AMD Phenom II X6 1090T review

£239
Price when reviewed

Just a few months ago, Intel launched the Core i7-980X, the world’s first six-core desktop processor. Now, with unaccustomed promptness, AMD has matched the stakes with the six-core Phenom II X6 1090T, the most powerful Phenom yet to grace the AM3 platform.

Unsurprisingly, there are several architectural differences between the two chips. Though both offer six physical cores, Intel’s i7-980X uses Hyper-Threading to service 12 processes at once, while the Phenom is limited to one thread per core. And while Intel opts for a total of 1.5MB of L2 cache with 12MB of L3, AMD beefs up the L2 to 512KB per core while halving the L3 of its rival.

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T

One thing the two chips do have in common is dynamic overclocking: the X6 1090T is AMD’s first chip to feature what it calls Turbo Core technology. It’s the same idea as Intel’s Turbo Boost, automatically clocking up individual cores from the chip’s base speed of 3.2GHz to a temporary maximum of 3.6GHz, depending on load. There’s probably less headroom than the i7-980X though, as the X6 1090T still uses the 45nm fabrication process rather than Intel’s more thermally efficient 32nm transistors. This impacts on power demands too: our test system idled at around 70W with a Radeon HD 4550 graphics card installed, but shot up to 160W when all six cores were taxed at once.

As expected, in our benchmarks AMD’s offering didn’t quite keep up with Intel’s best. Our X6 1090T system running Windows 7 with 2GB of DDR3-1066 achieved an overall score of 1.99 – around 10% short of the impressive 2.23 scored by the i7-980X. That makes the X6 1090T more of a rival to the 1.95-scoring Core i7-860, or the Core i7-940 on 1.98. Indeed, it’s only a modest step up from AMD’s previous top-end desktop CPU, the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition, which scored 1.91 in the same configuration.

That isn’t necessarily a problem, but the cost is expected to be comparatively high: AMD suggests the X6 1090T’s launch price will compete with Intel’s Core i7-860, which means around £170 exc VAT. That’s around £50 more than you’ll pay for a Phenom II X4 965, making AMD’s chip look like a bargain only next to the £800+ you’ll pay for a Core i7-980X.

UPDATE: The processor is now on sale at Scan for £203 (£239 inc VAT), higher than predictions.

For now, therefore, the Phenom II X6 1090T isn’t an obvious choice unless you have a highly parallel workload that will derive a real benefit from running on six cores, rather than four. And even if you do, there’s no killer reason to pick this over one of Intel’s eight-thread Core i7s. Overall, it’s a case of well done AMD for catching up with Intel’s six-core process and Turbo Boost system – now get the price down.

Specifications

Cores (number of) 6
Frequency 3.20GHz
L2 cache size (total) 3.0MB
L3 cache size (total) 6MB
Thermal design power 125W
Fab process 45nm
Virtualisation features yes
HyperTransport frequency 2,000MHz

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.99

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