AMD Phenom II X4 980 Processor Review

ajmatson - 2011-04-13 06:56:42 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: May 2, 2011
Price: $185


There is an old saying that you can never have too much of a good thing. Well this is the case here with the latest of the AMD Phenom II X4 series processors. AMD has launched a number of Phenom II series processors with most of them being "refreshes". This means they are basically the same silicon in the lower clocked chips with a bit more juice squeezed out of them. Most consumers would question this type of release but there are a few things that make refreshes like these important for end users. First they drive down prices of the lower clocked chips which bring great bargains to those of us looking to update our systems. Second, AMD guarantees the speeds. Sure, anyone can take a Phenom II X4 965 and push the speeds with overclocking to match the newer chips but what happens if during the overclocking, you burn out your chip? You are out of luck. But, if you would have spent a bit more for the higher factory clocked chip, already at the speed you were trying to reach, you still have a warranty and a bit more headroom to overclock with :).

Today we are going to be taking a look at the latest Phenom II X4 refresh that will be available on store shelves soon. The Phenom II X4 980. The 980 is a quad core processor clocked at 3.7GHz for blazing fast speed. It still has the same 6MB L3 cache and 2MB total L2 cache, socket AM3/AM2+ compatible and support for HyperTransport 3.0.


Closer Look:

The Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition came to the testing bench in the traditional OEM style packaging. The Phenom II X4 980 has a clock speed of 3.7GHz which makes it the fastest clocked processor of the Phenom II X4 series. For the cache breakdown, there is 512MB of L2 cache per core for a total of 2MB combined and a 6MB shared L3 cache bringing the total cache L2 + L3 to 8MB. The 980 still keeps the best features of the Phenom II X4 series including an integrated 128-bit wide memory controller supporting both DDR2 memory up to 1066Mhz and DDR3 memory up to 1333Mhz depending on the platform it is paired with. HyperTransport 3.0 for speeds up to 4GHz full duplex, a total processor to system bandwidth up to 37.3GB/s and all with a maximum 125 watt TDP.










Now that we have seen the physical side of the Phenom II X4 980, let's plug her in and see what she can offer.


Model Number & Core Frequency:
X4 980 / 3.7GHz
L1 Cache Sizes:
64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)
L2 Cache Sizes:
512KB of L2 data cache per core (2MB total L2 per processor)
L3 Cache Size:
6MB (shared)
Total Cache (L2+L3):
Memory Controller Type:
Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller *
Memory Controller Speed:
Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
Types of Memory Supported:
Unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)
HyperTransport 3.0 Specification:
One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)
Total Processor-to-System Bandwidth:
Up to 37.3GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 21.3 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR3-1333) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]
Up to 33.1GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 17.1 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR2-1066) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]
Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA)
Fab location:
GLOBALFOUNDARIES Fab 1 module 1 in Dresden, Germany (formerly AMD Fab 36)
Process Technology:
45-nanometer DSL SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
Approximate Die Size:
Approximate Transistor count:
~758 million
Max TDP: 
125 Watts
AMD Codename:
configurable for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes




All information courtsey of Advanced Micro Devices.


Here at OverclockersClub, we put our hardware through a rigorous testing program. We use a combination of scientific and video benchmarks designed to push and stress the components which, along with our own extensive experience, gives us a good idea how they will perform in everyday computing. I placed the AMD Phenom II X4 980 processor up against a slew of other AMD and Intel processors so you get a good idea on where they stand among the other choices out there. All the supporting hardware is run at the same speeds, timings, voltages and latencies to ensure that there are no outside variables that will interfere with the scores.


Testing Setup: AMD AM3


Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1155


Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1156


Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 1366


Testing Setup: Intel Core i5 Clarksdale Socket 1156


Comparison CPUs:



Overclocked settings:

With this being a "Black Edition" processor, overclocking can be done two ways. One, you can use only either the reference clock or multiplier, or you can adjust a combination of the two for the best overclock available. I prefer to use the combination of the two with the multiplier being adjusted first. I started off pushing up the multiplier 1x at a time while adjusting voltage until I was no longer able to benchmark stable. Once the limit was reached I backed off a half multiplier until I was again stable. Then I started increasing the reference clock paying attention to the other components affected by the increase. For the Phenom II X4 980 I was able to reach a top speed of 4.36GHz which came out to have a multiplier of 20.5x and a reference clock speed of 212MHz at 1.5v.



Maximum Clock Speeds:

Each CPU has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will represent the overclocked scores in the testing.




  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. Bibble 5
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10 & 11.5
  9. HD Tune 3.50
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  4. 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 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built-in benchmark as a comparison.




Lower is Better




Lower is Better


Bibble 5:



As expected, the Phenom II X4 980 took the top spot for the AMD Quad Cores.


Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations, consisting of many of the most commonly used calculations 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


Geekbench 2.1 provides a comprehensive set of benchmarks engineered to quickly and accurately measure processor and memory performance. Designed to make benchmarks easy to run and easy to understand, Geekbench takes the guesswork out of producing robust and reliable benchmark results.



Again, the Phenom II X4 980 took the AMD Quad Core lead and even tackled a couple of the Core i5 processors along the way.


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



Power Management Efficiency



Here the Phenom II X4 980 showed why it is the top-end AMD Quad Core.


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 11.5 is the latest iteration of this popular benchmark that features a new look to the interface. This test now has a simple GPU and CPU test built in.


Higher is Better


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


Higher is Better



Lower is Better


The Phenom II 980 held on to keep the lead for the AMD Quad Cores.


Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially 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 Far Cry 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 Phenom II X4 980 was on par with the 975 which it is replacing.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.



















First out of the AMD processors and up in the lead with the rest.


Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.




















Again the higher clock speeds helped pull the Phenom II X4 980 to the head of the pack for the AMD processors.


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 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user-designed testing.




















In 3DMark Vantage, the X4 980 was the fastest of the AMD Quad Core processors and close on the heel of the X6 CPUs.


The one thing that keeps the prices of current chips competitive is the release of newer chips. Even if it's only a small increase in stock speed, it gives end users a wide assortment of processors to choose from at a great price. AMD has released “speed bumps” in the past and will continue to do so as silicon is tweaked and more speed is pushed out of each one. The Phenom II X4 series has been the busiest of the current generation processors with a number of releases and speed bumps to please every budget. All that being said, the Phenom II X4 980 earns the spot on the throne as it comes in as the fastest AMD Quad Core to-date and does its job well. When placed up against the current line of high end processors in its family, the X4 980 tops out the benchmarks and asks for more.

While those of you who are already running AMD Phenom II X4 processors won’t want to ditch your current CPUs, those who are wanting to upgrade from a lower series or even build a second rig will appreciate what the Phenom II X4 980 has to offer especially at a price of under $200. The 980 has the same physical design of other Deneb based processors including the 6MB L3 cache, AM2+/AM3 socket support and the ability to be run with either DDR2 or DDR3 memory depending on the platform chosen. Overclocking this chip was a joy and I was able to run her stable at 4.36 GHz using only an air cooler. Imagine what water cooling would do for overclocking this beast. Only one way to find out :)

If you are looking for a stable quad core processor for an upgrade or next build why not fork out a bit and get the top end? The Phenom II X4 980 will give you what you crave and then allow you to take a little more.