8 or 1×16
1×16
PCI Express 2.0
6×1
1×4
2×1 (in SB8x)
6×1
2×1 (in SB8x)
6×1
2×1 (in SB8x)
Overclockability
Max
High
Good
Southbridge Pairing
SB850
SATA 6Gb/s
SB850
SATA 6Gb/s
SB850 or SB810
SATA 6Gb/s
AMD OverDrive
3.2.1
3.2.1
3.2.1
IOMMU
Yes
No
No

All three chipsets support SATA 6Gbit/s, which is great to see, and all also support AMD’s OverDrive utility, which was to be expected. Interestingly, AMD also boasts the fact that for overclocking, the 890FX is the best, while the 870 is merely “Good”. I’m not quite sure of the real-world differences that will be seen, but it’s interesting that AMD categorizes each chipset in this manner.

I’m not going to talk too much about the new chipset in this article, but I honestly believe few people are going to appreciate exactly what the 890FX offers over the 890GX. If you are content with less-than-outrageous overclocking, and don’t plan on running dual-GPU, the 890GX will suit you fine. But like the 890GX launch last month, there are many 890FX boards that are soon to hit the market, including MSI’s 890FXA-UD70:

This is the first MSI board I’ve touched in a while, and overall I’m quite impressed. The board layout is nice, and so is the color scheme (I can always go for some black and blue, as long as it’s not anywhere on my body). There is a plethora of PCI-E x16-sized slots and also a single x1 slot and legacy PCI slot. The DIMM slots also have something we’ve come to see on ASUS boards in the past year, with the secure tabs on only one side.

Feature-wise, the 890FXA-UD70 includes support for both USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 devices, which is a huge plus, and also “Core Unlocking” – a feature that many motherboard manufacturers (especially ASUS) are touting lately. If you look at the large version of the photo above, you can see that in the bottom right-hand corner, there are buttons that aren’t really buttons at all.

When I first saw these, I said, “Hmm, that’s odd… is this board a prototype?”, because yes, on occasion, I do talk to myself. Lo and behold, though, this wasn’t a prototype, and despite those “buttons” being completely flush with the board, they respond to your touch just fine. I actually find this very cool because it keeps the board looking more streamlined. Aside from color, MSI doesn’t seem to care as much about bling (and that’s fine by me).

There are many, many other features that are worth noting, but for the sake of time, I’ll talk about those at a later time, as I’d like to take a look at this board, and other 890FX offerings, more in the future.

AMD OverDrive 3.2.1

Along with the six-core processors, AMD updated its OverDrive application to support the Turbo CORE mode, and currently, this is the only proper way to monitor the effects of Turbo on X6 processors. Over time, OverDrive has become an incredible all-in-one tool for both overclocking and monitoring, and in some recent version (I’m unsure which), it even added a robust logging tool, so that you can keep track of things not only live, but over a long period of time, which is very important when pushing huge overclocks.

As you can see in the shot below, the basic status monitor gives us an overview look of all six cores, and with Turbo CORE active, the first three have risen beyond stock speed, while the other three remain idle.

If you turn on Advanced Mode and head to the Clock/Voltage section, you get even more information, not to mention instant-access overclocking controls. You can once again see on the left side that Turbo CORE is indeed active, while being clear about its “Target Value”, which on the 1090T is 3.60GHz.

Unfortunately, due to some issues we had with our motherboard (still investigating, but the issues we experience are claimed to not be normal), we weren’t aren’t to perform any overclocking. We’ll tackle it in the future, though, after we acquire a better CPU cooler and a fresh copy of the board (after we rule out that it is a faulty sample).

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a fully-detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

If there is a bit of information that we’ve omitted, or you wish to offer thoughts or suggest changes, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail or post in our forums.

Test System

The table below lists the hardware for our two current machines, which remains unchanged throughout all testing, with the exception of the processor. Each CPU used for the sake of comparison is also listed here, along with the BIOS version of the motherboard used. In addition, each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective review of that product, or if a review doesn’t exist, you will be led to the product on the manufacturer’s website.

