AMD Phenom Quad Core review - oh the power!

Finally its released! I've been waiting for this for a long time now to try in my server and AMD has kindly provided one for me to review :)

For now I'm leaving the discussion of the "who's got a true Quad core" aside as I'm sure you already know that one (hint: Its AMD...:) ). Power wise its fantastic - the cores perform exceptionally well with no lag like I was getting before with the AMD X2 6000+ cores running about 5-7 workloads at a time. I'm not a benchmarker and don't have an Intel quad to benchmark against so Ill leave that to reputable magazines like APC to review.

What I can say about the performance though is that this quad has now exposed a disk channel problem that while was a minor issue before, is now much more of a major issue as things happen much quicker. Looks like I might have to buy another disk for RAID 0 :)

So what did I have to do to get it to work? AMD touted the Quad as slot in replacement for current dual core hardware. They told me that most current boards should work as many of them have updated BIOS's to support the Quad. IMAG0038In my instance the Gigabyte board I was using didn't have an update to support it as the chipset was just a bit too old. I went and bought a new one from ASUS. Its the M2A-VM HDMI board and it runs the AMD 690 chipset. I did want to use the newest chipset 7 boards to be able to take advantage of Hypertransport 3 though those boards aren't available as yet in Micro-ATX which I need for my portable server. That said I'm told that Hypertransport 3 really doesn't benefit a server much and is apparently focused at the gamer.

The wait for the new board wasn't long and once it arrived the process of installing it began. IMAG0039Thankfully the Lian Li case I got awhile ago when Qantas baggage services beat the last case I had to death made the board switch pretty easy - it just slots out on a removable chassis and it wasn't long before it was up and running. the only bummer was the fact that the BIOS was a bit old and wouldn't support the Phenom. I had to do an update which I always dread as it usually means mucking around with floppy disks in DOS mode or you need to run a BIOS update within Windows. I've tried doing that under Vista and it blocks it... ASUS have fixed all that and the process is very easy. The BIOS update can be done via USB Flash memory! I slotted in the AMD X2 6000+ proc into it first and started it up. Flashing was easy as pie. Insert USB stick with the update.bin file on it and start the ASUS EZ flash utility.


Once its flashed you're ready to switch it off and slot in the quad core.....yeah baby! Simple as can be!

In my case this machine runs as a server which meant a new installation of Windows Server 2008 RC2 with Hyper-V x64 edition. Knowing that it was going to be a Hyper-V box I checked the BIOS again to make sure the settings were correct. New to me, ASUS seem to have an explicit switch to turn on the hardware assisted virtualisation which wasn't present before in previous boards I've used.

So that's BIOS flashed - check! Quad installed - check! Virtualisation enabled - check!

IMAG0044 Ready to run! I installed Windows Server 2008 and enabled Hyper-V with no problems or issues and a couple of reboots later all was up and running. The only annoyance I've noticed hasn't been to do with the Quad at all and only the move from the previous beta of Hyper-V to this one. The integration components needed updating for the new beta and while I was able to uninstall and install the new integration components in Windows Server 2003, I couldn't in Windows Server 2008. Had to rebuild all my images again! I suspect though if before upgrading to the new build of Hyper-V that you uninstall them first before the upgrade and then install once complete you should be fine.


So now I have a running AMD Quad with Windows Server 2008. I'm getting al my VM's progressively restored back to their previous states and I'm currently building a bunch of new VM's for the Wave Launch event happening throughout February, March and April. Will bring this quick little box along for the ride!