AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

AMD's quad core Phenom II line-up continues on with the 3.2GHz clocked Black Edition 955. Let's see how well it shines on our test bed today.

Manufacturer: AMD
7 minutes & 45 seconds read time


AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

When originally released, Phenom had a nick name of the black death. The TLB bug with the L3 cache caused serious stability and reliability problems and the only work around was to disable the L3 cache in the BIOS, removing any performance benefits the Phenom processor had over the Athlon X2 line. This, however, has thankfully now changed. BE stepping Phenoms removed this problem and since then a second generation Phenom II has emerged, which is one of the most impressive processors we have seen.

While the fact that the on die memory is nothing new with AMD having done this since the introduction of K8, it's how AMD has gone about this with Phenom II socket AM3 processors; more specifically, its upgrade path. If you are a AM2+ motherboard owner you can run an AM3 based CPU. This is because AMD has managed to integrate a dual channel DDR2 and dual channel DDR3 memory controller onto a single package. Not only this, but it also stays pin compatible with AM2+ boards; a fantastic effort. However, its performance is not quite up to par with Intel's Core i7 processors; AMD is lacking a third memory channel and a few other features, but Phenom II is the perfect upgrade processor for AMD AM2+ users and new users wanting to go AM3.

Today we have on display the Black Edition 955 clocked at 3.2GHz, AMD's fastest processor to date. Let's see just how well this baby performs compared to its 810 counterpart as well as Intel's Core i7.

Black Edition on show - Phenom II 955BE

The new Phenom on the block

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Phenom II 955 Black Edition is AMD's newest processor on the block. It is based around the same K10 architecture that all the other Phenom processors are based on. Using the 45nm wafer design, AMD is able to keep the TDP at 125watts for this processor. High, yes, but still below the 130watt limit Intel uses for its 975 Core i7. There are no changes to the architecture or cache levels and the quad core design is kept with a total of 2MB L2 cache and a 6MB shared L3 cache. The major change in the Black Edition is increasing the Northbridge clock from 1.8GHz to 2GHz compared to the 940 Black Edition.

With the BE label comes one major feature that AMD is still proud to support and that is a fully unlocked multiplier set. Like the Extreme Edition Intel processors, AMD allows you to change your CPU multiplier up or down on the Black Edition processors to allow for a much easier overclock. AMD processors are very touchy when it comes to overclocking the FSB, but clocking the multiplier keeps all the buses in check and only CPU voltages are needed to be raised, keeping things a lot simpler.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

AMD packages the latest processor in the same 940 pin AM3 socket which makes it fully backwards compatible with the AM2+ motherboards. Something we would like to see AMD finally do is go pin-less like Intel. It's a lot easier to replace a board than a CPU if a pin gets bent.


AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Validation Link:

Today we aren't doing any overclocking. This is going to be done in a separate article dubbed Phenom II vs. Core i7 vs. Core 2 to determine just what makes for a better CPU.

Today's tests are to compare the CPU to the other processors on the market at stock levels.

Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.

Test System Setup and EVEREST

Test System

Hard Disk: 500GB Western Digital SE16 (Supplied by Western Digital)
Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE), Intel Stock Cooling.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista 64 SP1
Drivers: Intel INF, Forceware 190.38, ATI Catalyst 9.7

Today we have a five CPU line-up; Core i7 965, Core 2 Extreme 9770, AMD Phenom II 810, AMD Phenom 9550 and of course our newest edition, the AMD Phenom II 955. We'll of course be putting them all through their paces using our standard CPU suite of tests.

EVEREST Ultimate Edition

Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
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EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

First off is EVEREST. In the CPU performance test the Phenom II 955 Black Edition is able to outperform its AMD brothers. However, it's still not able to beat out the Intel offerings.

Benchmarks - Sisoft Sandra

SiSoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2009
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SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Sandra's CPU tests show similar trends to EVEREST. The inter-core communication is very surprising; AMD's processors are quite slow at core to core communications compared to any of Intel's offerings. Memory wise, Core i7 dominates.

Benchmarks - Super Pi

Super Pi

Version and / or Patch Used: .5 Mod
Developer Homepage:
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Developed by some folks from the University of Tokyo (yes, Japan), Super PI is a small utility that does just as the name implies. It figures PI to a set number of decimal places. Since PI is an infinite number to the right of the decimal point, the utility measures the time it takes to figure a set number of places. It runs the calculations a set number of times and gives a time for the completion of the task. This is a simple and effective way to measure the raw number crunching power of the processor being used to compile the results.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Into our first real world number crunch and Super Pi shows that the Phenom II 955 is able to take a few seconds off the calculation time.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 110
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PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

PCMark Vantage gives the Phenom II 955 the win over its AMD brothers, but still lags behind any of the Intel offerings.

Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview

SYSmark 2007

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer Homepage:
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SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.

SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista™.

SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista™ to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.
The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.

SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Real world application tests also show Phenom II 955 still trailing behind Intel.

Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4

Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
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Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Premiere Elements encoding takes less time with the 955 than the older AMD processors, but still can't quite keep up with Intel's processors.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 101
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3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Synthetic gaming tests with 3DMark Vantage gives AMD's Phenom II 955 the win over its older brothers.

Benchmarks - Crysis


Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
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From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.

Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Processor

Lastly, in real world gaming we see that that Phenom II 955 wins again over its older predecessors, but is still not able to get the win over Intel.

Final Thoughts

Phenom II is growing in numbers with AMD still having no end in sight for the K10 architecture. While Phenom II is not the juggernaut that the market had really hoped for, K10 does have its place as an alternative to a high priced Intel processor. Quad core is definitely beyond the average users.

As the latest addition to the AMD line-up in the Black Edition family, the 955 processor is extremely impressive. Currently at $199.99 with free shipping over at Newegg, without a huge price tag this processor is ideal for users who want to tweak and overclock their systems without having to clock buses. With unlocked multipliers this processor has enough to keep everyone happy.

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