AMD Phenom 9600 Black Box Edition ReviewFormer staff writer - February 24, 2008
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As an enthusiast, my first instincts are to overclock a processor to get the max out of it so I can increase performance, but being able to overclock a processor in recent years has been hit or miss. Three years ago, I slammed Intel when I purchased my first Pentium D that wouldn’t go over 300MHz on an overclock. So what I did was buy an AMD processor because I was able to overclock it. As of late, it’s been the other way around; I have been using Intel processors because they overclock. One fact that remains clear is that both AMD and Intel do not condone overclocking, so we do this at our own risk and since it is not supported, neither Intel or AMD guarantee that their processors will overclock.
What I will do now is talk about my latest experience. The AMD 9600 Black Box Edition is the second Phenom processor I have received to test, and if you have read my review on the Phenom 9900, you will know that I could not even acquire an overclock of 200MHz on that chip. The 9600 was a little different. I was able to acquire an overclock of 400MHz, but it wasn’t stable in all benchmarks. I was so unsatisfied with it that I called AMD and explained that I felt I received a faulty chip. I broke my own rule and surfed the Internet to see what others were acquiring with their overclocks. So now I had expectations and was not ready to settle. I have always felt that by reading other reviews it hurts a reviewer who needs to be as objective as possible because it takes some objectivity away and may add an instilled bias. AMD was nice enough to RMA the processor and send me another one. This was a mistake, with the new one I was not able to acquire a stable 200MHz overclock. With both of the 9600s I used three different motherboards, the Gigabyte DQ6, the ASUS MA and the MSI K9A2, and with each board I experienced different problems, ranging from lockups to BSODs and even BIOS corruption. As this occurred while overclocking, at stock speeds all motherboards worked fine and most benchmarks were within a reasonable margin of error.
I have learned a lesson, not all processors, whether or not they have the same stepping, lot numbers are going to perform the same. This goes the same for other hardware and this is why I feel that most manufacturers are selling price points. Price points are something that I don’t feel enthusiasts want to hear about, enthusiasts are concerned about plain performance , not price point performance. Here is an example. You purchase a processor for one hundred dollars and at stock speeds it performs better than your next choice, which may cost one hundred seventy five dollars. Here is the catch. The other chip, although more expensive, overclocks like a champ but the hundred dollar one will not overclock. So enthusiasts save a little more money and purchase the more expensive processor even though at its price point it doesn’t perform as well as the less expensive one out of the box. This is where I feel that we as enthusiasts get confused, we look for what a product can do over and above its out-of-box performance, which is not a price point.