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AMD announces tri-core, tweaked quad-core Phenoms CPUs

But why buy an X3 now when faster ones are a month or so away?

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AMD has formally unwrapped its three-core Phenom X3 8000 series, along with new versions of its existing quad-core Phenom X4 processors, now known as the 9050 line.

The three-core Phenom X3s, first announced back in September 2007 just ahead of AMD arch-rival Intel's bi-annual Developer Forum, are detailed just before the next IDF is due to kick off in Shanghai.

The initial line comprises the 2.1GHz 8400 and the 2.3GHz 8600, but AMD's launch presentation also detailed their successors: the 2.1GHz 8450, the 2.3GHz 8650 and the 2.4GHz 8750.

AMD said the 8450 and 8650 will be priced at, respectively, $160 and $180 when sold in batches of 1000 CPUs - pretty much what the 8400 and 8600 chips cost. The processors have 1.5MB of L2, 512KB per core, and 2MB of shared L3 cache.

Interestingly, AMD's benchmarks show the 8650 forecast to outperform the current, 2.3GHz X4 9600 by a couple of percentage points and the 2.3GHz 8600 by just over nine per cent. The 2.3GHz 9650 is eight per cent faster than the 9600.

That's the the improved 'B3' core stepping, a feature of the 9x50 and 8x50 CPUs, coming into play. The B3 X3s are expected in May, so there's arguably little point jumping straight to the 8400 and the 8600. AMD insisted the older core was "perfectly fine".

AMD also took the wraps off the 2.2GHz 9550, the 2.3GHz 9650, the 2.4GHz 9750 and the 2.5GHz 9850. Like the X3s, these X4s consume up to 95W of power and almost all of them sit on a 3.6GHz HyperTransport bus. The exception is the 9850, which has a bus clocked at 4GHz. It's also a 'Black Edition' part, aimed at gamers and unlocked for overclocking.

AMD announced the 9100e, a 1.8GHz four-core part that consumes 65W. Like the other new X4s, it has 2MB of L2 - again, 512KB per core - and 2MB of shared L3 cache. It runs on a 3.6GHz HT bus.

The part's pitched at media centre systems, and AMD claimed it was the "only 65W TDP quad-core processor on the market"

The 9550 will cost $199, the 9750 $240 and the 9850 $260, AMD said.

The chip maker also mentioned the existing 3GHz dual-core Athlon X2 6000+, which was handy because the old processor manages to out-perform the 8650 and 8450 in certain AMD-run benchmarks, including MPEG 2 to MPEG 4 video transcoding, and generating a slideshow movie from a stack of JPEG photos.

Actually, AMD's presentation slide covering the latter test doesn't mention the three-core part at all - presumably because the comparison with the 6000+ is not flattering. The video test has the 6000+ down as three per cent faster than the 8650.

To be fair, the 8650 is 27 per cent faster than the 6000+ at converting an "HD video file" to a mobile screen-sized MPEG 4 file.

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