AMD enters the performance game in third place with its brand-new, six-core, 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 1090T processor. Codenamed "Thuban," this $299, 45-nanometer CPU can hit speeds of up to 3.6GHz as a result of Turbo Core, the AMD equivalent of Intel's automatic overclocking technology (which is called Turbo Boost).

The X6 1090T's 6MB L3 cache is half that of Intel's six-core chip, and it takes a performance hit of 20 percent compared with Intel's Core i7-980X. The X6 1090T also lacks an answer for hyperthreading, a critical technological component of Intel's top-shelf CPU lineups.

Performance gaps aside, the X6 1090T wins the compatibility race against Intel by a mile. You can drop this CPU into any existing motherboard with AM3 or AM2+ sockets (after a BIOS upgrade). The combination of a simple upgrade path and the CPU's super-low price of $299 makes for a great alternative to upgrading your existing motherboard and memory, if you just want to reap the benefits of a new, up-to-date processor.

OUR VERDICT

AMD's first-ever six-core desktop CPU beats all of the company's other offerings, but are its advantages strong enough to justify an upgrade? You decide.