Overclocking & Final Thoughts
So what is new from last time? Not a whole lot really. Clock for clock nothing has changed with the B3 stepping in terms of performance, as the Phenom X4 9850 is no faster or slower than the 9900 engineering sample when both CPUs are clocked at 2.5GHz. Though knowing the TLB bug is long gone can get you some peace of mind.
What has changed from last year is that now you can buy the Phenom X4 9850 for 9600 money, allowing for roughly 8% more performance without any additional cost. This is something then, and it makes the Phenom X4 9850 a very worthwhile product that can compete well with the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600.
As for the "Black Edition" part of the Phenom X4 9850... On paper it sounds like the perfect incentive for the enthusiast/overclocking crowd, but the problem came when we realized our 9850 was not a terribly good overclocker.
The original Phenom X4 9600 and 9500 processors that we bought from retail were rather poor overclockers, and at best we were able to squeeze another 200MHz out of them. The Phenom X4 9850 was no better and even with the unlocked multiplier we still struggled to juice more than a 200MHz extra. Although many have reported stable 2.80GHz overclocks with this new processor, the best we could get was 2.70GHz before stability became an issue, and even then quite a lot of voltage was being added.
Even at 2.80GHz this can be seen as a mere 300MHz frequency boost, or a 12% increase, which pales in comparison to the old Athlon 64 X2 processors, not to mention many of the Core 2 products that are easily producing 40%+ overclocks.
The lackluster overclocking performance of the Phenom then comes full circle, explaining why AMD is not offering a Phenom running at 2.7GHz or even a 3GHz+ CPU that could compete hand in hand with the best of the best Intel currently has to offer.
We can see the Phenom X4 9850 as an improvement and certainly a step in the right direction. We can recommend you to buy it with confidence if you are not a hardcore gamer or overclocker, considering the competitive price and performance against the Q6600. But the #2 CPU maker still has a lot of work ahead of them if they want to fully catch on with the train Intel embarked over two years ago.