Price / Performance, Conclusions and Final Thoughts
Performance per Dollar Measurements

To gauge performance per dollar, I decided I would use the same benchmarks in our “performance per watt” comparison and see how things looked with prices placed into the game.  Keep in mind that these are also invented metrics, so while the numbers don’t mean anything directly (1.71 Hz/$ or 0.22 FPS/$) it is their relative value to other scores that is important.  I have marked the best scores for each benchmark in red:

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 6-core Thuban Processor Review - Processors 79
(Based on prices of $285, $999, $119, $199, $279, $569, $199, $969, $279, $329, $189, $185, $159)

    The Phenom II X6 1090T is actually quite competitive in terms of performance/dollar.  The $285 price point is 71% lower than the i7-980X, so that gives it a huge advantage when looking at this particular metric.  The chip certainly is not 71% slower than the 980X!  The i5-530 and X4 955 rule the roost with their particular combination of cores and price.  The i5 is very good at games, while the X4 provides a nice balance of cores and performance in multi-threaded applications.

    The 1090T does fall down a bit when it comes to games, as it performs on par with the X4 955 which is $155.  As such, its ratio is inferior to other, more budget oriented CPUs.

Overall Performance

     The use of Turbo Core enables the 1090T to typically outrun the older Phenom II X4 955 and 965 processors, as long as 3 threads or less are pushing the processor.  If 4 cores are equally utilized, then it performs identically to the X4 955.  In heavily threaded applications the 1090T is more able to perform on par with Intel i5 and i7 processors at its price point, so it is very competitive with those offerings.  It cannot compete ably with the i7-980X, but at $285 it does not have to.

Pricing and Availability

     Phenom II X6 1050T and 1090T chips will be available worldwide immediately.  In fact, some stores were showing stock several days before the initial release.  The Phenom II X6 1055T is available for $199 US, and the Phenom II X6 1090T Black Edition is available at $285.

Final Thoughts

    When we first heard about Istanbul early 2009, I was expecting to see AMD release a 6 core desktop processor in November of last year.  This was obviously not the case.  AMD did not feel that the Istanbul design was ready for that kind of prime time, and also the much larger die size of the product, and the demand for it in the server marketplace, made it even more undesirable for a large desktop release.

    AMD finally achieved a desirable combination of manufacturability, binning, and TDP with the Thuban core.  While at 346 mm squared it is far from being a small chip, it is in fact about the same overall size as the Cypress chip which powers the Radeon HD 5800 series of cards.  Certainly there is a difference in price when manufacturing a part on SOI wafers with more metal layers, but it does not mean that AMD is losing money by selling these parts at $199 for the 1050T and $285 for the 1090T.

    Turbo Core should allow most users to experience faster performance as compared to earlier Rev C2 and C3 Phenom II parts at similar speeds.  The big boost of course is in applications which can utilize all 6 cores of this processor.  AMD has done a nice job in design and manufacturing to create a part that can run at 3.2 GHz and still keep the TDP at 125 watts.  Personally, I was expecting a maximum clockspeed of 3 GHz and a TDP of 140 watts for this first generation of desktop 6 core parts.

    The 1090T does not come anywhere close to the mighty i7-980X in overall performance, but it also does not come anywhere close in price.  $285 is far more palatable than the $999 MSRP that Intel suggests.  It does allow AMD to be more competitive against the quad core i7 and i5 parts though.  The i7-930 is $295 and the i7-950 and i7-870 are over $550.  When comparing price/performance, the 1090T is very competitive with the 930, and seriously wipes the floor with the 950 and 870 parts.

    The combination of the X6 processors and the 890FX has provided a lot of excitement for the industry.  Very affordable 6 core processors are certainly new here, and the high end features that 890FX boards will bring to the market will make for a very compelling bundle.

    AMD’s engineers should be quite proud of themselves in terms of controlling TDPs, getting clockspeeds to 3.2 GHz (and above), and implementing Turbo Core in a relatively short period of time.  Hitting 125 watts TDP with a 3.2 GHz clockspeed with a large CPU design is something to appreciate.  Intel did nearly the same thing with the i7-980X, but that required going down to their 32 nm process node to accomplish.  And dare I mention it again?  $285 vs. $999 for approximately 90% of the performance.

    Is this processor for everyone?  Absolutely not.  For those that are avid gamers, then perhaps the Phenom II X2 955 BE would be a better option, as it performs quite similarly to the 1090T in games all the while costing almost 1/3 less.  The Intel i5-530 is another cost effective option for gamers.  But if a user requires the extra power that 6 cores can bring, then there is simply no competition at reasonable prices.  Rendering, encoding, compressing, and any other application which is multi-core aware will get a good sized boost from the addition of two extra cores in the Phenom II X6 series of parts.

    Overclocking is again very easy due to the unlocked nature of this processor.  3.6 GHz to 3.8 GHz can be achieved without breaking a sweat.  4 GHz is possible on good air cooling.

    If there was one thing I was disappointed in, it was the lack of change on the HT bus and the northbridge.  The HT bus still runs at 2 GHz (or 4 GT/sec), even though HT 3.0 can run up to 2.6 GHz (or 5.2 GT/sec).  The northbridge is still clocked at its relatively mild 2 GHz.  Admittedly, this portion of the chip can be problematic in terms of TDP due to the 6 MB of L3 cache.  It is easier to just clock it all at 2 GHz and have the cores run asynchronously at 3.2 GHz.  Running the northbridge at 2.4 Ghz or 2.6 GHz does increase overall performance by up to 5%.

    This release is keeping AMD relevant in the face of a very aggressive Intel.  $285 is certainly not a lot to ask for with a fast 6 core processor, and the 2.8 GHz 1050T at $199 is a bargain for those mega-taskers out there on a budget.  The performance is good, and the Turbo Core feature is a nice extra for those who do game or utilize applications with three or less threads.  We should see overall performance of these chips increase as BIOS support becomes more robust, but even with fairly immature support the chip runs nearly as fast as it is supposed to.  It still supports the AM2+ platform with DDR-2 1066 support, which is a big positive for those not yet willing or able to upgrade their motherboard and memory.

    The Phenom II X6 1090T will likely stay as the top end desktop part for AMD for some time to come.  We may see a 3.4 GHz variant in Q3, but that depends on a variety of factors including where Intel is, how binning continues for AMD, or how fast they feel they can ramp production on next generation parts.  But for today, the 1090T is AMD’s top offering, and an affordable one at that.

Update:  The parts have already shown up on Newegg.

AMD Phenom II X6 1090T 6-core Thuban Processor Review - Processors 80

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