Performance, When You Need It
One of the Phenom II X6 platform's oft-touted features is its Turbo Core technology, AMD's answer to Intel's Turbo Boost. The premise behind both Turbo Core and Turbo Boost is that many applications often aren't making full use of multicore processors. Unused cores translate into unused processing potential. The solution: automated overclocking.
In Intel's case, when the processor's cores are operating below heat and power limits, the clock frequency of any active cores will automatically increase. If a single core is active and five are idle, the active core will see its clock speed bumped up. If all six cores are active but not operating at maximum capacity, they'll still see a boost, while remaining within the specified thresholds. AMD's Turbo Core functions similarly. When up to three cores are being underutilized, the active cores will see their frequencies boosted by up to 500MHz. With Turbo Core enabled, the 3.2GHz 1090T we reviewed can reach up to 3.6GHz.
For our tests, we coupled the Crosshair IV motherboard and the 1090T processor with 4GB of DDR3-1333MHz RAM, an ATI Radeon HD5870 graphics card, and a 1TB hard drive. We ran all of our tests on Windows 7 Ultimate Edition (64 bit). It's worth noting that our testbeds for both the Core i7-980X and the 1090T were nearly identical. The chief differences were the divergent chipsets, and the amount of RAM included. Intel's Core i7-980X and X58 chipset offer support for triple-channel memory, and were thus saddled with 6GB of DDR3-1333MHz RAM.
Six Cores for Play
Intel positioned its Core i7-980X as the premier part for enthusiast gamers, and the part performed amicably. And as expected, AMD's part lagged behind -- at times. For our first test, we tackled Massive Entertainment's World in Conflict, a DirectX 10 real time strategy game. At a resolution of 1920-by-1200 pixels (highest settings, AA and AF disabled) we saw 79 frames per second out of the 980X.
The 1090T, by comparison, managed 55 frames per second. While both are certainly playable framerates, the 980X boasts a staggering 43.6% increase over the 1090T. For comparison's sake, with Turbo Core disabled the 1090T offers up 50 frames per second. At first blush, it would seem that despite the minor boost from Turbo Core functionality, AMD's six-core technology simply can't compete.
Things start to look a little differently once we take a look at Codemasters' Dirt 2 -- a DirectX 11 title. With Turbo Core enabled, we saw 76.5 frames per second (1920 by 1200 resolution). The 980X offered 73.3. While a 4.1% difference in favor of AMD is meager, it's still an improvement. For curiosity's sake, disabling Turbo Core on the 1090T pulls the frame rate down to a still respectable 70.6.