Codename 'Thuban' - Phenom II X6
Codename 'Thuban' - Phenom II X6 1055T & X6 1090T
Thuban is a codeword that any self-respecting computer enthusiast should be familar with by now, at least those who yearn for excellent multi-threading performance without having to sell a kidney (*cough* Core i7-980X *cough*). The Phenom II X6 processors that we are reviewing today are the new Top of the Line models in AMD's CPU roster, and the very first affordable/mainstream six-core processors on the market. Although we are only reviewing the Phenom II X6 1055T and X6 1090T models at the moment, if you have been keeping up with internet chatter you know that there are other models right around the corner, but our lips are contractually sealed for now.
So you want the juicy details right off the bat? Here they are:
Despite still being based on the venerable 45nm SOI manufacturing process, AMD have not held back with regards to clock speeds, with the 1055T and 1090T coming in at 2.8Ghz and 3.2Ghz respectively. This is just 200Mhz off of the company's highest clocked quad-core model, the 3.4Ghz Phenom II X4 965 BE. What's even more impressive is that both of these new hexa-core models are rated at 125W thermal design power (TDP), which is identical to the higher-end quad-core models. How have they accomplished this while adding two additional cores? Well GlobalFoundries have obviously managed to further improve the 45nm process that they inherited from AMD's manufacturing division, but we will get into that later.
Aside from the six cores, high clocks and cheap price, what really has got people interested in these Phenom II X6's is the new Turbo CORE feature. Every model ending with a T will have this new feature, but it's not equal on every model. The models ending in xxx5T will have Turbo CORE capabilities up to 500Mhz, but the xxx0T models top out at 400Mhz. Not a massive difference in the grand scheme of things.
Now it is time to take a closer look at AMD's new processors themselves, starting with the packaging of course.
Instead of showing you the usual media sample white box, we used our friends in high places to get our hands on a retail Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition model. This model's packaging is effectively identical to that of previous Phenom II Black Edition processors. It's quite a bit smaller than even Intel's redesigned LGA1156 boxes.
Inside the retail box you have the carefully packaged processor, the manual with serial number sticker pre-affixed, and a smaller box containing the stock CPU cooler. As far as we can tell this stock CPU cooler is identical to the one that was packaged with the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, which makes sense since both processors are rated for the same TDP.
Forgive the noticeable Photoshop blurring on all three processors, but we had to edit out some details in order to protect our much beloved sources.
As you can see the two pre-retail chips have a slightly different stepping code than the retail one. What this usually indicates is that there was a change/revision in the CPU manufacturing process. In practice what we noticed was that the retail processor had a lower operating voltage when Turbo CORE kicked in (1.428V vs. 1.440V). This shouldn't concern those who will being purchasing their processors in the retail channel, since they should all be the newest & freshest chips.
Aesthetically speaking these new Phenom II X6's are identical to the Phenom II X2 and X4 models. Speaking of which...
This picture represents the biggest feather in AMD's hat. All three chips share the same AM3 form factor, a total of 938 pins each, and compatibility with approximately 160 AM2+ and AM3 motherboards. By not switching sockets all the time AMD has ensured that their newest processors will work on older motherboards with a mere BIOS update, giving users a simple and direct upgrade path. Intel could learn a lesson here...
As always, here are the obligatory CPU-Z screenshots. Now these screenshots were taken with our pre-retail chips which had higher voltages than our retail sample did. If we are to trust CPU-Z, all three chips idled at approximately 1.212V. However, between 4 to 6 cores were in use the pre-retail chips ran at 1.272V, whereas the retail chip only needed 1.248-1.260V. When 1 to 3 cores were loaded and Turbo CORE kicked in, the vCore on the pre-retail chips would increase to 1.440V, while the retail one only needed 1.428V. AMD claims that the voltage range of the retail chips is 1.125-1.40V, but as you can see here our retail X6 1090T certainly went a little above that. Despite these seemingly high voltages, these new processors have a 62C max temp, so they will undoubtedly run cool, just like previous Phenom II's.
As you can see from these screenshots, Thuban processors have same 6MB of L3 cache as the Phenom II X4 models, but 50% more L2 cache. This is because while each core has its own L2 cache allocation, the L3 cache is unified and shared across all 6 cores. While the northbridge/integrated memory controller (IMC) frequency remains at 2000Mhz, and official DDR3 support tops out at DDR3-1333, we do know that AMD have tweaked the X6's to have significantly greater memory overclocking headroom than previous chips.
Next let's take a quick look at the new enthusiast chipset that AMD have launched to round out the high-end of their enthusiast 'Leo' platform.
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