Can anyone give a true definition of a computer enthusiast? Ask 10 people and you might just get 10 different answers. Some might say it is anyone that has the knowledge of a computers most inner workings. Others might say it is anyone that owns the best stuff out there, or holds the highest benchmark numbers. Any way you look at it, it is all up to interpretation. Tons of marketing dollars are spent trying to cater to the "enthusiast" crowd. Ultimately, it's just another label they use to sell their best, quality products. So, what is the definition? Who knows....
I have an old school view of a computer enthusiast. It has nothing to do with buying the most expensive or latest model components available as sites of today would have you believe. Rather, doing a ton of research and getting the best possible performance per dollar spent. Many companies make hidden gems of products that can be pushed and match their top of the line products. Heck, most companies product lines contain the exact same technology they just turn off a couple of features in order to lower the price tag. There have been many proven CPUs and GPUs that can be overclocked or unlocked with a little tweaking and match, or come close to their higher counterparts, ultimately saving the user a boatload of cash.
The AMD Phenom II X6 1055T is one of those little gems. The Phenom II X6 1055T has all of the exact same specifications of the 1090T, only they lowered the clock speed from 3.2GHz to 2.8GHz. The Turbo CORE tops out at 3.3GHz rather then 3.6GHz also. The 1055T has 6 cores, 3MB L2 cache, 6MB L3 cache, and has a max TDP of 125W. The 1055T has all the heart and soul you would expect from a Phenom processor.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Technologies(AMD Phenom II X6 1055T)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Technologies(AMD Phenom II X6 1055T)" />
AMD Phenom™ II X6 Six-Core Processors
The backbone of the VISION Black technology platform, the new AMD Phenom™ II X6 six-core processors are the fastest CPUs AMD has ever created. The AMD Phenom™ II X6 six-core processors are also the world's only six-core processors for under $200*. At the heart of a VISION Black Technology platform, the AMD Phenom II X6 processor is the most advanced AMD desktop processor and features innovative AMD Turbo CORE technology to adjust to the dynamic needs of performance users.
New AMD Turbo CORE Technology
Both the AMD Phenom™ II X6 1055T and 1090T come equipped with AMD's new Turbo CORE technology. AMD Turbo CORE technology is a performance boosting technology that automatically switches from six cores to three turbocharged core for applications that just need raw speed over multiple cores. While in Turbo CORE mode, the AMD Phenom™ II X6 1090T shifts frequency speed from 3.2GHz on six cores, to 3.6GHz on three cores, making it the fastest processor AMD has ever created.
AMD64 with Direct Connect Architecture
AMD Balanced Smart Cache
AMD Wide Floating Point Accelerator
Integrated DRAM Controller with AMD Memory Optimizer Technology
AMD Virtualization™ (AMD-V™) Technology With Rapid Virtualization Indexing
AMD PowerNow!™ Technology (Cool’n’Quiet™ Technology)
AMD CoolCore™ Technology
Dual Dynamic Power Management™
<hrdata-mce-alt="Technologies (890FX Chipset)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Technologies (890FX Chipset)" />
The new 8- Series of AMD Motherboard chipsets introduce both USB and SATA 3.0. USB 3.0 draws its power from the NEC host controller; this is a Dual Simplex link that is bi-directional and, unlike USB 2.0 which is Half Duplex (one –way), it transfers data more efficiently.
Unlike SATA 3 which was first seen on Intel motherboards (Marvell chipset/3rd party) the AMD 8- Series motherboards run native SATA 3 via the 850 Southbridge chipset which is a direct link to 6 SATA ports alleviating the middle man. (Marvell)
The 890GX chipset contains an ATI HD 4290 integrated, which is DirectX 10.1, which has a 700MHz core, 40 unified shaders and, with added SidePort memory, is the most powerful integrated video card produced by AMD to date. The HD 4290 is also capable of Picture in Picture Blu-Ray Playback and upscaling to 720p.
Other features include Hyper-Transport 3.0 (5.2 GT/s), HDMI, VGA and DVI video outputs, two PCI-e 2.0 (1 x 16/1x8) for discrete video, support for DDR3 1333 MHz memory and onboard HD audio.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Review Philosophy" class="system-pagebreak" title="Review Philosophy" />
This review is first and foremost a test of the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T processor. All of the regular benchmarks and tests are going to be performed in order to showcase it's stock capabilities. However, this is also going to be a special enthusiast review where I will overclock the entire system and showcase it's new capabilities against a higher priced, high end system. I will also explain how I arrived at the overclocked numbers. We are going to get back to the original roots of an enthusiast overclocker; buying moderately priced computer components and pushing them to get as much as possible and compete with higher end equipment.