Please note that for benchmarking the Core i7-980X, we deviated from the Rampage II Extreme that we tested all other Bloomfield’s with in favor of taking Gigabyte’s X58A-UD5 for a spin. This motherboard change won’t effect the performance, but it will change the power consumption just a wee bit. As mentioned before, we’re in the process of upgrading our entire CPU test suite, and the X58A-UD5 will become the base of our new LGA1366 test platform.

Component
AMD AM2+/AM3 Test System
Processors

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition – Six-Core, 3.20GHz, 1.325v
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition – Quad-Core, 3.40GHz, 1.325v
AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition – Dual-Core, 3.20GHz, 1.325v

AMD Athlon II X4 635 – Quad-Core, 2.90GHz, 1.325v
AMD Athlon II X4 620 – Quad-Core, 2.60GHz, 1.375v
AMD Athlon II X3 435 – Tri-Core, 2.90GHz, 1.325v
AMD Athlon II X2 240e – Dual-Core, 2.80GHz, 1.325v
Motherboard
Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H – 790GX-based, F3 BIOS (01/13/09)
Memory

Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-2T, 1.65v
Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage

Intel X-25M 80GB SSD
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Thermaltake V1
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

Component
Intel LGA1156 Test System
ProcessorsIntel Core i7-870 – Quad-Core, 2.93GHz, ~1.25v
Intel Core i5-750 – Quad-Core, 2.66GHz, ~1.25v
Intel Core i5-661 – Dual-Core, 3.33GHz, ~1.10v
Intel Core i3-530 – Dual-Core, 2.93GHz, ~1.00v
Motherboard
Lynnfield: Gigabyte P55-UD5 – P55-based, F3 BIOS (08/01/09)
Westmere: ASUS P7H55D-M EVO – H55-based, 0503 BIOS (12/02/09)
Memory

Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-2T, 1.65v
Graphics
ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB (Catalyst 8.11)
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage

Intel X-25M 80GB SSD
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Thermalright MUX-120
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

Component
Intel LGA1366 Test System
Processors

Intel Core i7-980X Extreme Edition
Six-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition – Quad-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core i7-920 Quad-Core, 2.66GHz, 1.30v
Motherboard
ASUS Rampage II Extreme – X58-based, 0705 BIOS (11/21/08)
Gigabyte X58A-UD5 – X58-based, F4 BIOS (02/12/10)
(Gigabyte’s board used only for Core i7-980X)
Memory

OCZ Gold 3x2GB – DDR3-1066 7-7-7-20-1T, 1.56v (920/940)
OCZ Gold 3x2GB – DDR3-1600 7-7-7-20-1T, 1.56v (965/975/980X)
Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Intel X-25M 80GB SSD

Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
SilverStone DA1200
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Thermalright TRUE Black 120
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

Component
Intel LGA775
Processors

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 – Quad-Core, 3.00GHz, 1.30v (Sim)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 – Quad-Core, 2.66GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 – Quad-Core, 2.33GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 – Dual-Core, 3.33GHz, 1.30v
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 – Dual-Core, 3.00GHz, 1.30v
Intel Pentium Dual-Core E5200 – Dual-Core 2.50GHz, 1.30v
Motherboard
ASUS Rampage Extreme – X48-based, 0501 BIOS (08/28/08)
Memory

Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-15-1T, 1.91v (1333FSB)
Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-1066 6-6-6-15-1T, 1.91v (1066FSB)
Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB – DDR3-800 6-6-6-15-1T, 1.91v (800FSB)

Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Intel X-25M 80GB SSD

Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Thermalright TRUE Black 120
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

(Sim) represents models that were tested using a faster, but under-clocked processor. For example, for the Q9550, we used the QX9770, since the specs are identical all-around, except for the clock speeds. Those were adjusted appropriately, effectively giving us a Q9550 to test with.

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows Vista from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing slightly inaccurate results. Disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

Application Benchmarks

To help test out the real performance benefits of a given processor, we run a large collection of both real-world and synthetic benchmarks, including 3ds Max, Adobe Lightroom, TMPGEnc Xpress, Sandra 2009 and many more.

