AMD on Thursday released seven new Phenom processors, aiming to hit the mainstream PC market with low-cost, performance-minded processors that include the first shipments of AMD's triple-core Phenoms.
Four of the chips are the new 50-series CPUs (also known as the "B3 stepping") that fix the TLB (Translation Lookaside Buffer) erratum that plagued the first batch of Phenom processors out of the gate. The TLB erratum necessitated a fix on the affected system's motherboard BIOS (turning the TLB "off") resulting in some reduced performance.
The new 50-series processors have similar model numbers and have the same speed clock-for-clock: i.e. the Phenom 9500 and 9550 are both 2.2-GHz quad-core processors. The new processors are the Phenom X4 9550 2.2 GHz ($195 per unit in 1,000 unit lots), the Phenom X4 9750 2.4 GHz ($215), and the unlocked Phenom X4 9850 "Black Edition" 2.5 GHz ($235, unlocked and overclockable).
In addition, AMD added a low-power Phenom, the X4 9100e 1.8-GHz, which runs at 65 watts in active mode. Pricing was not available. It will allow OEMs to design smaller, sleeker PCs, AMD executives said. AMD's other Phenom processors run either at 95 or 125 watts.
AMD also began shipping what it calls the Phenom "X3" processor, the triple-core processor AMD announced in September. The X-rating has been applied to multi-core processors, so dual-core processors are the Athlon X2's, triple cores are Phenom X3's, and quad cores are Phenom X4's.
Two Phenom X3s will be available: the 8400 (2.1GHz) and 8600 (2.3GHz) processors. At press time, AMD had not made the pricing of either chip available. On the other hand, AMD will initially be selling both chips through system resellers and OEMs; AMD will be partnering with ZT Systems to launch the first system featuring the new Phenom X3 triple-core processor on QVC on March 31, the company said.
As for AMD's other OEM partners, they will be the "usual suspects," according to Leslie Sobin, AMD's director of desktop marketing, in a Webcast presentation.
The key question for consumers -- and especially enthusiasts, who will eventually be purchasing a single Phenom X3 for their own PCs -- will be how to weigh the price and performance of three versus four cores, and how much of a factor the different speed grades will play.
In terms of general performance, consumers should expect a 30 percent performance increase in upgrading from a dual-core to a triple-core processor, and about 20 percent from a triple-core to a quad-core processor, Sobin said.
At a given frequency, buyers should expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $25 on average for an additional core, Sobin said. "We think customers understand the benefits of a native quad-core design," added Simon Solotko, AMD's desktop brand manager, when asked to clarify how consumers would know whether to buy a triple-core or quad-core processor.