The latest from AMD is their first ever desktop CPU featuring six physical cores, the Phenom II X6. Of course it doesn’t compete with Intel’s new $999 six-core CPU, the Core i7 980 Extreme, but it’s still one of the most powerful consumer-class options right now. AMD’s intention is to offer a six-core CPU that’s not too expensive, or in other words, offers a good bang for the buck.

AMD has introduced two models in the Phenom II X6 series, the 1090T clocked at 3.2 GHz and the 1055T clocked at 2.8 GHz. The suffix T stands for AMD’s Turbo Core Technology which is similar to Intel’s Turbo Boost. When at least three out of the six cores are idle and the current application demands extra processing power, the speed of the active cores is boosted, thereby improving productivity. The X6 1090T can run 400 MHz faster at 3.6 GHz and the X6 1055T can run 500 MHz faster at 3.3 GHz.

The Phenom II X6 shares its cache hierarchy with the former Phenom II X4. Each core features 64 KB L1 cache and 512 KB L2 cache. In addition to this a large 6 MB L3 cache is shared between all the cores. This makes for a total of over 9 MB of total cache size. Despite the additional cores and cache memory, the TDP of the Phenom II X6 stands at 125 Watts which is the same as the quad-core Phenom II X4s.

The socket design also hasn’t changed; the new six-core CPUs come in the same socket AM3 package which means they will be compatible with most existing socket AM2+ and AM3 motherboards, with just a BIOS update. This provides a good upgrade path for existing users who won’t have to change their motherboards.

We tested the Phenom II X6 1090T on the Gigabyte 890FXA-UD7 which features AMD’s newly launched and most powerful chipset, the AMD 890 FX. We added 4 GB of DDR3-1333 RAM and a 64 GB Intel SSD. The graphics card used was a Radeon HD 4770 along with ATI Catalyst drivers version 10.3.

Power-saving: The AMD Phenom II X6 runs at a minimum speed of 800 MHz when idle to save power. It also lowers the speed of the idle cores to this speed while running in Turbo mode.

PCMark Vantage: This is a synthetic test and doesn’t represent the true potential of the CPU. Here the 1090T was 4.5 percent faster than the Phenom II X4 965 and fell behind the Core i5-661 by a small margin.

3DMark Vantage: Like PCMark Vantage, this one too is a synthetic test. The most important score here is the CPU score in which the 1090T defeats the Core i5-661 by a significant margin of 60 percent. It also comes very close to the Core i7-870 which is a quad-core Hyper-Threaded CPU (8 logical cores).

File compression: We used WinRAR to compress 200 MB of multiple files using the Best Compression profile. WinRAR uses multi-threading but doesn’t stress all the cores to their maximum limit. The 1090T completed the task 2 seconds faster than the X4 965 and defeated the Core i5 by a good margin of 11 seconds.

Audio and video encoding: These are the most CPU-intensive tasks that make heavy use of multi-threading. Here, we encoded a minute MPG clip to H.264 format. The 1090T completed the task in the shortest duration leaving behind even the Core i7-870, although by a margin of 1 second. The Core i5-661 took twice the amount of time. For the audio encoding test we converted 8 FLAC files amounting to 400 MB to 192 Kb/s MP3. The 1090T defeated the X4 965 by a margin of 4 seconds and the Core i5-661 by a good margin of 11 seconds.

Ray tracing: This is also a multi-threaded application and stresses all the cores to their max. We used POV-ray to ray trace a 800×600 pixel image. Here 1090T again emerged as the winner, completing the task 5 seconds earlier than the Core i7-870.

Gaming: The tests run at 1024×768 reflect the performance of the CPU because not much of the graphics card’s power is used at low resolution with all the effects turned off. Here the Intel Core i5 and Core i7 were the best performers. At 1280×1024 in Crysis all the CPUs performed equally well, but in Left 4 Dead the Phenom II X6 didn’t make it to the top.

Overclocking: Since the Phenom II X6 1090T is a Black Edition processor, it doesn’t take much effort to overclock. We raised the multiplier from x16 to x19.5 in the BIOS and it was running happily at 3.9 GHz on air cooling with the bundled cooler. We tried to run it at 4.0 GHz but the system began to get unstable despite feeding it additional power. The bundled cooler features a copper base and two heat pipes for dissipating heat to the aluminum fins.

Your choice of CPU should depend on the type of applications you use and the level of multitasking you require. The Phenom II X6 shines when it comes to heavy multitasking and CPU intensive tasks such as content creation and audio and video encoding. But when it comes to gaming, Internet browsing, watching movies and office suites, a dual-core processor will perform equally well. Thus the new six-core processors will benefit power users and won’t be a worthy investment for most gamers.

For those who are considering a multi-core CPU, we would like to highlight the fact that the Phenom II X6 costs nearly as much as a high-end Core i5 CPU which is a dual-core CPU or the Core i7-860 which is a quad-core CPU. The most interesting CPU is the Phenom II X6 1055T which costs Rs 12,999—stellar performance at a sweet price point.

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