Our ultimate goal is always to find out which processor excels in a given scenario and why. Running all of the applications in our carefully-chosen suite can help better give us answers to those questions. Aside from application data, we also run two common games to see how performance scales there, including Call of Duty 4 and Half-Life 2: Episode Two.

Game Benchmarks

In an attempt to offer “real-world” results, we do not utilize timedemos in any of our reviews. Each game in our test suite is benchmarked manually, with the minimum and average frames-per-second (FPS) captured with the help of FRAPS 2.9.5.

To deliver the best overall results, each title we use is exhaustively explored in order to find the best possible level in terms of intensiveness and replayability. Once a level is chosen, we play through repeatedly to find the best possible route and then in our official benchmarking, we stick to that route as close as possible. Since we are not robots and the game can throw in minor twists with each run, no run can be identical to the pixel.

Each game and setting combination is tested twice, and if there is a discrepancy between the initial results, the testing is repeated until we see results we are confident with.

The two games we currently use for our motherboard reviews are listed below, with direct screenshots of the game’s setting screens and explanations of why we chose what we did.

Call of Duty: World at War

1680×1050
2560×1600




Crysis Warhead

1680×1050
2560×1600




Half-Life 2: Episode Two

1680×1050
2560×1600

Workstation: Autodesk 3ds Max, Cinebench, POV-Ray

Autodesk’s 3ds Max is without question an industry standard when it comes to 3D modeling and animation, with DreamWorks, BioWare and Blizzard Entertainment being a few of its notable users. It’s a multi-threaded application that’s designed to be right at home on multi-core and multi-processor workstations or render farms, so it easily tasks even the biggest system we can currently throw at it.

For our testing, we use two project files that are designed to last long enough to find any weakness in our setup and also allows us to find a result that’s easily comparable between both motherboards and processors. The first project is a dog model included on recent 3ds Max DVD’s, which we infused with some Techgage flavor.

Our second project is a Bathroom scene that makes heavy use of ray tracing. Like the dog model, this one is also included with the application’s sample files DVD. The dog is rendered at an 1100×825 resolution, while the Bathroom is rendered as 1080p (1920×1080).

To see the 1090T fall just behind the quad-core Core i7-975 Extreme Edition isn’t too much of a surprise, as HyperThreading generally seems to help in 3D rendering tests, especially if ray-tracing is is being tackled. Still, the fact remains that we’re seeing great performance from a $300 AMD CPU when comparing to what was a $999 CPU from Intel mere months ago.

Cinebench R10

Like 3DS Max, Cinema 4D is another popular cross-platform 3D graphics application that’s used by new users and experts alike. Its creators, Maxon, are well aware that their users are interested in huge computers to speed up rendering times, which is one reason why they released Cinebench to the public.

Cinebench R10 is based on the Cinema 4D engine and the test consists of rendering a high-resolution model of a motorcycle and gives a score at the end. Like most other 3D applications on the market, Cinebench will take advantage of as many cores as you can throw at it.

Performance similar to what we saw with 3ds Max continues here, though the Lynnfield-based Core i7-870 manages to come very close to beating AMD’s latest and greatest.

POV-Ray 3.7

Similar to Cinebench, the “Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer” is as you’d expect, a ray tracing application that also happens to be cross-platform. It allows you to take your environment and models and apply a ray tracing algorithm, based on a script you either write yourself or borrow from others. It’s a free application and has become a standard in the ray tracing community and some of the results that can be seen are completely mind-blowing.

The official version of POV-Ray is 3.6, but the 3.7 beta unlocks the ability to take full advantage of a multi-core processor, which is why we use it in our testing. Applying ray tracing algorithms can be extremely system intensive, so this is one area where multi-core processors will be of true benefit.

For our test, we run the built-in benchmark, which delivers a simple score (Pixels-Per-Second) the the end. The higher, the better. If one score is twice another, it does literally mean it rendered twice as fast.

The 1090T’s performance impressed me here, because generally speaking, it’s Intel’s processors that excel so well at ray-tracing. While the 1090T didn’t manage to come close to the multi-threading performance of Intel’s six-core, it easily blew past the quad-core Core i7-975.

