Here we go again.
On the plus side, the newest version of AMD's Phenom II processor won't cost you a penny extra over what you'd currently pay for the company's top-of-the-line CPU, the $245, 3.2-GHz Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor. Consider the company's newest and fastest-ever CPU a free upgrade of-sorts--if you ignore the slight drop in price that will undoubtedly hit all Phenom II processors once this new Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition processor hits the market.
If you're a little put off by the slight variance in numbers between AMD's two top chips, that's understandable. The two processors are nearly identical in form and function. Both CPUs contain the same amounts of cache, the same compatibility for both DDR2 and DDR3 memory types, and the same unlocked multiplier that can lead to substantial overclocks, amongst other attributes. If you're looking to slap this processor on an AM2+ system, know that AMD has boosted the CPU's TDP to 140 watts and that might be incompatible with your current setup.
Test systems have been able to push the new processor up to 4.6 GHz with third-party air cooling; AMD itself claims that the chip can go further, on average, than its 955-edition brother. For the general user, however, the actual benefits delivered by the extra 0.2 GHz over the 955-edition processor's speed will remain almost imperceptible. That's only a six percent increase in CPU frequency, after all.
PC World swapped the two processors in and out on an identical system setup and ran its WorldBench 6 suite of benchmarks. The results revealed a meager 3.5-percent increase in overall general performance. Gaming performance remained virtually unchanged on the 2560 by 1600, high-quality benchmark runs of both Unreal Tournament 3 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Running the titles at a resolution of 1024 by 768 delivered a difference of around four to five frames-per-second.
One can't help but wonder if AMD is trying to nail as much performance onto its processor lineup as it can before the storm that is Intel's Core i5 lineup hits shores. Extreme overclocking aside, the Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition doesn't reinvent the wheel--it just adds a little polish.
Geek Tech's David Murphy (@acererak) has run out of metaphors. Hit him up on Twitter for fresh tech insight and the occasional funny cat picture.