AMD Enthusiast Gaming PC Buying Guide
Ever had that not-enough-dough feeling when shopping around for that enthusiast-level gaming rig of yours? Perhaps we can help you with our recommendations from the dark side in this special AMD-ASUS featured enthusiast-class DIY guide.
A killer performance at a sweet price gaming machine is made possible today with the new AMD Dragon platform with many exciting configurations to choose from. In this article, we are going to show you how to build a hardcore gaming PC that won’t make a nice hole in your wallet, yet giving you maximum gaming performance and experience.
AMD launched the Spider platform in 2008 that was comprised of 65nm ‘Agena’ quad core AM2+ processors, DDR2 memory and the Radeon HD 3000 series graphics cards which received modest success.
At the beginning of this year, AMD had a product refresh, paving the way for a newer and more powerful Dragon platform with the 45nm ‘Deneb’ AM2+ processors, AMD 790GX/FX chipsets and Radeon HD 4800 series graphics cards.
Enter the Dragon AM3 platform, AMD made another minor refresh with the launch of quad core AM3 processors and AM3 boards supporting DDR3 memories. It is nice to note that these new AM3 processors are backward-compatible with the older AM2+ boards so you need not splash out additional money to get a new motherboard for it.
The DDR3 memories prices are constantly falling (check out the Akiba memory price graph) and are now at a very affordable level. It would make good sense to hop onboard the DDR3 bandwagon at this point of time.
The AMD Dragon logo
Differences between the original Phenom and the Phenom II
Similar in architecture, the primary differences are that the new Phenom II:
1) is using a newer AM3 socket
This is so as the Phenom II has a different memory controller which supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory. However, AM3 socket processors are backward compatible with AM2+ sockets.
2) is manufactured using a smaller 45nm process
By using a smaller process, one gets lower heat output and better power consumption.
3) has a larger amount of L3 cache
Differences within the Phenom II lineup
There are four numerical series of the Phenom II line-up – 500, 700, 800 and 900.
When a wafer is made, it is tested to meet certain requirements. The best performing parts usually end up in the top-tier processor line up, while those pieces that do not make the cut are then tested again with lower requirements and then sieved out. This process is called binning and this has been done for a long time in the electronics world to minimise extra costs and wastage.
The 900 series gives you a ‘complete wafer’, whereas for the 800, 700 and 500, well you do get the same wafer but certain parts of it are disabled because they do not make the cut to be a 900 series processor. For example, the 800 series is similar to that of the 900 series – you get four cores, but the 800 has less cache as part of it is found to be faulty and disabled.
Same goes for the 700 series triple core processors. Out of the four cores, one was found to be faulty and disabled. The 500 series dual core processors have two cores faulty out of four, and hence two are disabled.
900 series (Phenom II X4)
X4 905e: 2.5GHz, 65W TDP low-power, 6MB L3
X4 945: 3GHz, 125W TDP, 6MB L3
X4 955 Black Edition: 3.2GHz, 125W TDP, 6MB L3
800 series (Phenom II X4)
X4 810: 2.6GHz, 95W TDP, 4MB L3
700 series (Phenom II X3)
X3 705e: 2.5GHz, 65W TDP low-power, 6MB L3
X3 710: 2.6GHz, 95W TDP, 6MB L3
X3 720: 2.8GHz, 95W TDP, 6MB L3
500 series (Phenom II X2)
X2 550 Black Edition: 3.1GHz, 80W TDP, 6MB L3
Choosing the Phenom II for this build
In this article, we will be assembling a DIY gaming rig based on the Dragon platform.
We have chosen to go with the highest end AMD Phenom II processor to-date, the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition quad-core processor.
Here in Singapore, the AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE costs about S$390 in the retail stores while the closest offerings from Intel are the Core 2 Quad Q9550 at S$350 and Core i7 920 at S$450.