First let's take a look at pricing:
|CPU - AMD Phenom II X6 1055T||$199|
|Motherboard - Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H||$139|
|RAM - 4GB Patriot "Sector 5" PC3-12800||$127|
|GPU - Sapphire Radeon HD 5770||$170|
|HDD - WD Caviar Blue 640GB||$70|
High End System
|CPU - AMD Phenom II X6 1090T||$295|
|Motherboard - ASUS Crosshair IV Formula||$215|
|RAM - 4GB Patriot Viper II "Sector 5" PC3-16000||$180|
|GPU - Sapphire Radeon HD 5870||$499|
|HDD - Segate 2TB Sata II||$199|
As you can see, there is over a $650 difference between the heart and soul of the two systems.
While reading this always keep in mind that overclocking will void your warranty. Even though AMD does manufacture "Black Edition" processors that are unlocked and allow easier overclocking, it is only made available for people that want to take advantage of that capability. They do not warranty overclocking in any way.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Specifications" class="system-pagebreak" title="Specifications" />
|Series||Phenom II X6|
|CPU Socket Type||AM3|
|Name||Phenom II X6 1055T|
|L2 Cache||6 x 512KB|
|Manufacturing Tech||45 nm|
|64 bit Support||Yes|
|Integrated Memory Controller Speed||Dual Channel PC3-10667U (DDR3-1333) for 2 modules, Dual Channel PC3-8500U (DDR3-1066), Dual Channel PC2-8500U (DDR2-1066)|
|Virtualization Technology Support||Yes|
|Multimedia Instruction||MMX, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4a, Advanced Bit Manipulation, AMD64 technology, AMD-V (virtualization) technology, Enhanced Virus Protection, Dynamic Acceleration technology|
|Thermal Design Power||125W|
|Cooling Device||Heatsink and Fan included|
<hrdata-mce-alt="Testing Methods" class="system-pagebreak" title="Testing Methods" />
To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius.
Test System (Mainstream)
Test System (High End)
<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (World Bench)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (World Bench)" />
World Bench is a system benchmark that tests the rendering, DirectX, video encoding, file compression, data entry, and overall performance of your system. World Bench 6 Beta (stable) gives a base score of 100 for a baseline comparison when different systems are chosen. For our tests, these scores will not be valid; all benchmarks are run individually and will reflect times in seconds as given by the program. If you would like more information here is a link. World Bench 6
<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (PC Mark Vantage)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (PC Mark Vantage)" />
Designed for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark Vantage visit Futuremarks website.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (SiSandra)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (SiSandra)" />
One of our favorites, Sandra from SiSoftware is a system benchmark that individually tests all components of your system. For our benchmarking purpose, we will use the processor section, which includes Processor Arithmetic, Multicore Efficiency, and Multimedia. All scores will be listed as given by benchmark, higher will be better unless otherwise stated. SiSandra
<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (Everest)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (Everest)" />
Everest is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. Everest will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, and L2 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Lavalys is the producer of this software.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (Cinebench R10 and R11)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (Cinebench R10 and R11)" />
Created by Maxon, Cinebench R10 and R11 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and multiple CPU performance.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (3D Mark)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (3D Mark)" />
3DMark Vantage is a gaming benchmark used to test the DirectX performance of your graphics card. There are four tests plus a custom setting that can be run: Entry (1024x768), Performance (1280x1024), which is the default setting, High (1680x1050), and Extreme (1920x1200). In each resolution, a total score, a CPU, and GPU are generated. Futuremark
The settings that we will be using are Entry, Performance, and High.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)" />
Battle Forge is an MMORPG that is free to play with its download. You choose from mythical characters and battle until your opponents are conquered. Battle Forge is the first game to support Direct X 11.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)" />
The fifth installation of the Resident Evil Series, which is a first person shooter. You are a member of the World Bioterrorism Team and are sent out to stop a new infestation of the virus created by the Umbrella Corporation.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Overclocking" class="system-pagebreak" title="Overclocking" />
As stated in the Review Philosophy, I am going to be explaining the steps I took in order to tune this system in order to get the best possible performance. Overclocking is a tricky task and I used a combination of both the BIOS as well as AMD Overdrive in order to reach the best numbers that I could. If you notice I did both an overclock with the Turbo CORE enabled and then another overclock getting the most possible out of the CPU without the use of Turbo CORE. Much trial and error happened to arrive at the numbers that I did but overall overclocking everything was a relatively simple process.
Warning: Overclocking will void your warranties.
