i've been out of the loop for a while but am looking to build a new rig. i can't find a simple explanation anywhere of the current amd lineup in terms of performance, # of cores, 64-bit capability, etc. can somebody give me the low-down?
Phenom II has the Deneb and Thuban core residing in the name brand. You have x6, x4, x3, and x2. x6 is a six score, x4 is a quad core, x3 is a triple core, and x2 is a dual core. Thuban is what makes up the six score area and you have the 1055T and 1090T BE (AMD's desktop flagship). Going down the line you have the 965 BE and 955 BE X4s that are Deneb cores. The triple and dual core CPUs are composed of Deneb cores that are disabled supposedly due to not having a working core. Though most people can unlock them to Quad cores using CPUs like the 720 BE x3 and 555 BE x2.
Going down the line you have Propus which is a quad core listed under the Athlon II branding. You have both quad cores and triple cores using the same x4 and x3 branding. The only difference between Propus and Deneb cores are the lack of L3 cache. There will be a performance loss due to not having it though in certain tasks like games.
Bottom of the line you have the Athlon II X2 which is comprised of the Regor core. This is a native duel core and also lacks L3 cache like Propus.
If you're a gamer I would look into the 955 BE or 1055T if you have the budget for it. If you want to gamble go for a 555 BE and see if you can unlock it to a quad core.
All AMD cpus are 64-bit. The Phenom II lineup > Athlon II lineup (lack L3 cache). The 1090T and 1055T have 6 cores. These are the top two processors out right now, until the 95w 1055T comes out (very soon). But the 1055T has locked multipliers. The top two quad cores are the 965 and 955. Look to get the C3 revisions. The Black edition processors have unlocked multipliers which make for easy overclocking.
I might be speculating, but I think having the black edition CPU also allows you to cheap out on the motherboard. One of my boards doesn't go past 250mhz bus, so a processor like the Phenom X6 1055 would max out at 3500mhz on that board (250*14=3500). The board I'm on right now works at 265 bus, so that would max out at 3710mhz (265*14). A black edition goes as high as the processor will allow. Even on the shittiest motherboard, it might run at 3.9ghz without a problem.
In other words, if you get a cheaper CPU with a low (and locked) multiplier, you may not be able to reach the max overclock the chip could otherwise. Also you are gonna have to mess around with ram dividier / NB clock a bit harder compared to on a BE cpu.
There are three different steppings out now: C2, C3 and E0. You can find the detailed information on this at wikipedia (list of phenom II processors or something along that line). Though each chip varies in overclockability, C2 tends to be hotter and has trouble reaching 4ghz on air in most cases. C3 is somewhat better, and E0 should be better yet although they are still too young to be judged. E0s are only found in thubans currently (zosmas aint' available yet).
The debate over dual vs quads for gaming isn't over yet. If you ask me personally, I would have to say anything over 3ghz dual core would be mostly sufficient, not to mention chances of successful deneb core unlocking is quite high. Thuban would be nice for encoding and such, but for a gamer money would be better spent on a good GPU.
Just picked up a phII 555BE cpu/mobo combo for $90AR + tax over the weekend, unlocked it to quad core
yeah, but how much overhead are you going to have when running games outside of virus scanner? Personally I only have 50~60 processes (mostly system/essential) total in the background with no more than 5% utilization at all times. benchmarks show we don't really have much of cpu bottleneck on oc'd dual cores at higher rez.
there's also a subjective claim of "smoother feel" on quads that never show up in fps numbers. I noticed BFG disagrees to this notion, I haven't gamed on duals long enough to forget if this is true
Usually it is easier to tackle this the other way around - state your budget and most demanding uses including specific software titles and versions (so we know if and the degree of multi-threaded optimization).
For example a lot of people do not rebuy new versions of their software every time they build a new system, making many online benchmarks worthless, and for many of those folks the highest clocked single core would give them the most performance, or looking at it another way unless you're into exotic cooling some people come out ahead o'c a dual core more than unlocking two more cores because their heatsink is the bottleneck to o'c of 4 cores, or they don't want the higher noise level associated with higher RPM fan to cool the CPU at full load.
I'm certainly not recommending a single core CPU though, the loss of snappiness is a big penalty to pay.
This also factors into the budget issue, buy a higher priced CPU and use the stock 'sink or put a decent aftermarket 'sink cost in the CPU budget. Some OEM 'sinks like the one with a retail BE555 are downright terrible, more noise than I'd like even at stock speed with the extra cores still locked out.