AMD Phenom II X4 965 Processor New Revision Review

ajmatson - 2009-11-01 07:16:04 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: November 3, 2009
Price: $195.00


Not too long ago, we saw AMD's latest flagship processor, the AMD Phenom II X4 965 processor. This processor is clocked at 3.4GHz and has an L2 cache of 512KB per core for a total of 2MB, and a shared L3 cache of 6MB. The Phenom II X4 965 is a socket AM3 processor, which can support DDR3 memory up to 1333MHz when used in an AM3 motherboard, and DDR2 memory up to 1066MHz when paired up with an AM2+ motherboard. Just as with the first version of the Phenom II X4 965, the refresh also supports HyperTransport 3.0, which helps the processor have a total CPU to system bandwidth of up to 37.3GB/s when paired with DDR3-1333MHz memory. The one big difference between the original Phenom II X4 965 and the refresh, however, is the power dissipation of it. The original Phenom II X4 965 has a maximum TDP of 140 watts and the refresh has a maximum of 125 watts. In case you are not familiar with this term, TDP stands for Thermal Design Power. TDP is the amount of power that the cooling system of the processor needs to dissipate, to keep the CPU running under the threshold before failure. For example, if your processor has a 125W TDP, you need a cooler that will dissipate at least 125W of heat to keep the processor under the maximum operating temperature. If you place a cooler on it that has a maximum TDP dissipation of 95W, then your CPU will overheat. With a lower core voltage of .875V to 1.4V, there is less heat to dissipate, which gives the processor a lower TDP for the same speeds. In addition to the lower TDP, the processor now has improved C1E support, which allows the system to switch power states faster with little to no impact to performance. Also with corrected BIOS', the new processor can support four modules up to 1333MHz on the memory controller, without any issues. Now you can load up your computer with the maximum memory and not have to worry about it failing. At launch, the refresh of the Phenom II X4 965 will be $195, which is lower than the original launch price of $245 for the first generation 965. Now that we have the differences set down between the first generation Phenom II X4 965 and the refresh, let's see how it compared performance-wise head to head.


Closer Look:

On the surface, the new refresh of the Phenom II X4 965 looks exactly the same. They both are AM3 socket processors with 939 pins and both have the same outer design. The only way to tell the difference between the two is at the end of the part number string. The old part number is HDZ965FBK4DGI and the new part number is HDZ965FBK4DGM, which the "M" designates the refresh of the Phenom II X4 965 processors. Other than that, there are no visual differences that you will be able to see.











Let's now move on to the performance testing, to see how they differ under the skin.



Model Number:
Phenom II X4 965
Clock Frequency:


Max TDP:
125 watts
Cache Size:
L1 Cache 64K (each for Instruction + Data)
L2 Cache: 512KB per core
L3 Cache: 6MB Shared L3
Process Technology:
45-nanometer SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
HyperTransport Technology Links:
One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)
Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller with speeds: Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
Types of Memory:
support unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)
Die Size:
45nm = 258mm2
45nm = 758million
Socket AM3 - 938-pin organic micro Pin Grid Array (micro-PGA) (Backwards compatable with AM2+ 940-pin)







The testing for the new refresh of the Phenom II 4 965 will be the same series of scientific and video benchmarks that the original first generation Phenom II X4 965 was run through. Then, to show the performance differences, if any they, both processors will be put up against each other, head to head. To keep the scores fair and not have any outside variables from affecting the outcome all hardware will be run at the same speeds, voltages, and latencies - unless otherwise specified, such as in the overclocking tests.


Testing Setup AMD AM3 CPU's:



Comparison CPUs:



Overclocked settings:

In overclocking the new Phenom II X4 965 refresh, I used the same approach as I did with the first generation chip. First, I pushed the processor multiplier as high as I could until the system was no longer stable, and then I backed it off a bit, to ensure that the computer would boot and remain stable throughout the benchmarking process. Next, I pushed the reference clock up a bit at a time until, again, the system would loose stability and I would back it off again until the system was stable again. For the refresh of the Phenom II X4 965, I was able to push the overclock a bit further than the first generation was able to go. With the refresh, I was able to break the 4GHz barrier, albeit only a bit higher, but higher nonetheless. The final overclock I was able to achieve that was benchmark stable was 4.038GHz, which was 212.5MHz on the reference clock and 19x on the multiplier at 1.5 volts. The system would boot higher, but was not stable enough to run benchmarks, which is what counts in the world of overclocking.







  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fallout 3 
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage


The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.


Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:



The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.











Lower is Better


WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.










In Apophysis and WinRar, the results were pretty even.


Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations, representative of commonly used numerical operations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.


















Lower Is Better


POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing), enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

Higher Is Better


PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.


In all three of the benchmarks here, the Phenom II X4 965 refresh showed a slight improvement over the first generation chip.


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 broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

















Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Core Efficiency


Memory Bandwidth


Memory Latency


Cache and Memory


File System


Physical Disks


Power Management Efficiency


With the exception of the arithmetic and latencies, the scores were pretty dead on.


ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

















Higher is Better!


CineBench is useful for testing your system's CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.


Higher is Better


HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.


Higher is Better



Lower is Better


For Sciencemark and Cinebench, the scores were right on the money. For HD Tune, the refresh improved disk performance.


Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.















In Far Cry 2, both processors were on par with each other.


Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.


















In Crysis Warhead, the refresh had a slight advantage.


BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now, Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.


Video Settings:
















As the resolution got bigger, the refreshed 965 was a bit better.


Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.


















The scores for each were head to head.


In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.



















At the lowest resolution, the refresh gave the system a bit of a pull ahead.


Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks, since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.


















While there was only a slight difference, the Phenom II X4 965 refresh was in the lead.


Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters, and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!



















Again, with the lower resolutions, the refreshed 965 had a bit of an advantage.


3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.



















In 3DMark06, the refreshed version was the leader, especially at the 1920x1200 resolution with over 1,000 points on the gain.


Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based 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. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.


















The 965 refresh started off on top, however, it fell a bit behind in the newer 3DMark Vantage testing.


When I was sent the refresh of the Phenom II X4 965 processor, I was expecting only to see thermal differences, however, I was quickly mistaken. The processor, as a whole - including the performance, was improved, not to mention the overclocking abilities. With the previous generation, I was not able to break the 4GHz barrier that I wanted, and it ran very hot when overclocked for long periods at a time. With the refreshed version, I was able to bring it up over 4GHz and maintain this overclock not only for benchmarking, but for everyday use as well and remain under the thermal limits of the processor. Throughout the testing of the refreshed Phenom II X4 965, the stock temperatures remained below 38C degrees and the overclocked temperatures peaked at 51C at 1.5V, which is great considering the first generation at the same voltage, and a lower overclock ceiling, topped the 62C threshold after long periods of being overclocked. That is over a 10C drop from the better thermal properties of the refreshed Phenom II X4 965.

According to AMD, the new Phenom II X4 965 will debut at $195 at launch.  This is much less than when the first generation 965 launched, and at which point, will also be lowered in price to match the refreshed version. While the refreshed chip does offer better cooling and a bit better performance, I do not feel it warrants going out and buying it to replace the first generation chip you may already have.  However, with that being said, if you are looking to upgrade to a very inexpensive, yet powerful quad core processor for your AMD based system, then I would skip the rest and make sure to get the newer 125W TDP Phenom II X4 965 processor.