Multi-Media: Adobe Lightroom, TMPGEnc Xpress

Photo manipulation benchmarks are more relevant than ever, given the proliferation of high-end digital photography hardware. For this benchmark, we test the system’s handling of RAW photo data using Adobe Lightroom, an excellent RAW photo editor and organizer that’s easy to use and looks fantastic.

For our testing, we take 100 RAW files (in Nikon’s .NEF file format) which have a 10-megapixel resolution, and export them as JPEG files in 1000×669 resolution, similar to most of the photos we use here on the website. Such a result could also be easily distributed online or saved as a low-resolution backup. This test involves not only scaling of the image itself, but encoding in a different image format. The test is timed indirectly using a stopwatch, and times are accurate to within +/- 0.25 seconds.

Here AMD’s 1090T falls straight in between the Core i7-870 and i7-975… not a bad place to be. Intel’s Core i7-870 costs well over $500 after all, yet is a bit slower than AMD’s $300 offering in this particular test.

TMPGEnc Xpress 4.5

When it comes to video transcoding, one of the best offerings on the market is TMPGEnc Xpress. Although a bit pricey, the software offers an incredible amount of flexibility and customization, not to mention superb format support. From the get go, you can output to DivX, DVD, Video-CD, Super Video-CD, HDV, QuickTime, MPEG, and more. It even goes as far as to include support for Blu-ray video!

There are a few reasons why we choose to use TMPGEnc for our tests. The first relates to the reasons laid out above. The sheer ease of use and flexibility is appreciated. Beyond that, the application does us a huge favor by tracking the encoding time, so that we can actually look away while an encode is taking place and not be afraid that we’ll miss the final encoding time. Believe it or not, not all transcoding applications work like this.

For our test, we take a 0.99GB high-quality DivX H.264 AVI video of Half-Life 2: Episode Two gameplay with stereo audio and transcode it to the same resolution of 720p (1280×720), but lower the bit rate in order to attain a modest file size. This test also utilizes the SSE instruction sets, either SSE2 or SSE4, depending on what the chip supports.

The tables have turned a bit here, as it’s the Core i7-870’s turn to outshine the 1090T. Still, the performance between those two processors is very, very close, while the price differences are huge.

Multi-Media: ProShow Gold, Sandra Multi-Media

While TMPGEnc XPress’ purpose is to convert video formats, ProShow from Photodex helps turn your collection of photos into a fantastic-looking slide show. I can’t call myself a slide show buff, but this tool is unquestionably definitive. It offers many editing abilities and the ability to export in a variety of formats, including a standard video file, DVD video and even HD video.

Like TMPGEnc and many other video encoders, ProShow can take full advantage of a multi-core processor. It doesn’t support SSE4 however, but hopefully will in the future as it would improve encoding times considerably. Still, when a slide show application handles a multi-core processor effectively, it has to make you wonder why there is such a delay in seeing a wider-range of such applications on the marketplace.

It may seem a bit odd that a six-core AMD chip falls behind the quad-core with no HT Core i5-750, but the difference here is the SSE4 instruction set. Intel has it, AMD doesn’t, so the latter has a hard time catching up where it’s used.

Sandra 2009 Multi-Media

This test here stresses the CPU’s ability to handle multi-media instructions and data, using both MMX and SSE2/3/4 as the instruction sets of choice. The results are divided by integer, floating point and double precision, three specific numbering formats used commonly in multi-media work.

The 1090T once again shows off some impressive results, surpassing the Core i7-975 in each and every test (especially the Integer run).

Mathematics: Sandra Arithmetic, Crypto, Microsoft Excel

With each new processor launch, one thing that’s bound to prove faster are mathematical equations, which when all said and done, plays a massive role in a lot of our computing today. The faster an equation can be completed, the faster a math-heavy process can finish.

Sandra includes applications designed to specifically test the mathematical performance of processors, with the main one being the arithmetic test.

As mentioned many times in the past, Intel seems to hold the ground where arithmetic equations are concerned, and that’s evidenced here. Still, the 1090T didn’t fall too far behind the much more expensive Core i7-870, so it’s still a win in that regard.

Sandra 2009 Cryptography

Crypto is a major part of computing, whether you know it or not, and certain processes can prove slower than others, depending on their algorithms. User passwords on your home PC are encrypted, as are user passwords on web servers (like in our forums). Past that, crypto is used in other areas as well, such as with creating of unbreakable locks on files or assigning a hash to a particular file (like MD5).

In Sandra’s Cryptography test, the results are outputted as MB/s, higher being better. Although this is somewhat of an odd metric to go by, generally speaking, the higher the number, the faster the CPU tears through the respective algorithm, which comes down to how fast a password is either encrypted, decrypted, signed, et cetera.

For AMD in the present day, catching up to Intel in the AES scheme of things is impossible, due to the lack of an accelerated instruction, but as we can see with SHA, the performance is quite impressive. It’s still below Intel’s Core i7-980X, but it’s above everything else, so overall it’s another good showing.

Microsoft Excel 2007

Most, if not all, businesses in existence have to crack open a spreadsheet at some point. Though simple in concept, spreadsheets are an ideal way to either track information or compute large calculations all in real-time. This is important when you run a business that deals with a large amount of expenses.

Although the importance of how fast a calculation takes in an Excel file is, we include results here since they heavily test the mathematical capabilities of each processor. Because Excel 2007 is completely multi-threaded (it can even take advantage of an 8-Core Skulltrail), it makes for a great benchmark to show the scaling between all of our CPUs.

I’ll let Intel explain the two files we use:

Monte CarloThis workload calculates the European Put and Call option valuation for Black-Scholes option pricing using Monte Carlo simulation. It simulates the calculations performed when a spreadsheet with input parameters is updated and must recalculate the option valuation. In this scenario we execute approximately 300,000 iterations of Monte Carlo simulation. In addition, the workload uses Excel lookup functions to compare the put price from the model with the historical market price for 50,000 rows to understand the convergence. The input file is a 70.1 MB spreadsheet.

CalculationsThis workload executes approximately 28,000 sets of calculations using the most common calculations and functions found in Excel*. These include common arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, division, rounding and square root. It also includes common statistical analysis functions such as Max, Min, Median and Average. The calculations are performed after a spreadsheet with a large dataset is updated with new values and must re-calculate many data points. The input file is a 6.2 MB spreadsheet.

Our Excel computation, being arithmetic-based, gives us rather expected results. Here, even the older-school Core 2 Quad Q9650 manages to out-perform the 1090T, despite having less cores and a lower frequency.

System: Sandra Memory, Multi-Core Efficiency

Generally speaking, the faster the processor, the higher the system-wide bandwidth and the lower the latency. As is always the case, faster is better when it comes to processors, as we’ll see below. But with Core i7, the game changes up a bit.

Whereas previous memory controllers utilized a dual-channel operation, Intel threw that out the window to introduce triple-channel, which we talked a lot about at August’s IDF. Further, since Intel integrates the IMC onto the die of the new CPUs, benefits are going to be seen all-around.

Before jumping into the results, we already had an idea of what to expect, and just as we did, the results seen are nothing short of staggering.

As expected, the memory performance is pretty-well on par with the X4 965. There is a slight drop, but that could be very well related to the fact that we’re using a different motherboard for testing (890FX-based) than it would be the CPU at fault. When we revise and re-benchmark all of our CPU’s, we’ll see this for sure. As it stands though, performance is without issue.

Sandra 2009 Multi-Core Efficiency

How fast can one core swap data with another? It might not seem that important, but it definitely is if you are dealing with a true multi-threaded application. The faster data can be swapped around, the faster it’s going to be finished, so overall, inter-core speeds are important in every regard.

Even without looking at the data, we know that Core i7 is going to excel here, for a few different reasons. The main is the fact that this is Intel’s first native Quad-Core. Rather than have two Dual-Core dies placed beside each other, i7 was built to place four cores together, so that in itself improves things. Past that, the ultra-fast QPI bus likely also has something to do with speed increases.

Intel has again been superb in its inter-core latency and bandwidth performance figures, so AMD is still a bit behind here, even with six cores at its disposal. Is this a problem? Hardly, as the performance is still very good and isn’t lacking in anywhere in a big way that we can notice.

