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AMD Phenom™II X4 955 vs. other CPUs

anarkaiaanarkaia Member Posts: 76

I realize the AMD Phenom™II X4 955 will be enough.

But if I have the extra money, what difference will a slightly more powerful CPU make?

Like the 965. Or going for one that is 3.6 GHz. Or close to it. Without overclocking.

For watching TV online, downloading videos, iTunes, and MMOs.

I'm set on one of these 2 graphics cards:

SAPPHIRE 100311SR Radeon HD 6970 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX


SAPPHIRE 100314-2SR Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX

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  • BraviusBravius Member Posts: 15

    I have the black edition and it runs without any problems and stays cool enough in my case. I haven't had a single problem with it.

    If I were you I would stick with the Phenom and use the extra money to go with the better video card.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,682

    Note that a black edition processor means it has an unlocked multiplier, so you can clock it however you like.  The various Phenom II X4 processors are all just different bins of the same die, except for Zosma, which isn't available at retail.  You could buy a 3.2 GHz Phenom II X4 and clock it at 3.6 GHz if you like, and it will probably work.  Maybe it will burn an extra 20 W at load as compared to the higher bin or something like that, but it should give you the same performance.

  • anarkaiaanarkaia Member Posts: 76

    Maybe I'm stuck in 1999, on a pc level. Does this overclocking violate the warranty?

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  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,682

    Of the processor, probably.  But so long as you don't change the stock voltage, it's pretty safe, and processors very rarely die unless overclocked way too far.  Processor warranties also tend not to matter much, as if a processor isn't dead right out of the box, it's not likely to die before it's thoroughly obsolete.

    Look at the ratings that the Phenom II X4 955 have gotten over the course of the last two years:  675 five eggs, 53 four eggs, 4 three eggs, 6 two eggs, and 1 one egg.  It has 139 ratings this year, of which every single one is four or five eggs.  Most claim to have already owned it for weeks or months before they posted the review.  I'll bet you that more than a few of those people have overclocked it, too.

    The way it works is that AMD manufacturers a bunch of "Deneb" dies.  Some of them are defective, so they disable the defective part and sell it as a Phenom II X3 or Phenom II X2 or Athlon II X4 or whatever, depending on which portions were defective.  Some are defective enough that they have to be thrown in the garbage, such as if a memory controller doesn't work.

    Among the chips that are fully functional, they still aren't entirely identical at a molecular scale, so some perform a little better than others.  Various things can be off by a nanometer here and there and prevent the chip from running as well as AMD would like.  AMD tests them for how fast they can run and how much power they use.  AMD breaks them into six bins:  chips that run at 3.2, 3.4, 3.5, or 3.6 GHz and can use up to 125 W; chips that run at 2.8 GHz and can use up to 95 W; and chips that run at 2.6 GHz and can use up to 65 W.  The two worst bins are the 2.8 GHz and 3.2 GHz ones, and those get the worst of the fully functional dies.

    In particular, the 2.6 GHz bin is actually one of the more expensive ones.  All of the chips that go into any of these bins can run at 2.6 GHz just fine; a lot of the chips will use more than 65 W under very heavy loads to run at that speed, though, so they have to go in other bins.  Most of the chips can actually run at 3.6 GHz just fine.  One common problem is that most of them will take more than 125 W under very heavy loads to do so, so they can't go in the top bin.  Another is that while they would work just fine as top bin chips for a lot of people, some people will stick them in a case with poor airflow, have things get rather hot because of that, and then have the chip be unstable at 3.6 GHz and the higher temperatures.  Such people will probably blame AMD for selling them a "defective" chip, and not the poor case airflow, so AMD is cautious to make sure chips have a lot of headroom.

    Realistically, if you overclock both a 3.2 GHz and 3.6 GHz Phenom II X4 chip, you'll probably be able to clock the 3.6 GHz one higher at a given voltage.  But it probably won't be 400 MHz higher.

    Another justification for having the higher bins is that if people want to pay AMD more money, AMD is happy to take it.  Actually, that's the justification for the top bin of a lot of chips.  For example, for the price of this, you could buy a faster Phenom II X4 processor and a motherboard to fit it:


    But if someone wants to buy the fastest Core 2 Quad they can get, then Intel will gladly take the money.


    I'm not so much saying that you should overclock the processor, as that if you want a Phenom II X4, you should probably save some money and get either the 3.2 GHz or 3.4 GHz bin, rather than 3.5 or 3.6 GHz.  It will probably be plenty fast enough for your needs, and if it isn't, you can overclock it later.