MAX System Overclock - 1055T with Turbo CORE
The 1055T isn't a "Black Edition" Phenom processor. The CPU Multiplier is locked except for the Turbo CORE. Therefore in order to overclock this processor, the HT reference frequency is the only thing that can be adjusted for the baseline CPU speeds. When moving the HT Frequency the memory clock speeds are also moved in tandem so the first thing that I did was lower the memory multiplier from x8.00 down to x6.66 under the BIOS. The move dropped the original DDR3 1600MHz speed down to 1333MHz as the base HT reference frequency is 200. This leaves me headroom with the DDR memory as not to push it too far and cause a system crash. I had reached a wall with a previous overclock so I know that this RAM cannot be pushed pass a certain point without crashing.
My next step was to load up Windows 7 and AMD Overdrive in order to test my overclocks as the system was running for stability. This is an awesome feature with the Phenom processors. Under the performance tuning tab I am able to control nearly every aspect as if I was in the BIOS itself. There are only a handful of options not able to be changed as the system is running which is why I adjusted the memory multiplier in the BIOS.
Slowly, I adjusted the HT reference frequency in small increments, testing with AMD Overdrive's quick benchmark utility after each step. I had reached 242 on the HT frequency before the Turbo CORE hit 4GHz. 4GHz seems to be a danger zone and going over caused stability troubles, so I used that speed as my top end wall. The Turbo CORE multiplier is set to x16.5 but can be adjusted. The core CPU multiplier is only 14x so the base frequency for each core only reached 3.38GHz. There was still plenty of headroom left on my RAM as it was only at 1611MHz .
I lowered the Turbo CORE Multiplier from x16.5 to x15.5 which dropped the Turbo CORE CPU frequency to 3.75GHz. The system still remained stable. I continued up on the on the HT frequency until I reached 260. At this setting I once again reached 4GHz on the Turbo CORE. However, the base frequency on the CPU was 3.6GHz. My RAM had reached 1730MHz and near its maximum limit also. The system did crash at this setting, however an increase on the CPU voltage to 1.35v corrected it. I decided that this would be a prime speed to keep this CPU at for the first round of testing as it's base speeds are well over the 1090T and the Turbo CORE speed hit the 4GHz speed. My RAM is also just about at it's limit as well. I attempted to lower my RAM timings but the system refused to boot properly.
Under these settings I reached these speeds:
Max System Overclock - 1055T Without Turbo CORE
I decided that there also needed to be an overclock where the CPU would run at the MAX speed at all times. This would be an overclock with the Turbo CORE disabled. Naturally, I kept the original settings that I had with the previous overclock and just tried to push it further. I rebooted the computer and disabled Turbo CORE in the BIOS. Next, I reloaded AMD Overdrive and continued overclocking as I had done previously, but from the 260MHz HT frequency speed. I was only able to achieve 265MHz on the HT frequency before the system was completely unstable. Upon further inspection I saw that my RAM had reached its 1770MHz wall. Not only that, the Northbridge and HT Link Frequency had pushed to 2650MHz as well.
Therefore I had to reboot into the BIOS and drop my memory multiplier down to x5.33. My RAM was now at 1412MHz and had more headroom for increases. However, the system was still unstable. I decreased both the Northbridge and HT Link multiplier from x10 to x9 in the BIOS, and the system was stable once again. This lead me to believe that there was also a wall on those settings.
Windows booted up again and stability tests ran fine. I pressed on with the overclock under AMD Overdrive. Eventually I reached a HT reference frequency of 286MHz. This put the CPU at a base clock speed of 4GHz. Stability tests did cause a crash, but a final increase on the CPU voltage to 1.4v corrected the crashes. I decided that this would be the stopping point for the CPU overclock. However, it left my memory speeds short. I had only reached 1524MHz, well under the stock 1600MHz speed. I booted into the BIOS and attempted to lower my memory timings. I was able to drop the RAM timings to 7/7/7/20 and remain stable.
Under these settings I reached these speeds:
Max GPU Overclock - Sapphire Radeon HD 5770
After my first CPU/RAM overclock I wanted to get a maximum overclock on the video card also. This was much easier to do as GPU overclocking is rather simple. I downloaded and launched MSI Afterburner to do the overclocking and ran FurMark at 640x480 in the background to test stability. Speeds were raised in 10-15MHz increments and then applied for a few seconds to verify artifacting and stability.
I was able to get the GPU Core clock to 950MHz before I started seeing artifacts and problems on FurMark. I proceeded to increase the voltage to 1.225 which kept everything stable and I was then able to get the Core up to 1GHz. Anything after that remained unstable. Next was the memory clock. I was able to get that past 1410MHz, however when I passed that point I started losing FPS and had artifacting.
