AMD Phenom 9600 Black Box Edition Review

Admin - 2007-12-30 11:31:21 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: Admin   
Reviewed on: February 24, 2008
Price: $259.99

Introduction:

A black box, for many, is the flight recorder that is placed on airplanes so if there were to be a catastrophic accident, the authorities might be able to determine what the possible cause was. Other black boxes protect valuables such as safes and vaults. In the computer hardware industry, a black box usually means special edition, something that the product does which makes it different than what it normally might do. Some products may come with a special heatsink that will aid in cooling the component better than the regular edition, some may have additional features, but when we talk about processors, most of the time it refers to a special stepping to aid in overclocking or even an unlocked multiplier.

The AMD Phenom 9600 Black Box Edition is one of the recent Black Box Editions AMD has launched in the last year. A couple month back we reviewed the Phenom 9900. If you would like to look at the performance of this processor on the "Spider" platform take a look. The 9600 Black Box Edition has an unlocked multiplier which may or may not allow the user to overclock the Phenom without having to raise the Hypertransport Multiplier. For example, on a normal processor you may have a multiplier of 11.5 x the HT of 200, which would give you a clock speed of 2.3GHz. The AMD Phenom 9600 has an unlocked multiplier, so instead of raising the HT multiplier from 200, you can raise the clock multiplier from 11.5 to achieve an overclock. Are there benefits when overclocking a processor with an unlocked multiplier over a processor that has a locked multiplier that needs the HT raised to overclock? Let's find out.

 

Closer Look:

The Phenom 9600 Black Box Edition comes packaged in none other than a....Black Box.

Specifications:

Since these are the newest AMD Processors, we will show the specifications on all four.

AMD PHENOM PROCESSOR TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS:

 

Features:

NEW ACP POWER MEASUREMENT:

 

HT3.0 SETTINGS:

 

PHENOM MEMORY CONTROLLER FREQUENCIES:

  1. The memory controller maximum frequency specification is a constant and separate specification apart from the CPU max specification (see below spec), and…
  2. All Phenom processors, regardless of the CPU frequency, run DDR2 memory at the proper specified frequency.

 

AMD COOL’n’QUIET ON WINDOWS VISTA:

  1. Update your motherboard to the latest BIOS
  2. C’n’Q must be “enabled” in the motherboard’s BIOS (Note that many motherboards have that setting disabled by default)
  3. The power management scheme/setting must be "balanced" or "power-saver" in the Vista OS control panel
  1. Do NOT Select “Performance” as Vista’s power management scheme/setting as it will disable C’n’Q functionality
  2. Do NOT manually set the CPU frequency or multiplier in the BIOS. Doing so will lock the processor speed and disable C’n’Q functionality
  3. There is NO need to install a separate AMD CPU driver… Vista has a built-in AMD CPU driver

Testing:

OverclockersClub will be running the AMD Phenom 9600 through our benchmarking suite to see how the processor performs. The OverclockersClub series of benchmarks include both system tests and gaming benchmarks to verify the performance of this product.  If you would like to see how other processors performed in an XP platform, please check our CPU Section under reviews. We will show comparisons to other video cards using the Vista platform, which can be found below. All video card settings were left at setup defaults, again to eliminate any variables. The video benchmarks in this review were run under two different platforms, the Phenom and HD3870X2 video card was run as one platform while we used a comparable Intel system to show what the other side of the fence looks like and how it compares.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison System:

 

Overclocking:

The overclocking of this chip didn't go so well. Please read the "Extras" page to find out why.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.54
  1. Crysis (CPU and GPU)
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Jaurez
  7. 3DMark 06 Professional

Testing:

As mentioned earlier, we'll be testing not only real world performance, but also gaming and synthetic benchmarks.

 

Apophysis is up to the plate first. This unique program generates and renders fractal flame images. The settings we used are listed below:

We recorded the time it took, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR a great tool to use to shrink down bigger files to make them easier to work with. We'll be using each 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and testing how long, in seconds, that each takes to compress.

 

Zip:

 

 

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

Specview is a program we use to test a system's OpenGL performance. Higher scores are desired in this benchmark.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

PCMark Vantage is a new system benchmarking program from Futuremark. We'll be running the system suite and recording the score; higher is better.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is not only a diagnostic utility but it is also a synthetic benchmarking program. We'll be running an array of benchmarks from this program.

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 

Testing:

Sciencemark is a good program to use in order to test real world performance instead of synthetic benchmarks. The overall system benchmark suite was ran and the combined score was recorded.

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Cinebench is great for testing your OpenGL capabilities, system, and CPU using CINEMA 4D.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures multiple different aspects of your hard drives and drive controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

 

Testing:

Crysis is one of the hottest titles out on the gaming market today with its mind-blowing graphics. This game is extremely CPU and GPU intensive.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a newer game that features DirectX10 and its own graphics engine.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

BioShock is a new and intense Sci-Fi first person shooter. It can really push a system to its limit with its demanding graphics.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the latest installment in the Call of Duty war series. Personally, this is my favorite installment due to its amazing graphics and gameplay.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

World In Conflict is a new real time strategy DirectX10 game that keeps you wanting to play for hours on end.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

Call of Juarez is first person shooter that places the user in a Wild-Wild-West scenario with a lot of weapons, villains, and great graphics.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is what determines the Alpha Male in the gaming world. The higher your score, the better your system.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extras:

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.

 

Conclusion:

The AMD Phenom 9600 Black Box Edition is definitely not a processor that does well when overclocked. From BSODs to BIOS corruption when trying to overclock, you might be missing some hair since you’ll be pulling it out wondering what you are doing wrong. Out of the box I would say it performs the way it is suppose to; I did not have any problems running my benchmarks and all applications ran quite smoothly.  

I feel that AMD needs to work through a few problems. The 790 chipset that the Phenom runs on is still immature and needs to be worked on. These new processors have L3 cache and I don’t feel that any applications, games, etc are taking advantage of it yet. Also, there is only 2MB of L2 cache, which may be causing the processor to hit walls when playing video games and using memory intense applications.  

So I will have to conclude that the Phenom theory is a work in progress and hopefully with chipset, application programming and gaming engine updates that can utilize the Phenom to its fullest potential, there will be some change.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: