AMD Phenom 2 X4 965 BE
With the Phenom 2 X4 965 Black Edition AMD have created a new performance leader in the Phenom 2 family. The 965 offers a decent increase in performance over the 955 however it will be much more attractive to those on older AMD chips as an upgrade path. It is also worth considering for those who do not quite have the budget to put together a Core-i7 system as there are far more budget motherboards available for AMDs platform than Intel which makes the overall cost of ownership lower.
Overclocking and thermal performance of the CPU were similar to other models in the Phenom 2 range and even those with mainstream cooling will find 3.7GHz achievable. We were also pleased to see that all of the boards in our roundup supported the CPU without issue and that stability was perfect throughout our testing.
Sapphire Vapor-X 4890 2 GB
Sapphires Vapor-X version of the 4890 is an exceptional card offering performance above the reference design thanks to the enhanced clocks and additional memory. When compared to the reference cooler the thermal performance of the card was another highlight with Sapphire knocking nearly ten degrees Celsius of the temperature recorded on a standard ATI card.
Sapphire also impressed us with the design and build quality of the card. It is one of the nicest looking Radeons available and feels very solid. Sapphire have even added heatsinks to the back of the card, something other manufacturers often fail to do. In addition to this the display outputs found on this card should cover any consumer for the next few years thanks to having DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort
Not only does the card impress in terms of performance and features it also allows us to play games with optimal image quality. 1 GB models limit our options in games such as Empire Total War and GTA 4, Sapphire with their Vapor-X 4890 2 GB allow us to play without compromise.
AMD Motherboards All of the boards in today’s roundup offer an excellent platform to base a high specification Phenom 2 platform on. As shown on the motherboard performance page regardless of the board used the performance of the CPU, or the system in the case of gaming, was near identical.
This means that when choosing an AMD motherboard consumers need to look at the features which will benefit them the most. For those who want a high performance system with the ability to run CrossFire in 2×16 mode the Asus Crosshair is the ideal choice. Someone looking for a motherboard with great build quality and excellent connectivity should give a lot of consideration to the Gigabyte 770 based board. The Asus M4A is another which scores highly in build quality thanks to the improved PCB but should also be desirable to those looking for a good onboard graphics solution.
This leaves the ECS 785G and ASRock 790GX. For its price the ASRock board is packed with features, support for Hybrid CrossFire is a bonus but it could do with a slight redesign to remove the need for a PCIe switch card. While the Asus 785G based motherboard is ideal for those with a full ATX case, ECS cover the micro ATX market well with their board. It retains the four memory slots found on the competing products as includes 6 SATA ports to ensure that users wishing to build a fully featured system on the smaller form factor are well catered for.