Gaming: Call of Duty: World at War, Half-Life 2: Episode Two

While some popular game franchises are struggling to keep themselves healthy, Call of Duty doesn’t have much to worry about. This is Treyarch’s third go at a game in the series, and a first for one that’s featured on the PC. All worries leading up to this title were all for naught, though, as Treyarch delivered on all promises.

To help keep things fresh, CoD: World at War focuses on battles not exhaustively explored in previous WWII-inspired games. These include battles which take place in the Pacific region, Russia and Berlin, and variety is definitely something this game pulls off well, so it’s unlikely you’ll be off your toes until the end of the game.

For our testing, we use a level called “Relentless”, as it’s easily one of the most intensive levels in the game. It features tanks, a large forest environment and even a few explosions. This level depicts the Battle of Peleliu, where American soldiers advance to capture an airstrip from the Japanese. It’s a level that’s both exciting to play and one that can bring even high-end systems to their knees.

Luckily for hardcore CoD players, the game’s performance doesn’t change with a faster CPU, which is rather impressive. Here, the game ran just as well on our lowly E5200 as it did on our i7-980X.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

The original Half-Life 2 might have first seen the light of day close to four years ago, but it’s still arguably one of the greatest-looking games ever seen on the PC. Follow-up versions, including Episode One and Episode Two, do well to put the Source Engine upgrades to full use. While playing, it’s hard to believe that the game is based on a four+ year old engine, but it still looks great and runs well on almost any GPU purchased over the past few years.

Like Call of Duty 4, Half-Life 2: Episode Two runs well on modest hardware, but a recent mid-range graphics card is recommended if you wish to play at higher than 1680×1050 or would like to top out the available options, including anti-aliasing and very high texture settings.

This game benefits from both the CPU and GPU, and the skies the limit. In order to fully top out the available settings and run the highest resolution possible, you need a very fast GPU or GPUs along with a fast processor. Though the in-game options go much higher, we run our tests with 4xAA and 8xAF to allow the game to remain playable on the smaller mid-range cards.

Unlike CoD, HL2: Episode Two does love extra CPU power, and that’s evidenced above, but only at the highly-sporadic 1680×1050 resolution. That resolution has proven to be a chore, because the average FPS can fluctuate a great deal. What’s important to note here is that at our top setting of 2560×1600, the differences are almost zero.

Gaming: Crysis Warhead, 3DMark Vantage

As PC enthusiasts, we tend to be drawn to games that offer spectacular graphics… titles that help reaffirm your belief that shelling out lots of cash for that high-end monitor and PC was well worth it. But it’s rare when a game comes along that is so visually-demanding, it’s unable to run fully maxed out on even the highest-end systems on the market. In the case of the original Crysis, it’s easy to see that’s what Crytek was going for.

Funny enough, even though Crysis was released close to a year ago, the game today still has difficulty running at 2560×1600 with full detail settings – and that’s even with overlooking the use of anti-aliasing! Luckily, Warhead is better optimized and will run smoother on almost any GPU, despite looking just as gorgeous as its predecessor, as you can see in the screenshot below.

The game includes four basic profiles to help you adjust the settings based on how good your system is. These include Entry, Mainstream, Gamer and Enthusiast – the latter of which is for the biggest of systems out there, unless you have a sweet graphics card and are only running 1680×1050. We run our tests at the Gamer setting as it’s very demanding on any current GPU and is a proper baseline of the level of detail that hardcore gamers would demand from the game.

Our previous games didn’t show real differences between CPUs, and Crysis Warhead is no different. You can be rest-assured that no matter your PC, this game is going to run like molasses!

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

Although we generally shun automated gaming benchmarks, we do like to run at least one to see how our GPUs scale when used in a ‘timedemo’-type scenario. Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage is without question the best such test on the market, and it’s a joy to use, and watch. The folks at Futuremark are experts in what they do, and they really know how to push that hardware of yours to its limit.

The company first started out as MadOnion and released a GPU-benchmarking tool called XLR8R, which was soon replaced with 3DMark 99. Since that time, we’ve seen seven different versions of the software, including two major updates (3DMark 99 Max, 3DMark 2001 SE). With each new release, the graphics get better, the capabilities get better and the sudden hit of ambition to get down and dirty with overclocking comes at you fast.

