AMD Announces Energy-Efficient New Phenom II Processors

AMD rolls out five additions to its family of Phenom II processors, including tri-core and quad-core processors. The new Phenom II processors are part of AMD's platform for gaming desktops, code-named Dragon, but could have enterprise uses. AMD is putting its high-speed, energy-efficient Phenom II chips up against Intel's Core 2 Duo chips.

Advanced Micro Devices is rolling out five new Phenom II processors for high-end desktops and gaming PCs, including a set of energy-efficient tri-core and quad-core chips that AMD seems intent on positioning against the Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 and the Core 2 Quad Q8200.

The rollout, announced Feb. 9, comes at a time when AMD has been battling other chip makers, in particular Intel and Nvidia, for market share in the face of declining shipments industrywide. On Jan. 21, AMD confirmed that the prices of some of the new Phenom II processors would be cut by 18 percent.

At the CES event in January, AMD released the Phenom II X4 940 and X4 920 processors as part of its "Dragon" platform, which also includes ATI Radeon graphics. The X4 940 has a clock speed of 3GHz, while the X4 920 has a speed of 2.8GHz.

Click here to read more about AMD's "Dragon" platform for gaming and high-end desktops.

AMD is touting the speed and energy efficiency of the new Phenom II chips, which range from the X3 710 (2.6GHz) and the X3 720 "Black Edition Processor" (2.8GHz) to the X4 805 (2.5GHz), X4 810 (2.6GHz) and the X4 910 (2.5GHz).

Announced prices include $145 for the X3 720 Black Edition Processor and $175 for the X4 810 processor, both of which are being boxed and sold as components.

In addition to supporting newer DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory, the Phenom II processors will work with DDR2, in a move designed to give AMD's existing partners flexibility.

The new processors could prove useful for power-intensive enterprise functions, as well.

"In this market, [the enterprise] doesn't get the rapid adoption you see in the consumer side," Dean McCarron, an analyst with Mercury Research, said in an interview. "What I would expect to see happen is corporate clients looking at this technology as the next major refresh opportunity. The next refresh happens right around April, so we'll probably see it show up in June or July."

The Phenom II represents "a significant improvement in the level of AMD's competitiveness, and anything that improves their position is a good thing," McCarron said.

The chip also plays into AMD's longer-term road map.

"We expect Phenom II to be in the market for awhile," Bob Grim, senior marketing manager of consumer product for AMD, said in an interview. "If you've seen the frequencies that we've seen, we can overclock at over 6[GHz]-this shows we have a lot of headroom, so we can scale significantly over time."

One factor in the Phenom II's ability to overclock is its energy efficiency; Grim claimed the processors use 50 percent less power than previous versions. "We're seeing a transition in the marketplace to sleekness and energy efficiency," he said. "Smaller is becoming more important; energy efficiency is more important. Over time we'll be developing more energy-efficient parts that can fit into sleeker parts."