AMD Phenom II X4 940 Review

ajmatson - 2008-12-09 04:15:06 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: January 7, 2009
Price: $235


Everyone wants to have the fastest systems out but not many can afford it or justify spending thousands of dollars on a computer, just to have top end technology. But do you really have to spend that much to have an extremely powerful computer for your games and benchmarks? Quad Core processors are becoming the main stream processors used today and with the offerings from Intel and AMD, you have plenty of good processors to choose from. Recently Intel debuted the new i7 processors, but these CPU's come with a premium price. AMD now has brought to the table a new improved processor to the Phenom line. This new processor is the AMD Phenom II X4 CPU. The Phenom II will be manufactured using a 45nm manufacturing process and will include HyperTransport 3.0, a larger cache, an Integrated DDR2 memory controller with support up to DDR2-8500, and True multi-core processing among other outstanding features.

At launch the Phenom II will come in two flavors. First will be the Phenom II 920 which will be clocked at 2.8GHz and the other will be the Phenom II 940 clocked and 3.0GHz and will be a "Black Box" Edition with an unlocked multiplier. For this review we will be taking a look at the AMD Phenom II X4 940 "Black Box". This new processor comes with an increased cache size. There will still be the same 512KB L2 cache per core however the L3 cache will be increased to 6MB shares versus the 2MB L3 the AMD Phenom X4 9850 has. With the Phenom II release there will be a new platform to support it. The AMD Phenom II will be part of the new Dragon Platform which also includes a 790GX based motherboard and an ATI HD 4800 series graphics card.



Closer Look:

At first glance the AMD Phenom II processor looks exactly like the original Phenom. The socket is the same as well as the AM2+ (940) packaging, but don't let the looks fool you about this new gem. The Phenom II increases the L3 Cache to a whopping 6MB shared. The Phenom II has a maximum TDP of 125 watts and is manufactured using a 45nm process. It is designed to be more power efficient then the previous generation as well. The Phenom II also supports up to DDR2-1066MHz unbuffered memory natively for increased performance when paired with a 790GX board supporting 1066MHz memory as well. There are 758 million transistors and it can take a voltage up to 1.5 volts with a maximum temperature threshold of 62C degrees.




Now that we have seen the outside, how about we plug it in and really see what it can do?

Closer Look:

The new platform that will be designed for the Phenom II is called the Dragon Platform. The Dragon Platform creates a basis for the hardware to work in harmony for the best overall system performance possible. Like the past Spider Platform built around the original Phenom, the Dragon Platform consists of three parts of hardware. The first part of hardware is of'course the processor which is the AMD Phenom II X4. Secondly is the body of the platform which is a 790GX motherboard. Lastly is the video side of the platform, which is an HD 4800 series video card such as the HD 4850 or HD 4870 card. All three pieces of hardware are designed to work in harmony for better performance.










Here is a shot of the AMD Phenom II X4 940 coupled with a 790GX based board and an ATI HD 4850 video card to complete the new Dragon Platform.



Now that everything is placed together in sync, let's move on to the testing phase.



Model Number:
Clock Frequency:
System BUS:
Cache Size:
L1 Cache (Instruction + Data)
L2 Cache: 512KB x4
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 3600MT/s full duplex; or up to 16.0GB/s I/O Bandwidth
Integrated DDR2 memory controller-up to 17.1GB/sec dual channel memory bandwidth
Types of Memory:
PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066); PC2 6400 (DDR2-800); PC2 5300 (DDR2-667); PC2 4200 (DDR2-533); PC2 3200 (DDR2-400) DDR2 unbuffered
Die Size:
45nm = 258mm 
45nm = 758million
Socket AM2+ - 940-pin organic micro Pin Grid Array (micro-PGA)







I am so excited to finally begin testing the new AMD Phenom II that I cannot contain myself. Do I have you amped up also? To test the Phenom II X4 940 I will be running a series of scientific and video benchmarks designed to push the processor and hardware to their limits to score the performance. Then I will be comparing the Phenom II against other processors new and old to give you an idea of where it sits on todays market. Just a note for the video benchmarks - only the Intel Q9450, AMD Phenom X4 9850 and the Intel i7 965 will be included in the comparison because of the new video benchmarks OCC is using. To keep down any variables from interfering with the scores, all hardware will be run at their stock speeds, timings, latencies, and voltages. 


Testing Setup AMD CPU's:


Testing Setup I7 CPU's:


Testing Setup Core2 CPU's:


Comparison CPUs:



Overclocked settings:

To overclock the AMD Phenom II X4 940 I started with the multiplier since this is a "Black Box" Edition with an unlocked multi. I pushed the multi 1x at a time until the system would not boot or became unstable. Then I backed it down by a half to achieve stability. Next I pushed the BUS speed 1MHz at a time until again the system because unstable. Doing this gave me a nice stable overclock that passed all of the benchmarks with no problems at all. The final overclocking result was 3.755GHz which is about a 26% overclock. This is also 155MHz better than my first run with this processor when I attended the AMD Tech Day.




