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Can you re-use your AM2/AM2+ motherboard when upgrading to a X4 920/940? If you
know that your board is limited to 95W processors, you're probably out of luck.
If it's not, then check with your manufacturer to see if it's already listed
as compatible a BIOS update will definitely be required. If you can't
find any information, hang tight, the majority of AM2+ boards should be compatible,
even ones that use older chipsets like AMD 690G. It's simply a matter of waiting
for the manufacturers to get their acts together.
Our motherboard sample was flashed by AMD before we received it, but don't
expect boards to compatible out-of-the-box, not even high-end models. It may
be a little while before boards start shipping with a compatible BIOS; check
with the manufacturer before buying. For compatible AM2 boards, note that the
CPU will run at a lower HyperTransport speed, which may affect performance.
Also to be considered is what AMD has coming up next, AM3, which we may see
as early as next month. The AM3 socket will not be compatible with AM2/AM2+
processors because they lack DDR3 memory controllers. Phenom II for AM3 will
be backward compatible with AM2/AM2+ boards however. DDR3 will no doubt bring
further performance increases, but even if you decide to stick with AM2+ and
DDR2, it may be prudent to wait for AM3 Phenom II's, as they will give you an
upgrade path to AM3 in the future.
The power consumption of our X4 940 test system was misleading. While it generated
an equivalent idle power draw to the Core i7 system, and bested it by 10W during
full load, when actual work needed to be done, i.e. our real-world application
test suite, the Phenom II took longer to complete each task and used more power
doing so. We find the same is true when comparing AMD Athlon X2 processors to
Intel Core 2 Duos.
The X4 940's overall performance was mixed, nearly matching an equivalently
priced Core i7 in some tests, while falling significantly behind in others.
It is probably more suited to compete with older Core 2 Quads. For a wider scope
of how the X4 940 performs, we suggest you look at the myriad of benchmarks
that will be available at sites such as The
Tech Report, Anandtech,
From a purely financial point of view, Phenom II is an attractive option compared
to Core i7. Motherboards (many with IGPs included), memory, and heatsinks
they're all much cheaper for Phenom II. When all the component prices are added
up the difference between a Phenom II system and one based on i7 920 will easily
exceed $200. For gaming, graphics cards are typically the weakest link in the
chain, so an extra $200 for that can be substantially more beneficial than having
a faster CPU. Phenom II also overclocks well, closely matching the i7 parts
in this regard.
AMD might not have closed the gap with Intel yet, but we're to happy to see
that a high-end AMD machine is actually a viable option again, and not just
an exercise in fanboy love. The processor wars continue, and consumers will
benefit for some time to come.
Our thanks to AMD
for the CPU and motherboard samples.
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Articles of Related Interest
Intel Core i7: Nehalem Launched
Core i7 News
Intel Developers Forum, Fall
Desktop CPU Power Survey, April
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Discuss this article in the SPCR forums.
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