As we've benchmarked pretty well the entire Phenom line, the performance of the Phenom X4 9950 BE and X4 9350e processors was hardly a surprise. This benchmark testing was more a confirmation of where a 2.6 GHz B3 processor would perform, and what kind of penalty a 2.0 GHz 65W variant would pay. Overall, the results were within initial expectations, and the Phenom X4 9950 BE is the fastest AMD desktop processor, and remains competitive with mainstream Core 2 Quad models. The 2.0 GHz Phenom X4 9350e is a bit different, and its really excels on the desktop, where its inherent multithreading advantage comes out, rather than in the gaming arena, where its 2.0 GHz clock dooms it to mediocrity.
Whenever we get a new AMD "Black Edition" processor in-house, it's always a treat to take it for an overclocking spin. These are fully unlocked models, but at no price premium - an Extreme Edition for the masses. Our previous tests on the Phenom X4 9600 BE was limited to a 2.6 GHz top speed, while the Phenom X4 9950 BE yielded an overclock of 2.9 GHz, and we hope the Phenom X4 9950 BE continues this upward trend.
We hit 2.8 GHz (14x) with no problem at 1.3V, then moved up to try 2.9 GHz (14.5x) at the same voltage. This was also a successful overclock, and equaled the highest speed attainable with our reference Phenom X4 9850 BE processor. The next stop was the magical 3.0 GHz overclock, at which point the system lit up, loaded Windows and performed without any issues. We managed to reach 3.1 GHZ (15.5x), but that was only stable after a lot of voltage and system tweaking, and it was absolutely impossible to get anywhere near 3.2 GHz.
Hitting 3.1 GHz is another nice jump up the clock speed ladder, and gives us hope that AMD can reach a bit higher on the Phenom core at 65nm, and may surprise Intel once AMD reaches a 45nm process. Although not an overclocking chip by any stretch, we did tool around with the Phenom X4 9350e, and found that due to its low multiplier, you will probably run into motherboard limitations before hitting the CPU top speed. We had it at 2.5-2.6 GHz (250-260 MHz bus) with no problems.
Total System Power Consumption Testing
The Phenom X4 9950 BE is now the highest clocked Phenom on the market, while the Phenom X4 9350e is one of the lowest clocked. So it's essential that we run these new processors through our system power consumption testing. In order to measure power consumption, we took each of the AMD and Intel reference systems, ran the outlet through a Power Analyzer, and then compiled total system consumption figures (in Watts) for Idle and Load scenarios. In order to keep the systems and results consistent, we used the same configuration for the AMD and Intel processors as listed on the Test Systems page.
The first test measures the total system power usage when the AMD and Intel processors are set to power-saving mode. For AMD, this means enabling Cool'n'Quiet, while for Intel we need to activate Enhanced SpeedStep. The power usage test was performed after the operating system has loaded, and all of the various software and hardware components have initialized and we hit a consistent power reading.
AMD is still working out the kinks in the CnQ support for the Phenom architecture, and this is clearly evident in the testing. Basic support is there, and with CnQ enabled, the Phenom X4 9950 BE dropped down to a 1.3 GHz (6.5x) clock at a voltage of 1.05V, while the Phenom X4 9350e downclocked to 1.0 GHz using a 1.0V core voltage.
We expected the Phenom X4 9950 BE to be the major power user, but the results of the lower-clocked (and lower-voltage) Phenom X4 9350e are very disappointing.
The second test changes the operating conditions from Idle to Load, and the SANDRA Multimedia CPU benchmark pushes processor usage to 100%, while ensuring that no extraneous hard drive or peripheral activity artificially ramps up the power consumption rates. The results using SANDRA are also incredibly consistent, with the wattage numbers remaining stable through the entire test.
The Load testing improves the position of the Phenom X4 9950 BE, pushing it past two Core 2 quads, but it's the Phenom X4 9350e making a miraculous turnaround. The 2.0 GHz Phenom really shows its 65W legs off under Load conditions, pushing ahead of the Athlon 64 X2 5600+, and is easily the lowest power quad core we've seen.
Please keep in mind that these numbers relate to total system power consumption, of which the CPU is only one part. In evaluations like this, relative placing is sometimes more important than the base numbers, which can change based on the platform and peripheral mix.