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Unleash the dragon - AMD Phenom II X4 920 review
If 2007 was a disastrous year for AMD, then 2008 was only ever going to be better, and although this remains hardly the rosiest of times for the chip maker there were at least some shoots of improvements to pore over. While the B2 stepping of the original Phenom was a disaster which, quite honestly, tainted the brand amongst enthusiasts in particular, the move to a B3 stepping of these parts was reasonably fast in hitting the market, and the introduction of Advanced Clock Calibration in AMD's own 790 chipset motherboards together with multiplier unlocked Black Edition CPUs made for at least a slightly more tantalising setup for overclockers who didn't want to go down the Intel system route.
However, despite that (and ignoring the other pieces of AMD related bad news to focus on the hardware alone), nobody can deny that Phenom was the weak link in AMD's arsenal - They had the chipset, they had the graphics boards thanks to the ATI graphics divisions outstanding efforts with the Radeon HD 4000 series, but their CPUs were decidedly lacking no matter how you painted it.
For some time now then, early 2008 has been painted as the earliest opportunity to turn the Phenom brand around, making use of the 45 nanometre manufacturing process that Intel has enjoyed for some time and generally looking to beef up their architecture to the point where it can truly compete with the competition at levels where existing Phenom parts simply couldn't. We may be scant days into January, but that opportunity is now here, with AMD launching a pair of new quad-core parts bearing the name "Phenom II", in the hope of wrenching attention away from the unstoppable CPU juggernaut that Intel has become in recent times.
Can Phenom II, and perhaps more importantly the new "Dragon" platform which is built around it, at least apply the brakes to that juggernaut? We've taken a look at an entire, pre-built system using the "Dragon" platform as its basis here, so check that out for an overall feel of the platform's potential, but in this review we'll be focusing on the Phenom II in isolation.