AMD Phenom II Processors Set to Debut with New 'Dragon' Gaming Platform

Advanced Micro Devices is preparing to roll out a pair of new Phenom desktop processors for gamers and PC enthusiasts at the 2009 CES expo. The new Phenom II X4 processors are the first 45-nanometer chips AMD has offered for desktops. The Phenom II X4 processors are also the first AMD desktop processors to reach a 3GHz clock speed. The two Phenom II processors are part of AMD's new "Dragon" platform for gaming PCs and high-end consumer desktops. The Dragon platform also includes ATI Radeon graphics and a new family of AMD chip sets.

Advanced Micro Devices is preparing to officially roll out its first 45-nanometer processors for desktop PCs at the 2009 CES along with a new platform for gaming machines called "Dragon."

On Jan. 8, AMD is expected to roll out two new processors that are part of its Phenom II family of chips. These processors are AMD's first 45-nm, quad-core chips for desktop PCs. In November, AMD offered 45-nm Opteron processors for server systems.

With the release of the Phenom II X4 940 and X4 920 processors and the Dragon platform at CES, AMD is targeting gamers and PC enthusiasts with a combination of new processors, ATI Radeon graphics and a new family of chip sets. In November 2007, AMD offered its first complete platform of processors, graphics and chip sets called "Spider."

With the release of Dragon, AMD is hoping that it can keep existing customers and attract new enthusiasts by offering familiarity when it comes to its technology. For example, the new Phenom II processors work with the existing AM2+ socket, and the chips are also compatible with the upcoming AM3 socket, which supports newer DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory.

AMD executives are arguing that users do not want to invest in a brand new technology, such as Intel's Core i7 processors for gaming desktops, which can require a significant investment in new chip sets and other components. With Dragon, AMD will pair the Phenom II processors with its ATI Radeon HD 4800 series graphics along with AMD's 7-series chip set.

Hewlett-Packard and Dell are each expected to offer new gaming systems that use the Dragon components.

While these two Phenom II processors and the Dragon platform are specifically for gamers and those who want to build their own PCs, the release of the 45-nm chips does demonstrate what AMD will offer later this year when it rolls out a new business client platform as well as processors for more mainstream consumer desktops. AMD is also expected to offer new tricore Phenom processors later in 2009.

The new AMD processors include the Phenom II X4 940 model, which has a clock speed of 3GHz-the first time AMD has offered a desktop part at that clock speed-along with the Phenom II X4 920 chip that has a clock speed of 2.8GHz.

Overall, AMD claims that the Phenom II processors will offer a 20 percent performance boost compared with the original Phenom chips. Part of that comes from shrinking the silicon die size from 65 nm to 45 nm. AMD has also boosted the L3 cache from 2MB to 6MB. Both chips retain 2MB of L2 cache.

AMD also re-engineered the cores to increase the number of instructions per clock cycle. And the company changed the design of how the four processing cores are laid out within the Phenom II package. Instead of a quadrant design, AMD went with a more linear design, which its engineers believe will also increase performance.

The AMD Phenom II X4 940 and 920 processors each work within a 125-watt thermal envelope. The Phenom II X4 is being left unlocked, which will allow users to crank the clock speed beyond 3GHz. At a 2008 Austin, Texas, event, AMD demonstrated the Phenom II X4 processor running at 5.9GHz when the processor was used within a PC that had a liquid nitrogen cooling system.

By itself, the Phenom X4 940 processor will cost $275 when purchased in 1,000-unit quantities, while the X4 920 costs $235.