Not In The Clear Yet
Things are looking good for the Phenom II so far. The ability to present a better value than the products it was targeted to compete against means that the Phenom II's launch has met its goal. It has introduced a new, competitive product which can finally give people a reason to buy AMD rather than Intel. As newer, cheaper, less powerful Phenom IIs begin to trickle down, AMD's new processor may become the CPU of choice for those looking for a mid-range or low-end processor.
That said, the fact that the Phenom II is competing with Core 2 Quads poses an unavoidable problem. The Core 2 Quad is a two-year-old architecture, soon to be replaced completely by the faster Core i7 processors. Since AMD's plans don't include a major architecture revision until sometime in 2011, the Phenom II and, perhaps, a future Phenom III will likely be all the new products from AMD we'll see until that revision. In other words, it isn't likely to get much better than this. Considering how far away AMD is from the performance of the Core i7 processors in some benchmarks, AMD is going to be forced to compete on price, meaning less profit for the company.
And competing on price is a minefield in other ways, because the products that AMD intends to compete with are older models which Intel could easily drop prices on. Coming to the end of their lifespan in the Intel lineup, Intel will likely be seeking to get rid of its stock of old processors. This may or may not pan out - it is notable, after all, that you'll still find old E4600 Core 2 Duos on Newegg selling for more than the much newer and faster Wolfdale Core 2 Duo processors. However, as the situation currently stands, AMD's Phenom II is at the mercy of Intel's pricing.
But I don't want to appear to negative. As the next article in the series will show, there are some good reasons to buy not only a Phenom II, but also a full AMD-based "Dragon" system, with CPU, GPU, and Mobo made by the same company. AMD also has a few other tricks that will increase its appeal to enthusiasts.