Similar to a real game, 3DMark Vantage offers many configuration options, although many (including us) prefer to stick to the profiles which include Performance, High and Extreme. Depending on which one you choose, the graphic options are tweaked accordingly, as well as the resolution. As you’d expect, the better the profile, the more intensive the test.

Performance is the stock mode that most use when benchmarking, but it only uses a resolution of 1280×1024, which isn’t representative of today’s gamers. Extreme is more appropriate, as it runs at 1920×1200 and does well to push any single or multi-GPU configuration currently on the market – and will do so for some time to come.

The results here are just as we expected. Generally, the better the CPU, the higher the score. The overall 3DMark Score doesn’t vary much, however, as the benchmark doesn’t weigh the CPU score that heavily, which after taking a look at our three games tested here, is a good thing.

Final Thoughts

To preface this page, I’d like to reiterate the fact that due to complications with our motherboard, we were unable to perform power consumption tests, or push the CPU higher with overclocking. We’re still investigating the reasons for various issues we ran into, but we’re leaning towards the fact that our board sample is less-than-ideal. The issues experienced wouldn’t affect performance results, but would affect overclocking and power-consumption tests.

That said, it’s fairly easy to be a little excited about AMD’s X6 processors, and it’s not because they blow away the competition, since that’s not the case at all. Many Intel processors beat our 1090T time and time again, but the difference again comes down to price. Intel’s six-core monster is $999, and another common conqueror, the Core i7-870, retails for well over $500. All the while, the 1090T is for sale right now for $300 – $310.

Even better, if you own an AM2+ or AM3 motherboard already, you can still continue to use the same board, which saves you even more money. All you need to do is make absolute certain that your particular board features a BIOS update that will allow recognition of the CPU’s. And while we weren’t able to test for power consumption, given the 125W TDP we’d assume that the power draw would be only slightly worse than a 965 Black Edition.

The best part of AMD’s X6 processors is the fact that six-core processors are now available to almost everyone, as even the 1055T retails for a modest $199. Given that Intel’s only six-core option is a $999 one, having models that many others can take advantage of is a great thing. The 1090T might not be the fastest CPU around, but it does have a lot going for it.

As mentioned in the intro, the hardcore multi-tasker could pick up the 1090T CPU, HD 5870 GPU and a sweet 890FX motherboard and still come well under the $1,000 mark. Tempting, isn’t it?

One thing I did notice, though, is that AMD’s Turbo CORE feature isn’t quite as effective as Intel’s TURBO. Though the 1090T was meant to hit 3.60GHz on up to three cores at a time, no matter what I did could make that happen on a consistent basis. This is in contrast to any Turbo-supported Intel CPU, where it’s easy to keep a core or two pegged to its top-end value.

But that’s a minor point in the grand scheme. AMD’s Phenom II processors are hardly a plain offering, and the six-core models only sweeten the deal for a new system build. As seen in our results, it performs extremely competitively with Intel’s current offerings, only really falling behind in arithmetic-based tests.

One thing that may have helped AMD’s X6 offerings become even more competitive could have been the introduction of a HyperThreading-like feature. It’s evidenced in various points in our results that HT can indeed make substantial improvements in certain scenarios, so in that regard it’s rather important. Currently, Intel offers HT support on almost its entire line-up. To me, it almost seems like AMD needs an HT solution to remain competitive, because it’s clear Intel has no intention of dropping its support of the technology soon (and why would it?).

When all said and done, though, AMD has delivered a lot of good here. The 1090T is fast, and proves itself to be a great value when compared to Intel’s ~$500 Core i7-870. Plus, it’s completely backward-compatible with a motherboard you may already have, which is a nice perk.

It’s worth noting, though, that if you are not a heavy multi-tasking user, and don’t regularly run tasks that take advantage of multiple threads, then chances are the X6 is actually too much CPU for you. There are many more options out there, dual or quad, that will likely suffice. I think it’s safe to say that for quad-core and up, power users will be the ones to reap the rewards of all the cores.

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