Although Intel's Core Duo and Quad processors have pretty much taken over the top performance rung from rival manufacturer AMD, fans of the underdog company have reason to rejoice... Phenom is here. While the next generation K10 chip officially launched late last year, it did so amid a swirl of controversy over lower than expected operating frequencies and discovery of a transition lookaside buffer error in the L3 cache, commonly known as the TLB errata. While the errata bug only affected processor virtualization, a server-class feature rarely used in desktop applications, most motherboard manufacturers followed AMD guidelines and implemented a BIOS patch, which probably did more harm than good. The fix could hinder performance of the chips by as much as 10-20% depending on the benchmark used, and many board makers did not include an option to disable the patch.
Given the problems with the Phenom B2 chips, coupled with the delay of nVidia's 700 series launch and teething problems with AMD's reentry into the chipset market, many previous fans began converting to Intel or simply holding out for something better. And something better is what AMD delivered some months later with the Phenom B3. With a new 9x50 numbering scheme to represent the latest stepping, and no longer plagued by the TLB errata, AMD re-released the Phenom X4 chips to retail suppliers with 2.2, 2.4 and 2.5Ghz operating frequencies. The new top dog of the bunch is the 9850 Black Edition processor, boasting a previously unseen 2.5Ghz and with an unlocked multiplier, this chip is sure to attract the attention of overclockers. Another recent release that has boosted Phenom sales is the launch of nVidia's 700 and 8000 series chipsets, offering AMD buyers another option when shopping for a motherboard.
So if you're finally thinking about taking the K10 plunge, or you are looking to get a little more out of your Phenom processor, this guide was written with you in mind. There are a number of differences between AMD K8 and K10 architectures, enough to cause some confusion even among previous AMD users, and can certainly be a struggle for any newcomers to the field. There are a number of tools that can be handy for aspiring overclockers to use, but probably the single most important utility that you will need is CPU-Z. You can download the program at CPUID. If you don't already have it, or are working with an older release, take a moment to grab the latest version and we'll get started right away.
First up, the basics... bus speed and CPU core.