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AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition

Clocked at 3.5GHz and coming equipped with 6MB of L3 Cache, the 970 BE has an unlocked multiplier for overclocking goodness.

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INTRODUCTION

It has been ten months since AMD released a new Phenom II X4 CPU. In that time, they have released a couple dual-core and hex-core processors. Today AMD is releasing six new AM3/AMD2+ CPUs, including the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition which we are taking a look at in this review.

Clocked at 3.5GHz and coming equipped with 6MB of L3 Cache, the 970 BE has an unlocked multiplier for overclocking goodness. This processor continues the Deneb series, and is of the 125W variety. This CPU is plenty fast out of the box, and a little tweaking brought quite a bit of extra speed to the unit. Continue on for all the juicy details.

Six New CHIPS

Not only is AMD releasing the 970 BE today, they are also releasing five other CPUs. Below is a quick rundown of the 6 chips being released.

  • Phenom II X6 1075T – 3.5GHz (3.0GHz base) – ~$245
  • Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition – 3.5GHz – ~$179
  • Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition – 3.3GHz – ~$99
  • Athlon II X4 645 – 3.1GHz – ~$119
  • Athlon II X3 450 – 3.2GHz – ~$84
  • Athlon II X2 265 – 3.3GHz – ~$74

These prices are only retail estimates, but they will most certainly be close to the MSRP.

As the Phenom II X4 970 BE is simply an increased clock model, the features found on previous X4 models still hold true here.

SPECIFICATIONs
 

Specifications

AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition
Model Number & Core Frequency

X4 970 / 3.5GHz

OPN

HDZ970FBK4DGM

L1 Cache Sizes

64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)

L2 Cache Sizes

512MB of L2 data cache per core (2MB total L2 per processor)

L3 Cache Size

6MB (shared)

Total Cache (L2+L3)

8MB

Memory Controller Type

Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller

Memory Controller Speed

Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management

Types of Memory Supported

Unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)

HyperTransport 3.0 Specification

One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)

Total Processor-to-System Bandwidth

Up to 37.3GB/s bandwidth [Up to 21.3 GB/s total bandwidth (DDR3-1333) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]

Packaging

Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA)

Fab location

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Fab 1 Module 1

Process Technology

45-nanometer DSL SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology

Approximate Die Size

258 mm2

Approximate Transistor count

~ 758 million

Max TDP

125 Watts

 

CPU-Z

The CPU has a stock core speed of 3.5GHz thanks to a 17.5x multiplier and 200MHz bus. On the next page we will see just how high we can increase the core speed with a little tweaking.

TEST SETUP

The 970 BE will be benched against two previous X4 processors, the Athlon II X4 620 and 640. These CPUs natively run at 2.4GHz and 3.0GHz respectively. Each of these CPUs was also overclocked and their results will be included as well.

Test Platform

Processors

AMD Athlon II X4 640

AMD Athlon II X4 620

AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE

Motherboard

ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3

ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO (Athlon II X4 620)

Memory

Patriot Viper DDR3 1600 4GB Kit

Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 4GB Kit

Hard Drive (internal)

250GB Western Digital SATA 3.0Gb/s 16mb cache

Video Card

On-Board ATI Radeon HD4250

BFG GeForce GTX 260 OC MaxCore 55

Power Supply

Thermaltake Toughpower XT 750

Case

Antec P182B

Operating System

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

 

OVERCLOCKING

We were pleasantly surprised at the final speed the 970 reached. We went through just about every iteration of multiplier, bus speed and voltage combination existing before coming to a final stable speed. The final multiplier was 18.5x and the bus speed was 227MHz. These equal out to a final speed of 4.199GHz, and a gain of 699MHz. The difference in temperature between the stock clock and overclock was just about nonexistent. CPU-Z reports a slightly higher clock speed, but BIOS settings confirm that it is running at 18.5 x 227.

TEMPERATURES

With a speed gain of almost 700MHz, temperatures did rise slightly when at idle and under load. With Cool & Quiet enabled, the CPU clocks down to 800MHz via a 4x multiplier and 200MHz bus speed.

Since Cool & Quiet disables when a load is on the CPU, no load temperatures were taken, as they will be the same as load temperatures with Cool & Quiet disabled.

Power Consumption

Here we see the benefits of the Cool & Quiet feature when the PC is not being used. However, when overclocked and under load, the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition nearly doubles its idle power needs.

EVEREST ULTIMATE

“EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC.”

CPU AES

Here we see the raw performance gains that overclocking brings to the table. We will see graphs very similar to this throughout the rest of the review. The Phenom II X4 970 BE at stock speeds is only slightly behind the overclocked Athlon II X4 640.

CPU PhotoWorxx

This integer benchmark performs different common tasks used during digital photo processing.

It performs the following tasks on a very large RGB image:

• Fill

• Flip

• Rotate90R (rotate 90 degrees CW)

• Rotate90L (rotate 90 degrees CCW)

• Random (fill the image with random colored pixels)

• RGB2BW (color to black & white conversion)

• Difference

• Crop [EVEREST Version 2.10 and later]

This benchmark stresses the integer arithmetic and multiplication execution units of the CPU and also the memory subsystem.

CPU PhotoWorxx test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is Hyper Threading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

The increased clock speeds and L3 cache come in handy in the Photoworxx benchmark as seen above.

CPU Queen

This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10 sized chessboard.

CPU Queen test uses integer MMX, SSE2 and SSSE3 optimizations. It consumes less than 1 MB system memory and it is Hyper Threading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

Again we have the typical stair step chart, showing that faster clocks almost always yield better results.

