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Modding And Overclocking–Doable?

Socket AM3: AMD's Phenom II Gets DDR3

Our first thought after hearing that AMD wouldn't be launching a Phenom II X4 940/920 equivalent for the AM3 platform was, "what about all of the enthusiasts who've been eying those high-end models and still want to experiment with DDR3 memory?"

We knew we had a Phenom II X4 940 in the house that didn't scale very well and would likely be replaced soon by another chip that would ideally have more headroom built into it, so we decided to try "creating" a 938-pin AM3 chip out of our 940-pin AM2+ sample. After all, the silicon under its proverbial hood was the same–the only difference was its interface.

So, using a mechanical pencil, we bent the two offending pins back and forth until they snapped off. The chip now fit into our AM3 test platform, albeit not flush due to the metal nubs where each pin broke. Unfortunately, the modded processor would not POST at all, forcing us to conclude that the task wouldn't be as easy as popping off pins. It's truly a shame that enthusiasts can't get access to AMD's AM2 pinout, which would describe the exact role of each pin rather than force us to guess. The most recent tech doc publicly-available relates to the old-school Socket 940 interface.

Wondering if we'd just nuked a perfectly good CPU, we moved the Phenom II X4 940 back to its AM2+ board. Lo and behold, it still ran fine, without any immediately apparent issues.


Thwarted in our efforts to turn AMD's flagship Phenom II into an AM3-compatible part, we switched gears to the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition. AMD had suggested to us that the Phenom II X3 would theoretically be more receptive to overclocking since it isn't as complex as the quad-core models.

Indeed, using Asus' M4A79T Deluxe, we were able to get the triple-core chip running stably at 150 MHz faster than our X4 940, right around 3.8 GHz.

With a price tag set at $145, this one looks like a no-brainer for enthusiasts who already own a 790-series motherboard and DDR2 memory. Even the Core 2 Duo E8500 we've tested here still costs $190. The Phenom II X3 is going to perform better in apps optimized for more than two cores and it'll hold its own in overclocked comparisons to Intel's Core 2 lineup.

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  • 1 Hide
    mi1ez , 9 February 2009 17:04
    Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition looks like it could be great value!
  • 0 Hide
    daglesj , 9 February 2009 17:33
    I'm glad you got the "What would happen if we chopped two pins off?" idea out of the way. Should save some tears.

    However, I'm sure some will try it still and be a top question on tech forums for the next few months.

    Why folks just cant do a simple google search before asking such questions is beyond me. Misplaced laziness I guess?
  • 0 Hide
    Startled_Toad , 9 February 2009 19:48
    I wasnt going to wait and get a high clocked am3 phenom to replace my current phenom and then upgrade to ddr3 later. But now iv read this i mite aswell just get the 940 and keep with a ddr2 setup.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 9 February 2009 20:34
    lol at all the peeps who hurried out and gobbled up an i7 setup for gaming purposes "the i7 needs to be ocd to function as a game machine" says it all when a stock 910 shows it up.
  • 0 Hide
    jasobnd , 10 February 2009 03:04
    why rush and buy an am3 board and cpu yet its just a waste of time and money! teething problems galore and until amd release a quad core BE im not even gonna bother changing my 9850BE cos it will be pointless.

    i upgrade when my computer does run the software i want to use not when someone releases somink with an extra digit in the name of it!!!
  • 0 Hide
    Solitaire , 10 February 2009 03:14
    Nice article. Would have been nice to see some C2Q scores or at least the power figures for the 720 though. Wonder if we'll see another bench featuring fully air-OCd i7-920 vs 720 vs 810 sometime? ;) 

    Interesting. C2D still rules the roost for dual-thread apps and AMD's slightly less flaky 3+cores implemetation on 45nm parts makes the cheaper quads very competitive, and the 720 a potential sleeper hit for gamers especially once more and more games start to be inherently massively multithreaded. And all those who tried to turn an enterprise platform into gaming rigs *cough*Bloomfield*cough* because "Intel said so" are still wiping bits of egg from their beards. Guess the hype was just that.

