After being low-key for a while, AMD is now back to its strategy of offering sufficient computing power at a reasonable price. The first AMD processor with 6 cores was the Phenom II X6 1090T (codenamed Thuban). The offering has expanded since then, and here we review the top-most and the lowest positioned processors in the AMD hexa-core segment. This means the Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition and the Phenom II X6 1035T.
Both processors use the AM3 socket, thus continuing an era of relative stability in motherboards supported. Both are priced well too, as you'll see from the table a bit further below.
However, the Achilles' Heel remains the software, with applications barely getting comfortable with 4 cores, not to speak of six!
Features and Specifications
By dint of being AM3 socket processors, any motherboard that uses a chipset from 785G onwards can be used as long as BIOS support is present. The TurboCore feature, whereby a processor will scale speed upwards by upto 500 MHz if it is being under-utilized is very good for those who don't expect to use all six cores all the time. The table below presents key specifications of the Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition and the 1035T.
For the curious, a CPUID screenshot of the Phenom 1100T.
We tested both processors on a test rig comprising of the following components - an Asus 880G motherboard, stock AMD heatsink and cooler, 8 GB of SiliconPower DDR3 RAM in dual-channel mode, Radeon 5970 graphics card, Intel X25-M 80GB SSD, Tagan BZ-1300W PSU, 1080p monitor and Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Edition.
All test scores on record were run at default clock speeds. Storage input/output, USB, RAM and processor cache speeds measured up to the level expected. We then ran synthetic benchmark tests. First off, PC World's own WorldBench 6 benchmark suite saw a score of 131 on the 1100T and 122 on the 1035T. View the rest of the results in a graph below:
Real-world gaming tests turned in the scores seen below.
You can view these numbers in table form on the "Performance" tab of this review.
These are all pretty good performance numbers, considering the processor specs and price. The AMD Phenom II X6 1100T in particular, had CPU/RAM scores that were second only to Intel's Core i7 965. The 1035T was clocked lower by default and understandably had trouble matching the numbers set by the higher-end processor in gaming tests, especially since most games just don't support multi-threading with so many cores. Yet, all of this achieved simply at stock speeds has another part of the tale to tell yet.
That is, the overclocking part. The Phenom 1100T Black Edition has an unlocked multiplier, and thus hit a stable 4.3 GHz easily at below 70 °Celsius. Since heat is the limitation, we can well see users of after-market coolers getting to enjoy 4.5 GHz if not more. The 1035T does not have an unlocked multiplier, but it attained a stable 3185 MHz (13 x 245 MHz) which happens to be higher than the "TurboCore" limit set for it by AMD. We found these two processors more willing to overclock, than the initial Thuban X6 1090T processor. What's more, increasing memory voltages is less likely to kill AMD processors (unlike Intel which likes lower voltage DDR3 RAM modules).
It all adds up, being able to build a fairly high performance PC using relatively lower-end parts priced well. However, the Achilles' Heel remains the software, with applications barely getting comfortable with 4 cores, never mind six! That is why Intel's best quad-cores stay above these, due to Intel's higher clock speed, HyperThreading and faster processing even at similar clock speeds.
Both, the Phenom 1100T Black Edition and the 1035T have a great value proposition. Who does not want to buy a processor with more cores and more speed, at a lower price? The only reason these processors don't steamroll Intel's counterparts, is that many users looking for even higher performance are willing to pay the big bucks and that is where Intel has an advantage. Else, those looking to build a mean machine on a budget, or those looking to upgrade from an existing AM3 processor are better served by this duo from AMD.