In mid August, we reviewed the original AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition processor. Aside slight updates that have been made to the processor, it is essentially the same and it's performance at default frequencies certainly reflects this. Not a lot has changed aside it's price which has seen a steady decline from it's original £185 to a much more reasonable £145, allowing it to compete with the Core i5 750 processor for Performance/£. While the performance is naturally the same as the Rev C2 version, this is not a complaint as without a doubt the Phenom II X4 965 is a well rounded product with performance that should tick the boxes of most individuals.
We were impressed by the Revision C3's improved Overclocking Headroom and it's ability to have reached as high as 3.80GHz on stock voltage (1.400V) though it is a shame that our sample could not cross the 4.00GHz barrier for stable operation. From a temperature point of view, we were impressed with the processor's thermal characteristics but there is still no denying that like most other Quad Core processors, it is a warm runner and an aftermarket CPU cooler is necessary for overclocking.
Availability of the updated processor remains to be somewhat scarce although Scan seems to have the updated version in stock for £147. It would seem that there isn't any price premium over the outgoing version and so if you were given the choice between the Rev C2 and C3, then there really isn't anything in it. Get the C3. Our question from the previous review still stands when considering the 965BE's lower clocked predecessor (Phenom II X4 955 BE) which is still available in large quantities for just £125. Would you pay the additional £20 for 200MHz and the potential for a higher overclock? Typical AMD Phenom II X4 overclocks prior to the C3 stepping ranged from 3.60GHz to 3.90GHz, while our particular sample cut out at 3.94GHz. From our point of view, we don't believe that it's worth paying considerably more for the sake of 50MHz, 100MHz or in some cases even 200MHz in overclocking headroom. We have proven that for the gamer (with the exception of FSX), a 540MHz difference in frequency doesn't really make a notable difference in the grand scheme of things particularly at the resolutions which we ran our tests in. This of course may not hold true at resolutions such as 1280x1024 but when monitors in excess of 1440x900 have become so much more affordable, it seems a little peculiar for anyone to spend this sort of money on a Phenom II X4 965 based machine to then scrounge on a vital peripheral. On the other hand, £20 is nothing in proportion to the overall cost of a brand new gaming computer and perhaps it's a small premium to pay for the sake of raising your chances of finding a better overclocker.
It should be noted also that while the pricing of the existing Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition has dropped, so has the Core i5 750, which can be purchased for £135. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the Core i5 750 and Phenom II X4 965 are very comparable CPU's when they are both at their default frequencies but it's a completely different kettle of fish when it comes to overclocking. When the Core i5 750 is paired with the right CPU cooler (this is also a relatively warm processor to say the least) and a respectable P55 based motherboard, 4.00GHz is a common achievement and given that the Intel is faster in terms of "work per clock cycle", the AMD vs Intel decision remains to be a particularly easy one for the overclocker.
All in all, it is great to see that AMD have made incremental improvements to their processors and one can hope that as batch yields improve, we can expect to see even lower prices as time progress and 4.00GHz+ being a more common sight. Once (and assuming) the prices of the Revision C3 units match the outgoing model, it still represents excellent value for the performance that it offers and this holds particularly true thanks to cheaper motherboards resulting in lower overall ownership costs. Good work AMD.
- Directly replaces previous 965BE at the same price point
- Improved Overclocking Headroom
- Consistent performance all round
- Still not enough to keep overclockers away from Core i5