This was the end of my GPU overclock. Very simple with MSI Afterburner. There are alternate ways to overclock that keep things more permanent, such as flashing the GPU's firmware with edited specifications. Messing up with those types of overclocks can permanently damage or "brick" your hardware. I find the low level overclocking to work the best as if there are any complications, a simple reboot brings you back to the original settings.
In the end I was able to reach these speeds:
Max CPU Overclock - 1090T With Turbo CORE
This processor was benchmarked and overclocked by another reviewer so I don't have the priveledge of writing the step by step instructions that were taken to max it out. However, I will list the end results for reference.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Putting It All Together" class="system-pagebreak" title="Putting It All Together" />
The AMD Phenom II X6 1055T is an awesome CPU. The mainstream system's baseline speeds were well under the higher end counterpart. That was expected. However, once pushed I was able to bring the system to life and match or beat the higher end system in some situations.
In the end the best speeds that I was able to achieve on the 1055T was the 3.6GHz/4GHz Turbo CORE settings. These settings both pushed the CPU past the 1090T, and also pushed my RAM to get maximum performance also. If you take a look at the synthetic benchmarks like Sandra and Everest, you can clearly see that the memory performance does take a hit because of the slower speeds overall, even when overclocked. However, if you take a look at benchmarks like Worldbench and PC Mark Vantage, it doesn't make a gigantic difference in real world performance. In some cases, the higher CPU clock speeds made the mainstream system faster.
The only area of the overclocked mainstream system that was beaten the worst was in the gaming performance. This is due to the limitations of the 5770 video card. It is a highly overclockable video card, however it has pitfalls with a 128-bit memory interface, 800 shader units, 40 texture units, and 16 ROPs. Even overclocked, it doesn't keep up with the 5870 in most of the benchmarks that are GPU intensive. The 5870 has the same base clock speeds, but the luxury of 256-bit memory, 1600 shader units, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs. There is also the core difference where the 5770 has 1.04B transistors and the 5870 has 2.15B. In the end the 5870 has double the power. The 5770, in the system as a whole, still does give everything a run for its money and prove to be an excellent video card. I had every setting maxed out and peaked my tests at 1680x1050, the maximum resolution for my monitor.
Looking at the 1055T specifically, the technology is no different from the 1090T. As I stated in the introduction, companies tend to do this and it is something that can be taken advantage of by the enthusiast. The primary thing that AMD did was rate the base and turbo CORE operating frequency for each of the processors at differently. The 1090T also is a "Black" edition which has an unlocked CPU multiplier, whereas the 1055T is locked down at 14x. Other then those things, they are virtually the same processor, so it's no surprise that I was able to achieve nearly the same results when I overclocked the 1055T.
The upside of it all is that I maxed out all of the settings for each benchmark and the mainstream system still performed them at phenomenal levels. This is my definition of a true enthusiast. I was able to find excellent quality, moderately priced equipment, and push it to perform just as well,or better, as an expensive system in most cases. Now you can be the judge of paying the extra $650+ is it really worth it.
<hrdata-mce-alt="Conclusion" class="system-pagebreak" title="Conclusion" />
Provided By: AMD
No compensation was received for review of this product.
At a price of $199 the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T is in the mainstream category of processors.
The AMD Phenom II X6 1055T performed spectacular. Base speeds were great and it's overclocking performance was incredible.
Now you can see what my definition of a true enthusiast. It's not someone that can buy the best, or flex the biggest e-peen. It's not someone that knows everything about everything and can flame anyone that disagrees with them. It's someone that has the means and knowledge to get the most out of their system without wasting money. It's the person that waits for those special components that can deliver all of the performance and joy without having to spend their entire paycheck for a single component.
I took a mainstream system and pushed its parts to give high end performance. I documented my steps also, so if you have any questions on how to overclock a system, this can almost be used as a guide for the locked AMD CPUs. I don't make a habit of overclocking my systems unless I feel it is warranted. With the recent "enthusiast" talk that has risen in our forums, I felt this was a necessary review to complete to voice my opinion on the matter. When it comes to being an enthusiast, overclocking is a high priority. Research and careful product selection is also another important aspect. I fear with the advent of new self overclocking CPUs, and GPUs, manufactures releasing "factory overclocked" versions of their cards, as well as the bending and twisting of the computer enthusiast term around the web, my vision of true enthusiasm is getting lost.
Another little gem has reared it's head for the old school enthusiast. It comes in the form of the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T. At around $100 less you can overclock and get the same or better performance then the 1090T. AMD gave you all the same technology at a slower clock speed and slashed price.