AMD Phenom II X4 965 (Black Edition) review

Price when reviewed

AMD is getting great mileage out of the Phenom II. In 2009 we’ve seen one basic design spawn a whole range of dual-, triple- and quad-core chips, with different stock speeds and varying amounts of cache.

But the arrival of the Phenom II X4 965 is particularly noteworthy because it’s a new top-end part, functionally identical to AMD’s previous flagship CPU, the X4 955, but with the stock speed raised from 3.2GHz to 3.4GHz. That’s the fastest standard speed of any AMD chip ever produced, and it pushes the TDP up from an already high 125W to an eyebrow-raising 140W.

No surprise, then, that the X4 965 sets a new performance standard for AMD. In an MSI 790FX-GD70 motherboard, equipped with 4GB of DDR3-1066 memory, our stock-speed Phenom II X4 965 stormed to a stunning benchmark score of 2.02. That’s a clear step up from the 1.92 achieved by the X4 955. It also makes AMD’s platform an ever-more realistic alternative to Intel’s Core i7-920 and 940, which scored 1.86 and 1.98 respectively when tested in 2GB configurations.

Yet performance at stock speeds isn’t the whole story. The older Phenom II X4 955 is a multiplier-unlocked “Black Edition”, which can be tweaked up to 3.4GHz with just a simple BIOS adjustment to deliver identical performance to the X4 965. There’s no official guarantee it will work at this speed, but it’s a pretty safe bet: in our tests the old 955 ran happily at up to 3.7GHz, scoring a benchmark result of 2.17.

Indeed, this was actually a higher top speed than the X4 965 achieved: though the newer chip is also a Black Edition, we found our sample became unstable at frequencies beyond 3.6GHz.

Luckily, the price difference between the X4 965 and its older cousin is almost negligible. The new chip is due to hit retailers at a typical price of £157 exc VAT — just £2 more than the X4 955. That’s not much of a premium for a CPU that’s guaranteed to hit 3.4GHz.

And when you check the prices for comparable Core i7 processors – around £179 exc VAT for the i7-920, and more than £300 exc VAT for the i7-940 – the Phenom II X4 965 comes out looking like a bargain. And that’s even before you consider motherboard prices.

So while the Phenom II X4 965 really brings nothing new to the table, it’s an unbeatable offering for anyone seeking high-end performance on a real-world budget – so long as you can satisfy its power demands.


Cores (number of)4
L2 cache size (total)2.0MB
L3 cache size (total)6MB
FSB frequency200MHz
QPI speedN/A
Voltage range0.85V-1.425V
Thermal design power140W
Fab process45nm
Virtualisation featuresyes
HyperTransport frequency2,000MHz

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score2.02

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