  • IrishoakIrishoak Member Posts: 633

    I have had that CPU for a bit now and it's been bully so far. And yes, it's very over-clockable, but I usually don't bother. They make it fairly easy to OC now compared to back in the day when it was a risky/cumbersome endeavor. Now it's as simple as clicking some sliders. Still, I haven't found a great need to. Awesome chip though.

  • anarkaiaanarkaia Member Posts: 76

    What about the 965? I'm pretty much settled on the 955.


    For some reason, I sort of want the fastest available, but at $199.99, the 975 is too much money.

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  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,146

    Just order the cheapest one of that generation, get a solid aftermarket CPU cooler, and clock it to be whatever speed you want. Almost all of them will clock higher than what is printed on the box, and with good cooling, almost all of them will clock higher than the most expensive highest stock clock.

    No tricks or anything needed, just install the good heatsink. As Quiz said, they are all exactly the same piece of silicon, they just get binned differently, and the ones that are binned as faster, are sold at a higher markup.

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 22,682

    The stock cooler that comes with a Phenom II X4 955 is actually decently nice, and could handle a modest overclock just fine.  It's not at all comparable to the awful stock cooler that Intel ships with their Lynnfield or Sandy Bridge processors.

    The advantage to getting a Phenom II X4 965 rather than 955 is that you avoid the worst half or more of the fully functional dies, as those go into the lower bins.  So you do get a little bit nicer processor, with lower power consumption at a given clock speed, probably more overclocking headroom, and so forth.  Is that $20 worth of nicer?  I'd say no.  I do think that getting anything above a Phenom II X4 965 is kind of ridiculous, though.

  • KhrymsonKhrymson Member UncommonPosts: 3,090

    Originally posted by anarkaia

    What about the 965? I'm pretty much settled on the 955.


    For some reason, I sort of want the fastest available, but at $199.99, the 975 is too much money.



    Check here for a CPU Benchmark comparison, while the 955 or even 965 which was my previous CPU and performed well enough, they're becoming an older CPU now and are really far down on the list.  The 955 is at 113th, and the 965 is in the 90th spot.    I upgraded to the Intel i7 K875 from the AMD 965 just 6 months ago when it was in like 10th place, now its 30th, but its still a very good CPU...


    It really all depends on what games you play or software to run...  and it also helps to have a fairly nice CPU, especially if you're running a really good GPU otherwise the CPU would end up bottlenecking the GPU and not allowing it access to its full power.

  • MalevianMalevian Member Posts: 48

    If you have the cooling capability you should check out the AMd Overdrive Utlility.  It's an overclock tool for newbs.  It can simply test your computer, using the auto tune feature, until it has decided your computer limitations.  


    I also recommend the new video card.  You have a solid processor already.  Another consideration is a RAM upgrade with the card to boost overall performance.

  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,146

    All of this being said, including what I recommended before, and I can't admit to doing the same thing myself.

    The CPU is usually the last thing I buy with my budget. I usually spend whatever is left on my budget on the CPU. I typically plan on overclocking (but I don't always keep the computer overclocked), and I know that overclocking can usually net me just as much for free, but buying the higher rated chip is a guarantee that it will run at least that fast. It's kinda like insurance, I am willing to pay a little bit more for an assurance that it will always run at least this much faster, so long as it doesn't exceed my budget or get ridiculous (Intel Extreme Edition...), whereas with an overclock it is always a gamble and never a certainty.

    All in all, if your just looking at the difference between the 955/965/975, odds are you will never notice if you just plan on watching a few movies, playing a few games, and listening to iTunes. Even if you had three computers, one with each CPU, sitting side by side, the difference would be so slight you probably couldn't tell without running some benchmarks or something to really push the CPU's hard.

  • lightwindlightwind Member Posts: 19

    stick with the 955. more than enough for MMOs. use the extra money for a GPU or SSD


  • anarkaiaanarkaia Member Posts: 76

    Ok, thanks again, everyone. I'll most likely stick with the 955.

    I'll be getting the highest def TV available. HD prgrams online. And a few MMOs.

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  • Lille7Lille7 Member Posts: 301

    The 955 is a very good and fairly cheap CPU, overclocks very well. Im not using the stock cooler, but im running mine at 4.2Ghz, and its very easy to overclock. Ofcourse you wont be able to run it at that speed on the stock cooler, but it should be able to handle it at the 965s clock speed just fine.

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