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Editor: Julio Franco

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AMD kick started 2009 with guns blazing introducing their latest Phenom II X4 platform on early January. Although the launch was comprised of just two processors, that's all AMD needed to compete head to head with the Intel Core 2 Quad range.

The flagship model, also known as the Phenom II X4 940, debuted at just $270, while today it can be had for the bargain basement price of $190. In terms of performance we found it closely matched the Core 2 Quad Q9650, which was considerably more expensive at $540 then, and even today it is still fetching around $330. This is an impressive feat for AMD, offering the best value in this price range.

Today AMD is releasing two new processors, the Phenom II X4 955 and 945, which are based on the same “Deneb” architecture though with a few notable changes. The most prominent change is that these are AM3 processors, and therefore can be used with either DDR2 or DDR3 memory. AM3 processors are also completely backwards compatible with AM2+ motherboards.

Although it was initially speculated that AMD would increase the L3 cache of these new Phenom processors from 6MB to 8MB, this has not been the case, and the Phenom II X4 955 still carries the same 6MB as its predecessors. The processor is however reaching new heights for AMD in terms of operating frequency, designed to work at 3.2GHz, it's fastest clocked quad-core processor the company has ever released.

Despite these improvements, the Phenom II X4 955 will remain affordable, with a suggested initial retail value of $245. This new processor looks as having the potential to be the ultimate upgrade solution for AMD users, as it can be paired with AM2+ motherboards that were released as far back as 2007.

Based on pricing, the Phenom II X4 955 could be best compared to the Core i7 920 ($290) and Core 2 Quad Q9550 ($270) processors, though it will be a tad cheaper than both. However it's not just the processor cost that needs to be considered here, as the Phenom II X4 955 can be used on both AM2+ and AM3 motherboards. Furthermore, while AMD does expect DDR3 memory to become mainstream in 2010, the Phenom II X4 955 can be paired with ultra cheap DDR2 memory for now, postponing the migration to DDR3 until it makes complete sense financially for consumers.