CPU Zlib

This integer benchmark measures combined CPU and memory subsystem performance through the public ZLib compression library Version 1.2.3 (www.zlib.net).

CPU ZLib test uses only the basic x86 instructions, and it is Hyper Threading, multi-processor (SMP) and multi-core (CMP) aware.

The overclocked 970 BE takes the lead once again in computing benchmarking.

Memory Copy

Oddly enough, the memory test suite in Everest did not like the Phenom 970 as much as expected. Performance was lower than the 640 and 620 in most cases, but this is most likely due to different memory kits being used for testing.

Memory Read

The odd thing here is that the overclocked 970 BE actually has worse performance than the stock clock.

Memory Write

The system shows a distinct lack in memory performance, though we cannot say with certainty that the CPU is the cause.

Memory Latency

As with the Memory Write test, we are not certain that the CPU is to blame for lower memory performance, due to the variance in memory kits used.

CINEBENCH

“CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer’s performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based). The resulting values among different operating systems are 100% comparable and therefore very useful with regard to purchasing decision-making. It can also be used as a marketing tool for hardware vendors or simply to compare hardware among colleagues or friends.”

The 970 once again pulls away from the competition, especially when overclocked. The price point for this CPU makes it a very appealing upgrade, even for those with current AM2+ or AM3 CPUs.

Unfortunately Cinebench 11 results were not available for the Athlon II CPUs, but the results the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition put forth are quite impressive.

WINRAR

“This module in WinRar generates random data, which contains specially introduced redundancy, increasing the load to both the processor and memory. Data is then passed through RAR compression and decompression algorithms, and the output of the decompression algorithm is compared to the source data. If any differences are found, WinRar then reports “Errors found – Yes” in the command window. WinRar displays a size of processed data and compression speed, current and resulting, in kilobytes per second.”

As expected, the the 970 BE leads the pack in compression and decompression algorithm processing.

POVRAY

“The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer was developed from DKBTrace 2.12 (written by David K. Buck and Aaron A. Collins) by a bunch of people (called the POV-Team) in their spare time. It is a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package. These scenes can be modified so you do not have to start from scratch. In addition to the pre-defined scenes, a large library of pre-defined shapes and materials is provided. You can include these shapes and materials in your own scenes by just including the library file name at the top of your scene file, and by using the shape or material name in your scene. Since this is free software feel free to download this version and try it out on your own.”

Here we see the 970 perform like a champ again. When waiting for a large file to render, the extra CPU speed can really improve rendering time.

SISOFT SANDRA

Processor Arithmetic

“SiSoftware Sandra (the System Analyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.”

As expected, the 970 ranks at the top of the chart at both stock and overclock speeds. The extra 699MHz really pushes this CPU to the front.

Processor Multimedia

Again, that extra boost from overclocking had a large effect on the performance in the multimedia benchmark.

Buffered Memory

Much like the previous memory benchmarks, the Phenom II X4 970 BE’s performance is somewhat lacking, however this is mostlikely due to the varying RAM kits used.

3DMARK VANTAGE

For complete information on 3DMark Vantage Please follow this Link:

www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmarkvantage/features/

The newest video benchmark from the gang at Futuremark. This utility is still a synthetic benchmark, but one that more closely reflects real world gaming performance. While it is not a perfect replacement for actual game benchmarks, it has its uses. We tested our cards at the ‘Performance’ setting.

While the total points and GPU scores stay about the same across the board, the CPU score in 3DMark Vantage really shows how the increases in clock speed can net some impressive scores.

PCMARK VANTAGE

“PCMark Vantage is a PC benchmark suite designed for Windows Vista offering one-click simplicity for casual users and detailed, professional grade testing for industry, press and enthusiasts. A PCMark score is a measure of your computer’s performance across a variety of common tasks such as viewing and editing photos, video, music and other media, gaming, communications, productivity and security. From desktops and laptops to workstations and gaming rigs, by comparing your PCMark Vantage score with other similar systems you can find the hardware and software bottlenecks that stop you getting more from your PC. “

Through the multitude of colored bars on this graph, we can see that performance is consistent across different fields of personal computing. Again, the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition is a very solid CPU.

CONCLUSION

AMD’s newest flagship quad-core Phenom II, the 970 Black Edition, comes out swinging and performs on par with previous models. A jump from 3.4GHz to 3.5GHz may not seem like much, but when paired up with a decent motherboard, the 970’s unlocked multiplier will help reach higher speeds without sacrifices in temperature, further increasing the value of this CPU. Priced at $179, the 970 BE comes in about $60 under the latest Phenom II X6 and $80 above the Phenom II X2 560 BE, both of which were also released today.

The inclusion of L3 cache in the Phenom II series may be the needed push to move users from the Athlon II series, as this is really the only difference between the two product lines. A $60 increase for the L3 cache and 400MHz seems like pretty easy choice.

OUR VERDICT: AMD Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition
Performance 9
Value 9
Quality 9
Features 9
Innovation 8
We are using a new addition to our scoring system to provide additional feedback beyond a flat score. Please note that the final score isn’t an aggregate average of the new rating system.
Total 9
Pros Cons

Nearly 700MHz overclock on air cooler

Affordable

Works in current AM2+ and AM3 motherboards

Lacking memory performance, although this may be due to variances in RAM kits.

 

Summary: Whether looking to build a new computer from scratch, or upgrade a current AMD processor, the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition should be towards the top of the short list of CPUs being considered. It will not disappoint. We are proud to award it the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval and the Golden Bear Award.

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