This new hex-core chip is symptomatic of AMD's current predicament: that its most expensive PC processors sell for barely one-third the price of Intel's.

And that's not a situation the new AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition is going to change – despite the fact that it's officially AMD's fastest and most expensive chip.

With a retail sticker around £215, the AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition is priced on a par with the very cheapest of Intel's Core i7 processors such as the Intel Core i7 870. Nevertheless, it serves up six execution cores to the 870's four. Six-core Intel CPUs are far more expensive, starting around £700.

Then again, Intel's cores do much more work per cycle. Until it releases the long awaited Bulldozer CPU architecture, AMD needs to sell more cores for less cash. In the meantime, this revised six-core Phenom II X6 raises AMD's game incrementally with an increase in clockspeed from 3.2GHz to 3.3GHz.

For the most part, the AMD Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition is not a new processor. It's based on AMD's increasingly familiar six-core Thuban die, a chip that can trace its roots directly back to the AMD Hammer CPU architecture first seen in 2003. Thus, it's a 45nm CPU with 512k cache per core and a further 6MB of shared cache memory.

As with all existing desktop AMD chips, it drops into the AM3 socket and supports DDR3 memory. In fact, the only significant difference compared to AMD's previous range topper, the Phenom II X6 1090T, is operating frequency. The new chip runs at 3.3GHz, just 100MHz more than the old 1090T.

Courtesy of AMD's Intel-aping Turbo feature, up to three cores can run at 3.7GHz. If that seems disappointing, it's worth remembering that small increases in operating frequency can also come with a big boost in overclocking headroom.

Here's hoping

A brief glance at stock clock performance brings no surprises. AMD has finessed the new 1100T's pricing carefully and it matches up well with the Intel Core i7 870 in multithreaded benchmarks such as video encoding and professional 3D rendering. There's really nothing to choose between them.

However, the World in Conflict game benchmark exposes the Phenom's weak per-core performance. Gamers looking for the best frame rates still need to look to Intel at this price point. As for overclocking, the new 1100T is slightly disappointing and fails to match the 4GHz maximum frequency we managed with the older 1090T model.

Mileages inevitably vary from chip to chip, but the 3.8GHz result suggests the 1100T is more a rebadge than a respin. Like all of AMD's six-core Thuban chips, the Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition gives you a lot of cores for not much cash. The result is excellent multithreaded throughput, with slightly ropey comparative gaming performance.

AMD's CPU architecture really is getting ancient and it certainly shows in some benchmarks. An Intel chip with lower clocks and fewer cores is often faster, and sadly for AMD, that's still where the smart money's going.

Benchmarks

Professional rendering performance
Cinebench R10 - Seconds: Faster is better

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T BE: 47s
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE: 47s
Intel Core i7 870: 48s

Video encoding performance
x264 HD - Frames per second: Higher is better

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T BE: 27fps
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE: 26fps
Intel Core i7 870: 27fps

Gaming performance
World in Conflict - Frames per second: Higher is better

AMD Phenom II X6 1100T BE: 61fps
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE: 59fps
Intel Core i7 870: 81fps