AMD has come a long way since the introduction of the first Phenom 9500 and 9600 processors. Since then, the updated B3 core squashed that pesky TLB bug, the tri-core Phenom X3 was released, and AMD has kept prices low and made some great strides in terms of price-performance. Intel still controls the top-end of the performance market, but for those with $200 jingling around in their pockets, the Phenom X4 still makes a lot of sense. The newest members of the Phenom X4 family extend the line from top to bottom, including the 2.6 GHz Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition and the low-power 2.0 GHz Phenom X4 9350e and 1.8 GHz Phenom X4 9150e.
All of these processors sport the new X4 name and 50-series convention, so naturally these are B3 cores. The basic architecture is the same between all three models, and any differences will be in the individual core and HT speeds. These latest Phenom X4 models are built on the 65nm SOI process, and include four individual cores, each with its own 64K + 64K of L1 instruction/data cache (512KB total L1 per processor) and 512KB of L2 cache (2MB total L2 cache). These include 2MB of shared L3 cache, and the 940-pin AM2+ package, 450 million transistor count, and the 285 mm2 die size all remain unchanged.
The Phenom X4 utilizes an onboard, dual-channel/128-bit DDR2 memory controller, running at full speed no matter the processor multiplier, with support for up to DDR2-1066 memory (and upcoming 45nm support for DDR3). The Phenom's memory controller is actually dual 64-bit controllers, which can provide 128-bit dual-channel access (ganged) to system memory, or be configured for individual 64-bit read/write channels (unganged). AMD also offers enhanced Cool'n'Quiet support that can dynamically change the clock speeds and voltages of each individual core, or even shut down parts of the CPU to save power.
At 2.6 GHz, the Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition is now the flagship for the Phenom processor line, and delivers on AMD's promise to launch a 2.6 GHz B3 core. The specifications are the same as the pre-release Phenom 9900, with a 2.6 GHz clock and a full 2.0 GHz HT 3.0 speed. The processor runs at a 1.05-1.30V voltage range, and features a 140W TDP specification. The 512K L1/2MB L2/2MB L3 core architecture remains the same, and as this is a "Black Edition" release, the Phenom X4 9950 BE features an unlocked multiplier that is perfect for overclocking.
Alongside the Phenom X4 9950, AMD is also releasing two new low-power variants of the Phenom X4 core. The Phenom X4 9350e runs at 2.0 GHz, while the X4 9150e is a bit lower at 1.8 GHz, but the main selling point is the incredible 65W TDP for both, a new low for a quad core processor. The HT speed is also different, with the Phenom X4 9350e at 1.8 GHz, and the X4 9150e sitting at 1.6 GHz. Although the TDP is significantly lower, these processors are still true Phenom X4 quads, with a full 2MB of L2 and L3 cache, and running at a 1.0-1.125V voltage range.
Here is a small chart that should properly differentiate the various Phenom and Phenom X4/X3 models, highlighting the clock/HT speeds, TDP, and 1KU pricing: