AMD Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition
With Thuban being a new chip, it’s bound to have some different specifications than Deneb and Istanbul in some places. Like Deneb and Agena before it, Thuban will have variants with disabled cores. Zosma will be a Thuban-based quad core. It’s likely that Deneb will continue to be in production for some time, as it would be illogical for AMD to produce hex-cores for the purpose of locking cores to resell as quads. Zomsa cores should be unlockable on boards with either SB710/SB750, or with aftermarket core unlocking features added on by board manufacturers. Our testing board, the ASUS Crosshair IV Formula, features one of these switches on this board and on several others. Gigabyte and MSI have also recently announced core unlocking technology, so it will be interesting to see how all this shakes out in the near future. Don’t bank on unlocking cores for every chip, but if you’re the wagering type, we say bet that you can with a premium motherboard.
Thuban is close to Deneb as far as specs go, with the standard 512MB L2 cache per core, 6MB L3 cache per CPU, 45nm SOI manufacturing process and, despite having 50% more cores, it has the same thermal envelope of 125W. Clearly some optimization has occurred in the impressive engineering of Thuban, and as we’ll see, it’s one hell of a chip.
We’ve compiled a table of current AMD and Intel processors for easy comparison. Several of these will appear in our testing.
Note: Prices are taken from a popular online retailer as of review date.
A few things are immediately noticeable in the chart above. First, Intel prices are somewhat higher than AMD’s across the board for competing chips, which is understandable to a point. There is obviously the giant gorilla in the corner, the extreme Intel 980X, and it’s in a price class of its own. The fact that you could build an entire AMD-based system with the Phenom II X6 1055T for less than the cost of the Core i7 980X is, well, ridiculous to most consumers. That being said, the 980X is untouchable in terms of raw performance until price and value enter the picture; costing 5 times more than the 1055T and more than 3 times than the Black Edition 1090T, it’s a difficult pill to swallow. True to what we’ve seen the last few years, AMD’s chips are generally cheaper than Intel’s. AMD has been positioning themselves as “value/power computing”, and it shows.
The second observation is that in terms of price tag, the Phenom II X6 1090T’s closest competitor is the Intel Core i7 930, as the two processors are only within a few dollars of each other at about the $300 mark. What is perhaps more interesting is the X6 1055T at $200; really, it doesn’t have any true competitors on the Intel side of things. The 1055T isn’t a Black Edition chip though, so overclocks wouldn’t come as easily, but it could pose a very attractive alternative to the 1090T, and the Core i7 930, at $100 more affordable.
There is also good news for AMD users in that AMD has included a DDR2 IMC in the Phenom II X6, allowing it to be installed in AM2+ boards after a BIOS flash. Backwards comparability with technology from the last couple years (in terms of sockets) is nothing to scoff at, as it can make a significant upgrade quite cheap instead. On the Intel side, if you’re on LGA775 and you don’t want to spent $200+ to upgrade to a Core2Quad on a dying socket, your only other choice is to upgrade your socket completely, which means you’ll need a motherboard, memory, and CPU instead of just a CPU. And that can be an expensive proposition. AMD allows upgrades to happen incrementally, first with your CPU as an example, and then the rest of your system, should you so desire. So there is something to be said there for value-added features that aren’t necessarily reflected in benchmark performance results, for example.
Thuban is based off the Istanbul architecture, and it has features and capabilities that the all-too-familiar Deneb-based chips don’t; chiefly, the Turbo CORE feature, which dynamically underclocks some processor cores to clock others up by up to 500MHz, depending on the processor model. Turbo CORE has the same basic function as Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, cutting power to some cores, and dynamically increasing the clock speed of others, as processes demand, to help with programs that do not take advantage of all 6 cores.
Unlike Intel’s Turbo Boost, though, AMD’s Turbo CORE technology operates by clocking down 3 cores to clock up the other 3 other cores, whereas Intel’s Turbo Boost can disable any number of cores, clocking up the remaining cores by an amount determined by the number of disabled cores. So we have two somewhat similar, but distinct routes being taken to achieve similar effects for the user. Given this new innovation, Thuban is an incredible step forward for AMD, and as it matures, it will become an incredible tool for those who may be overclocking novices.