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AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE C3 Review

AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition C3 Review

Manufacturer: AMD
UK Price (as reviewed): Around £140
US Price (as reviewed): Around $190

AMD is re-releasing its Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition. Unlike its larger competitor, who slides in a new core revision like its playing cards, AMD wants to get peoples' attention. There are a few tweaks in the latest upgrade, after all.

AMD has refined its 45nm DSL SOI process and revised the core from C2 to C3, reducing current leakage and making this same 3.4GHz (17 x 200MHz) 938-pin AM3 socket chip "just" 125W, rather than the previous 140W.

The change is significant because it allows us overclockers more overhead: AMD's overclocking potential is directly proportional to how cool it can run, and for most of us on air it means the difference of a mediocre 3.8GHz versus a full blown 4-point-something. And it needs it too, with Intel scurrying away at 4.2 to 4.4GHz with its latest D0 Core i7 920s and most Lynnfields (we're ignoring the obnoxiously priced 975s), AMD needed a boost to keep it in the game.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE C3 Review AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE C3 Review
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The new core is not meant to just overclock the cores better, it's supposed to allow more DDR3 MHz too. Instead of most of us topping out at 1,600MHz (1,700MHz if you're lucky), there's apparently now a little more available with HyperTransport overclocking, since there are no more memory multipliers, not to mention four DIMMs at 1,333MHz too. The latter is noteworthy news for those power users needing 8GB system memory in a workstation.

Finally there's also hardware C1E implemented, which allows faster switching between power states meaning "virtually no impact to performance by power management when the BIOS support is properly implemented". Naturally, we test this claim, as traditionally we've always recommend our readers run with Cool'n'Quiet off in performance systems (if it's built to tolerate the constant extra heat) because it tends to strongly negatively affect performance. If AMD has fixed it, well, great! Power saving all round, please.

The new core is made in Global Foundaries Fab 1, module 1, in Dresden, Germany, which is formerly AMD's Fab 36.

AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE C3 Review

If you're completely new to AMD's Phenom II, inside we have:
  • L1 Cache: 64KB L1 data, 64KB L1 instruction per core, exclusive
  • L2 cache: 512KB per core, exclusive
  • L3 cache: 6MB accessible by all cores
  • Hyper Transport and Northbridge Frequency: 2.0GHz (4.0MT/s) HT 3.0 16-bit bi-directional
  • 128-bit dual channel or two 64-bit single channel DDR2/3 memory
  • ~758 Million transistors, 258mm² die size (which is identical to the previous 965 Black Edition)
  • TDP: 125W
Black Edition products are only available as "PIB" (Processor in Box), and you can check you're getting the right version because it uses this code: HDZ965FBK4DGM, not "I".