Core i5 vs. Phenom II X4 CPU Review


Core i5-750 (2.66 GHz) from Intel is costing today USD 200 and AMD doesn’t have any Phenom II X4 at the same price tag. The closest matches are Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition (3.2 GHz), costing USD 189, and Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition (3.4 GHz), costing USD 245 – which are the fastest CPUs from AMD –, putting Core i5-750 in the middle of the two in terms of price. But how about performance? Which CPU is faster, Core i5 or Phenom II X4? Let’s see!

Both Core i5 and Phenom II X4 have an integrated memory controller supporting DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz in dual-channel configuration. One of the main architectural differences between Core i5 and Phenom II X4 is the presence of an integrated PCI Express 2.0 controller on Core i5, which in theory improves the practical transfer rate achieved by video cards. This controller provides 16 lanes, meaning that it can be connected to one video card working at x16 or to two video cards working at x8 each. On Phenom II X4 the PCI Express 2.0 controller is located on the chipset from the motherboard.

Another feature present on Core i5 and not available on Phenom II X4 is Intel Turbo Boost technology, which is essentially an automatic overclocking made by the CPU when it “feels” that the program needs more processing power (this is done only when the CPU has some of its cores idle and the total CPU temperature and thermal dissipation is still within specs).

AMD CPUs talk to the external world (i.e., the chipset) through a bus called HyperTransport (working at 8 GB/s on the two models we included in this review), while Core i5 use the DMI (Digital Media Interface) bus to talk to the chipset (working at 2 GB/s), which is the interface previously used to make the connection between the north bridge and the south bridge chips on Intel chipsets. At a first look it seems that AMD has the advantage here, but since Core i5 talks directly to the main video card without using its external bus and without using the chipset, this solution seems adequate.

On the tables below we compare the main specs from the CPUs we included in this review.

CPU Cores Internal Clock Turbo Clock External Bus Base Clock Core Technology TDP Socket SSE4 Price
Core i5-750 4 2.66 GHz 3.20 GHz 2 GB/s 133 MHz Lynnfield 45 nm 95 W 1156 Yes USD 200
Phenom II X4 955 4 3.2 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Deneb 45 nm 125 W AM3 No USD 189
Phenom II X4 965 4 3.4 GHz 8 GB/s 200 MHz Deneb 45 nm 140 W AM3 No USD 245

TDP stands for Thermal Design Power which advises the user of the maximum amount of heat the CPU can dissipate. The CPU cooler must be capable of dissipating at least this amount of heat.

The prices listed were researched at on the day we published this review


L1 Cache

L2 Cache

L3 Cache

Memory Support

Memory Channels

Core i5-750

32 KB + 32 KB per core

256 KB per core

8 MB total

DDR3 up to 1333 MHz


Phenom II X4 955

64 KB + 64 KB per core

512 KB per core

6 MB total

DDR3 up to 1333 MHz


Phenom II X4 965

64 KB + 64 KB per core

512 KB per core

6 MB total

DDR3 up to 1333 MHz


Pay attention as on the Phenom II X4 box the manufacturer says “8.0 MB Total Cache;” AMD has obviously added the values of L2 (4x 512 KB) and L3 cache (6 MB) to reach this figure.

Now that you know the contenders, let’s see how they performed.

Since we have the data from several other Intel CPUs we collected for our Core i5-750 and Core i7-870 review, we will add them also to our charts, but on the text we will be exclusively comparing the performance of Core i5-750 and the two top Phenom II X4 CPUs from AMD.

Author: Gabriel Torres

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.

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