During our evaluation of the Phenom II X4 we couldn't help but have mixed feelings about these new AMD processors. Comparing the Phenom II X4 series to the latest Intel Core i7 processors just cannot be done, as they are intended to serve two different markets, at least for now.
Rather we see these new Phenom II X4 models taking on Intel's Core 2 dual-core and quad-core processors. This could be seen as both good and bad, and your view on that will be largely influenced by your budget.
Some of the positive news for AMD was unexpectedly delivered by the gaming tests, where the Phenom II X4 940 was competitive in all the games we threw at it whereas its predecessor was severely lacking in this aspect. Low resolution gaming tests showed the Phenom II falling behind the Intel pack, but this didn't represent a real gaming environment. Instead when running at full resolution where the games became more GPU bound, the Phenom II was able to get its act together and that's what mattered the most.
The subtotal cost of a Phenom II X4 940 basic setup (processor, memory, and motherboard) comes to less than $500, while building a similar configuration using the Core i7 920 will cost a little over $700. For the extra $200 the Core i7 920 processor was considerably faster in a number of real-world tests however.
Currently the Core 2 Duo E8600 processor, which we used in our comparison tests throughout this review costs $270, while the Core 2 Quad Q9650 goes for a much steeper $540. If we do in fact end up with the Phenom II X4 940 at $270 or thereabouts, it's going to make things interesting and likely a better pick than current Intel CPUs in that price range.
Let's also not forget about the Phenom II X4 920, which should sell for just $230. At that price this Phenom II CPU is competing with the Core 2 Quad Q8300, a processor that it should be able to outclass in terms of performance.
The much improved power consumption levels were the icing on top for us. The Phenom II X4 940 consumed 18% less power than the Phenom X4 9950 under full load, and an amazing 32% less at idle. This also made the new Phenom II X4 processors more efficient than its Core 2 counterparts.
Although we had limited time to test the overclocking capabilities of the Phenom II X4 processors, getting the 940 model to a stable 3.60GHz was done in no time. This adds some special weight to the processor especially considering that Core 2 processors are also overclocking friendly components.
Overall we are pleased with what AMD has accomplished with the new Phenom II X4 processors and how they have improved the likability of its AM2+ platform. While AMD may not be setting any performance records, they are certainly delivering some of the best value quad-core processors on the market, that is, unless Intel decides to step in and drop prices like there's no tomorrow. Either way the consumer ultimately wins.