  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis - Warhead
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fall out 3 
  7. Left For Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage


The first part of our testing regimen 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 and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.










In the Apophysis test the Phenom II was considerably faster then the first generation Phenom and was on par with the Intel Q9450. In the majority of the Winrar tests, the Phenom II was dead on with the Q9450 and sometimes even with the new i7 920.



Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.















Higher is Better


Higher is Better




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 board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.


In Specview the Phenom II matched and even beat out the Q9450 in most of the runs. In PCMark the Phenom II could not keep up with the increased speeds with the i7's next generation hardware, but beat out the Intel Q9450 and knocked on the heels of the Intel Quad Extreme QX9770.



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 areas of the motherboards.

















Processor Arithmetic


Multi-Core Efficiency


Memory Bandwidth


Memory Latency


Cache and Memory


File System


Physical Disks


Power Management Efficiency


Again, the Phenom II X4 940 met or beat the Intel Q9450 and came close to the QX9770, but the i7's took off with their increased bandwidth and speed.


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, 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


In Sciencemark, the Phenom II 940 again beat out the Q9450 and even took over the Intel i7 920 here. Cinebench single core took the Phenom to next to last place, but came back when all cores were used to show through multi-threading, beating out the Q9450 yet once again. In the HDTune tests, the scores were average, except with the i7 taking over for the majority of all the CPU's.


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 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 the new Far Cry 2 benchmark, the Phenom II started off slow but fought back as the resolution increased.


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 this intense benchmark, the Phenom II 940 was at the top, even matching the new i7 965.


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 Daddys". 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 resolutions grew, the gap decreased for the Phenom II.


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.













Again, while slower than the i7, the Phenom II stands with the Q9450.


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.













The Phenom II is lined up with the Q9450 again.


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.













Here the Phenom II took over the top i7 at the higher two resolutions.


Left For 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 the Phenom II and the Q9450 do battle and it comes close to the i7.


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.




















The Phenom II edges the Core I7 by the slimmest of margins, usually with a less than 100 point margin either way.


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.













At the lowest resolution the Phenom II 940 could not keep up however as the resolution increased it battled it's way up and ended slightly taking over on the extreme setting.


When I went into this review I kept an open mind about what to expect. I did not want to get my hopes up but neither did I want to set a bad expectation. When I started off my testing I kept two things in mind. One was where the Phenom 9850 stood on the scoring chart and one where the Intel Q9450 stood. I gave this as my marker for success or failure, since the Q9400 series is a top performing Quad Core processor with the exception of the newer i7 series and the Phenom 9850 was the mainstream Phenom at the time and is what the Phenom II will be replacing. I had a chance to pre-test the Phenom II 940 at the AMD campus prior to starting the review and I was very impressed at what I was seeing, but as an enthusiast I needed more time to get hands-on with it. Now after all is said and done, I am quite impressed, I admit. Coming from the Phenom 9850, which is a good performer with some downfalls, the Phenom II is like night and day. First, the speed alone jumps hurdled over the previous Phenom chip sometime almost doubling it. On top of that the Phenom II 940 beat or matched the Intel Core 2 Quad in 80% of the scientific tests and went head for head in the video tests. On top of that, there were several benchmarks that the Phenom II 940 even beat out the newest Intel Core i7 920. When it came to overclocking, the Phenom II 940 I was able to pull out 3.755GHz at 1.5 volts using an aftermarket heatsink. This comes out to about a 26% overclock, while great the Intel Core i7 920 obtained over that using a locked multiplier. The Phenom II 940 is a "Black Edition" which the multiplier is unlocked, so with better cooling, the potential is out there. I would like to point out that this is a better overclock than I could ever get with the Phenom 9850, which hit a wall at 700MHz overclocked no matter what I tried.

Now what everything comes down to. For the price, the Phenom II is a killer processor. The prices are rumored to be around $235 for the X4 940, which when coupled with the 790GX boards that run about $100, you have a great platform on which to game and more for around $335. Considering the Intel Core i7 920 alone is running about that for just the processor and not to mention tagging on another $200 plus for an X58 motherboard, and you are hitting the $500 plus range with performance not much better than the Phenom II 940 when it comes to gaming, which is negligible. Coming from the old Phenom processors, the new Phenom II is a breath of fresh air. This review has exceeded what I expected from the new processor and has put a new smile on my face for AMD. Now Intel has some rethinking to do around their price to performance ratio for their processors with this new offering from AMD. If you have that itch to upgrade or build that new gaming rig, you would be a fool not to consider the AMD Phenom II processor. Also of note in the future, AMD will be offering a version of the Phenom II that supports DDR3, so keep an eye out here at for us to bring you a real head-to-head with the Intel Core i7 processors.