In simple terms, there are two routes to processor performance. Either crank up the clockspeeds or build an architecture that can crunch lots of instructions in a single clock cycle. Unfortunately for AMD, the new Phenom falls flat on both counts.

Not much of an improvement

For now, the 2.3GHz clockspeed of this chip is the best AMD can do. But the real problem is that the processor architecture that underlies Phenom is only slightly faster, in clock-for-clock terms, than AMD's outgoing Athlon 64 chips.

Even running at 2.9GHz, Phenom lags significantly behind the mainstream 2.83GHz competition from Intel, much less Intel's top chip tweaked to run at 4GHz. The harsh truth is that AMD will have to shave as much as £50 off the price tag to make the 9600 truly attractive.