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Four months ago AMD introduced their latest Phenom II X4 processor that was designed to use the AM3 socket while remaining backwards compatible with previous AM2/AM2+ motherboards. Although the Phenom II X4 955 was AMD's fastest desktop processor yet, it wasn't the performance that shocked us but rather its value.
Priced at $245 at the time of release, our tests showed that the Phenom II X4 955 was often a faster than the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 which remains to this day a more expensive alternative. In fact, today the Phenom can be had for just $200, while Intel is still asking ~$320 for the Q9650.
Without any challenge to present at the Core i7 performance level, AMD is trying to pressure Intel in the value segment before their Core i5 CPUs make it to market. The new Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition that we are reviewing today operates at 3.4GHz with a 17x clock multiplier (200Mhz faster than the 955). This new Phenom is based on the same "Deneb" architecture and therefore features 6MB L3 cache, with each core receiving its own dedicated 512KB of L2 cache (2MB total L2 cache).
The Phenom II X4 965 also continues AM3 support and remains backwards compatible with AM2/AM2+ motherboards, meaning that users can pick between DDR2 or DDR3 memory.
When we reviewed the Phenom II X4 955 a few months ago we suggested that the AM2+ platform was the better choice given the lower prices of DDR2 memory and small performance difference between the two. However DDR3 pricing has dropped considerably since then, and we now feel that those looking to build a new computer should consider an AM3 motherboard instead.
This is reflected in our testing methodology as we exclusively tested the Phenom II X4 965 using DDR3-1333 memory. Those wanting to compare the performance of the Phenom II X4 when using both DDR2 and DDR3 memory should check our earlier review of the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor.