AMD TWKR Edition CPU Preview
Reviewed by: The Smith
Reviewed on: June 30, 2009
On June 13, my colleague MrAlex informed us that a new processor from AMD called the TWKR Edition has appeared. Some people hoped for a competitor to the high-end i7s from Intel, whereas some others guessed it is simply a binned Phenom II and that it would be cherry picked for its overclocking ability.
Well, OverclockersClub got its hands on one. This limited edition processor is presented in a nice little metal box as if it were a jewel.
The TWKR is clearly identified on its heatspreader as the Phenom II 42. Underneath that It is written that it is not for sale. In fact, the processors were made specially for the extreme overclocking crowd since they can reach the highest frequencies the Phenom II architecture can sustain. This processor is provided "as-is" and there is no warranty on it. Units will be distributed by AMD only through promotional means. As one can see in the following picture, the processor looks like it has already been tested. Some thermal paste is remaining on the edge. Is it a cherry picked Phenom II, like some people thought it would be? The answer is no. It is very different than a X4 955. First, the PCB used is paler than previous AM3 Phenom IIs, as one can see in the second picture. It has that same green as the X4 940 and the older series. Does that mean it is AM2+ only? Fortunately, no.
Now, let's slap it into our test setup and see what CPU-z says about it.
Unfortunately, CPU-z detects it wrong. It is NOT an Opteron Shanghai. What is interesting in this screenshot though is that the voltage is very low. That 1.176V is the Auto setting that's coming from the processor VID. It can run at the 955's speed without any glitch on this voltage, however when the optimized settings are loaded in the BIOS, it defaults to 2GHz. It does not really have a stock frequency, as its sole intention is to be overclocked.
What can be gleaned from this is that the TWKR Edition is a high leakage part, which means it has a higher static current, drain to drain. This makes it an excellent processor for overclocking since it can sustain very high voltages when combined with the excellent scaling of the architecture at very low temperatures that we have seen since the X4 940. So now, let's see what we can get out of that TWKR.
To get the most performance out of the Phenom II Tweaker Edition, I will derive slightly from our standard test setup. First of all, I will use the high-end MSI 790FX-GD70 motherboard, which has not been reviewed here on OverclockersClub, however its GX counterpart has. The other main difference is the memory. We all know that fast memory with tight timings is what will give you the best results. The Mushkin HP3-12800 modules we normally use can run as fast as 1800MHz, however the timings required to do so are not what I would call tight at all, as Frank showed in his review here. Instead, I will use the Walton Chaintech Apogee GT modules since they can run at that same speed with much tighter timings. Finally, I decided I would use Windows 7 over Vista.
Last, but not least, I will go extreme cooling since this is what the TWKR Edition needs to truly show its power. 12 kilograms of dry ice permitted me a little over 7 hours of benchmarking.
- Processor(s): AMD Phenom II X4 TWKR Edition
- Motherboard: MSI 790FX-GD70
- Memory: Apogee GT 2x2GB DDR3 1800MHz 8-8-8-24
- Video Card : NVIDIA GTX 260
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800w Modular Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 7200.11 750GB SATA w/32MB Cache
- Optical Drive: Lite-On 8x DVD+/-RW
- OS: Windows 7 Release Candidate
- CPU Cooling: Dry ice
Since I used dry ice to overclock that little jewel, I did not aim as much for a rock solid stable overclock as we normally do in reviews. When overclockers are benchmarking, it is to get the best possible score, most of the time running at settings we call "benchmark stable," meaning it is stable enough to pass the benchmark without any issue, but nowhere near the stability required for 24/7 use. Therefore, I ran each benchmark at the best possible overclock it would tolerate. I will show my overclock for each specific benchmark on the next couple of pages. In the meantime, here is a suicide screenshot:
Overclocked settings: Suicide screenshot
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 TWKR Edition @ 5112MHz (200x25.5)
However I must admit I cheated a bit on that one. Only the first core was running at that speed, whereas the others were waiting a few MHz lower. The next overclock is the one that allowed me to pass the whole series of benchmarks, however for Super PI and 3DMark Vantage I could run it much higher. I will show these different settings later.
Overclocked settings: Benchmark stable
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 TWKR Edition @ 4683MHz (223x21)
There is no point in running our standard benchmarking session; we all know that overclocks on extreme cooling are not meant for playing video games. These extreme cooling solutions and overclocks are temporary. Instead, I chose a few benchmarks widely used to measure the performance of a computer:
- 3DMark Vantage
- 3DMark 06
- SiSoft Sandra
Featuring all-new game tests, 3DMark Vantage is for use with DX10 systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. The default one is 'Performance' with a resolution of 1280x1024 and it is the one widely used to compare scores.
For this benchmark, I was able to get all four cores up to almost 4.8GHz. As one can see in the above screenshot, with a single GTX 260, it yielded a score of 13732.
3DMark06 is also one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. It presents a severe test for much of today's hardware components. Once again, I used the standard settings that are required for any submission to FutureMark's online result browser. The settings are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
20752 marks for a single GTX 260 on stock cooling is quite good. As a comparison, I was getting approximately 17500 marks with the Phenom II X4 955 at 3.8GHz.
SuperPI is a program that has been developed by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to calculate 232decimals of PI. It was later modified to suit the needs of benchmarkers. The "Mod 1.5 XS" version is the one widely used.
For this benchmark, I was able to get all four cores up to an impressive 4.9GHz. The top overclocks on LN2 (and LHe) bring the time down to approximately ten seconds.
SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a few tests on which the overclock has a great impact so we can see what performance can be gained.
Along with the memory bandwidth, I ran the memory latency test, which yielded 61ns. These are some great results, even if I had the TWKR clocked at only 4683MHz. The processor arithmetic test requires much more stability than the other benchmarks, hence why I could not clock the cores higher like I did for SuperPI and 3DMark Vantage.
I am very impressed by what I achieved with the TWKR. Going extreme cooling allowed for a great boost in frequency. What amazed me the most is that the processor required much lower voltages than the previous Phenom II chips. Even when overclocked to around 5GHz, it did not need more than 1.6V.
However, I know there is much more left on the table. I felt dry ice could not provide the temperatures needed to scale to the top of the processor's performance. In fact, the processor ran better with lower voltages than 1.6V. My theory is that maybe it was getting a bit too warm when I pushed high voltages in it, which it is supposed to sustain without any problems due to its high leakage. The same thing happened if I increased the integrated memory controller voltage beyond a certain point at the same time as the core voltage, even if it ran fine when the only overclock was on the IMC. In other words, I felt dry ice cooling was still very limiting for the TWKR Edition since it did not allow the high voltages it can take.
So anyone who gets his hands on one of these limited edition processors must be sure to AT LEAST test it under dry ice, and under liquid nitrogen if possible. These processors really start to show off their capabilities at a much lower temperature that is not quite attained with dry ice, as we have seen. Now, you might be wondering as to how high it could go. Well, AMD has produced a great little video to show it off. Some of the world's known overclockers including K|ngp|n got the chance to play with these TWKR chips. Not only liquid nitrogen but also liquid helium was used to cool the processors down to near absolute zero (-273oC).
The fact that they can scale that much and that they can run without any glitch at such low temperatures demonstrates the sound engineering and the superior process that lies in each of the Phenom II processors. It is amazing that the engineers over at AMD were able to create processors without any 'cold bugs.' In other words, cooler is better. I am looking forward to what scores will be achieved when some of these processors get distributed throughout the overclocking crowd.