AMD launches Dragon platform featuring Phenom II processor

Phenom II

AMD today announced the availability of its Phenom II desktop processor, which it said is its faster performing CPU ever.

The company said that the Phenom II, previously codenamed 'Deneb', offers a performance increase of up to 20 per cent compared to last year's Phenom.

The CPU is one component of AMD's 'Dragon' platform, which consists of its Phenom II processor, its 7-series chipsets, and its ATI Radeon HD 4800 series discrete graphics cards. This platform is released one year since it released its Spider platform which also consisted of processor, chipset and graphics card.

AMD will be releasing the Phenom II X4 940 at 3GHz and the Phenom X4 920 at 2.8GHz. These will be priced at $275 and 235, respectively. Each is a native quad-core part with 8MB of cache - 512Kb Level 2 per core, and 6MB of shared Level 3.

The parts are built using AMD's 45nm silicon-on-insulator process, which it first employed when producing its 'Shanghai' core Opteron server processor. Both draw 125W and are packaged using AMD's AM2+ form factor.

However, Ian McNaughton, AMD's senior manager for product and platform marketing, admitted to IT PRO that the Spider platform was created with no real plan for how it would all fit together. By contrast, the Dragon platform was intended to bring a tangible benefit to customers.

McNaughton said that the Dragon platform offered three of these energy efficiency, platform longevity through backwards and forward compatibility, and value through its competitive pricing.

"The platform is only as strong as your weakest piece of silicon," said McNaughton, implying AMD confidence that it has a solution that can take on Intel.

AMD is claiming dramatic power improvements for the Phenom II processors with its rather clumsily titled Cool'n'Quiet 3.0 technology, starting figures of a 30-40 per cent reduced power draw under heavy loads, 50 per cent less under light loads and 40-50 per cent less and idle power.

The new chipsets will work will older Phenom parts and will also supports the upcoming AM3 parts based on DDR3, giving the system more longevity. Current Phenom II parts support DDR2 memory.

As for value, McNaughton was keen to stress that AMD was being competitive with its pricing.

McNaughton also highlighted fast media transcoding as another benefit of the Dragon platform. This is converting digital media from one format to another, a use that is becoming increasingly important as portable devices such as the iPhone become commonplace. AMD said that using its platform an ATI card can transcode 12x faster than an Intel platform and 1.5x faster than an Nvidia based one.

He also explained that the 3GHz Phenom II was an 'unlocked' part, meaning that it could be run at much higher frequencies that its standard stock speed, a technique known as 'overclocking'.

According to AMD's internal testing it has been seen to run at up to 4.8GHz in a system using conventional air cooling, and up to 6.2GHz using specialist techniques such as liquid nitrogen.

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.