    That said, the mainstream Nehalems coming out later this year might still prove solid competition if the stability improvements expected from AMDs next 45nm stepping fail to impress (or they again reserve stability enhancements for just the €200+ motherboards!). I'm not seeing any 4GHz Phenom2s on air yet...
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , 11 February 2009 04:15
    Well I don't know about value coz the prices in my country differ considerably, but I can't help but saying investing in an AMD CPU is a great loss of performance.
    I bet many intel core 2 quads could have beaten the "new" AMDs if they were added to the mix. It's unfortunate they were not included.
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , 11 February 2009 04:22
    And the advantage of intel CPUs becomes much greater when it comes to overclocking..In fact I can't imagine what made AMD lag behind intel by such a big gap..How did it come to this?!!! Come on AMD! As an end-user I like to see neck to neck competitors in the field!
  • 0 Hide
    pete3867 , 11 February 2009 05:39
    the x3 720 looks like a superb chip for the money and all the phenoms look pretty good in gaming , surprised to see the i7 920 doing so badly in gaming
  • 0 Hide
    Jetinder , 11 February 2009 06:39
    Clock for clock an Intel quad core inc the "old" Q6600 CAN still beat the "new" Phenoms IIs even in AM3 mode.

    My motherboard can take DDR2 or DDR3 ram if i added DDR3 + Q6600 it would beat the Phenoms IIs even ones made for the AM3.

    x3 720 is good but it take 3 cores to try and beat an Intel 2 core......

    Now which is better AMD or Intel........ Intel of course.

  • 0 Hide
    pete3867 , 11 February 2009 08:33
    if you can find a better intel chip for 100 pounds sterling or 145 dollars than the 720 x3 , well then intel is better , but seen as Intels i7 lags behind whilst costing 3 times as much .. well .. you get my drift
  • 0 Hide
    avatar_raq , 12 February 2009 01:10
    pete3867if you can find a better intel chip for 100 pounds sterling or 145 dollars than the 720 x3 , well then intel is better , but seen as Intels i7 lags behind whilst costing 3 times as much .. well .. you get my drift

    Obviously this is why AMD has reduced their CPU prices. Being unable to produce high end performance beasts foeced the company to cut their profits so they can at least compete in the entry and lower mid-range markets.
    As we all know, and THW's system building marathons every month prove, a worthy gaming rig (that can play all the games with decent visual quality @ decent frame rates) cannot be assembled for less than $1200. At that price range AMD just can't present anyhting which can run in parallel with the GPU and ram's performance.
    Again I hope AMD will soon close the gap. Even then, to be quite honest, I would go for Intel chips in my buils (since applications are and has always been optimized more for them and they experienced far much less issues), but the competition would then force Intel to drop prices, and both Intel and AMD's fanboys will be happy!
  • 0 Hide
    pete3867 , 12 February 2009 02:34
    fair enough but personally I don't spend more than a couple of undred pounds when I upgrade (Istill run a skt 939 ) and decent gaming to me is ..well .. command and conquer red alert 3 at 1056 x whatever ,but I think I represent the majority of folks , and yes you are right about amd targeting the budget market , but that's what they have to do
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , 13 February 2009 16:29
    In my country (Malaysia) A reasonable (say for decent gaming with a 9800GTX+) motherboard + CPU, Intel way is US $222. AMD way is half of that, just about US $100 for a simple reasonable Gigabyte Board and a AMD X2 5000+

    I mean an AMD X2 5000+ DDR2 RAM and playing Crysis, the bottleneck say at 1440x900 is definitely still the GPU. Anything Nvidia GTX260 and above, of course, Intel. Anything Nvidia 9800 or less, AMD is more than good enough.

    I'm talking gaming here, I don't intend to encode and I do all my "productivity" on a Mac.
  • 0 Hide
    skalagon , 16 February 2009 01:07
    My AMD X2 5200 is still going strong xD Luckily i rarely have to defragment, scan for viruses, burn a dvd and play a game at the same time :D 
  • 1 Hide
    Chulangj , 21 February 2009 04:33
    During normal day to day activity , the systems don’t outperform each other. It depends on the person and uses. I suggest for an average office and home user go with AMD because of cost. High end user will decide what to but according to performance.