Now that AMD has finally managed to release a Phenom-branded processor worth buying, the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition, albeit a fairly basic triple-core model, another fundamental problem has been revealed – the lack of killer Socket AM2+ motherboards.
Despite the efforts of the combined bit-tech
and Custom PC reviews writers (we’ve looked at 20 plus Socket AM2+ motherboards in the last six months) none have really stood out – at least not for the right reasons. Although there have been a few ‘better than average’ designs, such as the Asus M3A79-T Deluxe, most of the motherboards have offered a poor combination of sluggish performance, limited overclocking and restrictive BIOSes.
What’s worse, seven different motherboards have gone up in smoke while running overclocked. In every case, the VRMs have failed to handle the huge power requirements of our Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition test chip. Harry’s very own office PC was the last victim
of underspecced VRMs – half-way through writing up a review last week the VRMs exploded, not only shutting down the PC, but filling our lab with black smoke and an objectionable smell.
Now, its one thing for the enthusiasts not to buy underwhelming AMD processors because they are not competitive; but Socket AM2+ is doomed to failure if manufacturers don’t bother spending much time developing and investing in their motherboards.
In contrast, none of the LGA775 motherboards we’ve tested in a similar time frame have blown up when overclocked. Of course, some motherboards are better overclockers than others, but none have attempted to replicate a Napleonic battlefield, complete with black smoke, a nasty smell and lots of dead components littering the floor.
The tragedy is that AMD motherboards haven’t always been this bad. Back in 2005, when Athlon 64 ruled the enthusiast market, Socket 939 motherboards were streets ahead of their LGA775 competitors. Socket 939 motherboards were not only great for overclocking; they also helped to introduce interesting new features such as SLI and CrossFire.
Hopefully manufacturers will start to invest more time and resources in their Socket AM2+ motherboards in the future (Socket AM3 is expensive and provides no real benefit); otherwise AMD’s recent success with the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition
will be for naught. Without a good selection of overclockable, user-friendly, feature-rich motherboards to choose from you’ll still be better off building a Core 2 Duo/Quad system instead.