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Editor: Julio Franco

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Although the release of the AMD Phenom processor series took place back in November of last year, roughly four months ago now, the highly touted quad-core processor has received limited action so far in the computer world and a lot of negative press coverage for reasons we have documented well enough during all this time.

In our hands-on experience with the first wave of Phenoms, we didn't think the situation was as dire as many made it out to be. But regardless, it was a combination of a poor product launch with corporate financial trouble that raised the company to the spotlight.

Just late last month AMD was finally ready to ship the B3 stepping Phenom CPUs which are meant to solve all their problems, or at least those concerning the TLB errata. In order to avoid confusion between the old and new stepping models, AMD has altered their naming scheme, which is a welcomed decision, this includes the Phenom X4 9550 (2.2GHz), 9650 (2.3GHz), 9750 (2.4GHz) and the 9850 (2.5GHz).

In terms of performance, AMD has stated that the new B3 processors will be no faster than the original Phenom X4 CPUs without the TLB erratum fix enabled on a clock-for-clock basis. Therefore the Phenom X4 9600 and the new Phenom X4 9650, for example, should be no different in terms of performance. Just as well that should mean that today’s flagship Phenom, the X4 9850, should sit somewhere between the Phenom 9700 and 9900 processors that we reviewed earlier this year.

Of course, neither the Phenom 9700 or 9900 ever made it to market, but for the sake of comparison we have left our preliminary Phenom 9900 results in today's benchmarks.

Currently the Phenom X4 9850 can be found online for roughly $250, which is slightly above the MSRP of $235. At this price point, the 9850 can be had for roughly the same price as the original 9600, which is quite remarkable. Even more so considering this is a “Black Edition” processor, in other words it features an unlocked multiplier for improved overclocking headroom. This price point also puts the fastest clocked Phenom X4 head to head with the highly regarded Core 2 Quad Q6600, which is the cheapest quad-core CPU you can get from Intel.

From past experience, the Phenom processors do not overclock very well when raising the FSB, which may be an issue for overclockers considering Intel Core 2s do very well from FSB injections. In an effort to counter this, AMD has unlocked the multiplier of their Black Edition processors, which they are selling at a bargain basement price. Another feature of the Phenom X4 9850 that we should point out is that the memory controller is clocked at 2.0GHz, whereas all other Phenoms run it at 1.8GHz, which should give the 9850 a slight advantage.

It will be interesting to see how the 9850 stacks up against the rest of the Phenom family and of course, Intel's Q6600.