Summary: Today AMD is introducing 8 new Athlon II CPUs intended to service different segments of the budget CPU market. For HTPC users, new 45W dual, triple, and quad core offerings should deliver good performance along with low power, while performance junkies on a budget will want to look at AMD's new Athlon II X3 CPUs. See how the new chips stack up in terms of performance and OC'ing in this article!
AMDís on a mission. Their goal? To become profitable by the end of the year.
To achieve this goal, theyíre racing to phase out their existing lineup of 65-nm Athlon and Phenom CPUs. With their larger die, these sub-$100 chips need to go: theyíre bigger, hotter, and arenít as profitable for AMD to manufacture as their latest 45-nm Athlon II CPUs are. The problem is AMDís got a ton of them out there, and thanks to the economic slowdown, businesses and consumers arenít upgrading like they used to, which has made the 45-nm transition drag on far longer than AMD originally planned.
Fortunately thereís light at the end of the tunnel. Inventories are finally drawing down and demand is beginning to improve. With the arrival of Q4 and the holiday shopping season, as well as the release of Windows 7, OEMs are hoping things will begin to pick up.
Like the rest of the industry, AMD is counting on this too. Their graphics unit just unleashed the worldís first DirectX 11 cards from the mainstream and high-end markets, and today AMD is introducing a slew of new Athlon II parts. All together, 8 Athlon II CPUs are being launched today.
For the HTPC crowd who wants their performance in a small, efficient package, AMDís debuting new 45W dual-core and quad-core parts, while the user who wants price/performance will appreciate AMDís new triple-core Athlon II CPUs. This marks the first time AMDís brought triple-core computing to the Athlon II family. The following chart outlines the new CPUs being launched today:
As you can see, AMDís offering two new 45W quad-core processors, the 2.3GHz Athlon II X4 605e, and the 2.2GHz Athlon II X4 600e. Priced at $143 and $133 respectively, these new processors definitely come with a price premium Ė AMDís 2.8GHz Athlon II X4 630 sells for just $122 Ė but theyíre still considerably cheaper than Intelís equivalent parts, the Core 2 Quad Q8200S and Q8400S, which sell for well over $200 and with a 65W TDP rating (the Q8200S also lacks support for virtualization).
The new Athlon II X3 CPUs are based on AMDís ďPropusĒ core launched last month. This is a purpose-built 45-nm core thatís had its L3 cache removed in order to make it cheaper for AMD to produce. Die size is just 169 mm2 compared to Denebís 258 mm2. (To provide a little more perspective, AMDís old Athlon X2 7850 Black Edition, which was based on the ďKumaĒ K10 core and launched in April of this year at $69, featured a much larger 285mm2 die.) Like Deneb, Propus features 512KB of L2 cache per core, with the 3-core Athlon II X3 chip offering 1.5MB of L2 total. AMDís codename for this crippled Propus core is ďRanaĒ.
AMD merely disables one of Propusí four cores for the Rana core inside Athlon II X3, and while many motherboards support core unlocking, we havenít had any luck getting this feature to work with any CPU we have here in our labs, so itís by no means guaranteed.
Finally, in addition to the new triple and quad-core Propus parts, AMDís introducing two new 45W dual-core Athlon II CPUs, the 2.8GHz Athlon II X2 240e and the 2.7GHz Athlon II X2 235e. With the debut of these chips, AMD now has a low-power option for dual-core users.
We managed to secure samples of two of the eight new CPUs AMD is launching today, the Athlon II X3 435, and the 45W Athlon II X2 240e. Weíre pairing them against Intelís Pentium E6300, as well as AMDís quad-core Athlon II X4 620 and AMDís fastest dual-core CPU, the 3.1GHz Phenom II X2 550. Will the Phenom IIís superior clock speed and cache configuration win out? How well do the new CPUís overclock? Letís find out shall we?
Intel Pentium E6300
ASUS P5E3 Premium
4GB (2x2GB) OCZ DDR3 PC3-16000 Platinum @ DDR3-1333 Speeds
AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition
AMD Athlon II X4 620
AMD Athlon II X3 435
AMD Athlon II X2 240e
4GB (2x2GB) Corsair CM3X2G1600C9DHX @ DDR3-1333 Speeds
ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB
Catalyst 9.10 Beta
500GB Western Digital Caviar SE16
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Resident Evil 5
Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
Far Cry 2 Ė Direct3D
Crysis Ė Direct3D
World In Conflict
Resident Evil 5 Ė Direct3D
Based on the same game engine as Lost Planet, Resident Evil 5 is designed to take advantage of multithreading, although it doesn't scale quite as dramatically as Lost Planet's Cave test. Here we see the triple and quad-core CPUs have a significant advantage over the dual-core processors.
We were eager to see how far we could push the new Athlon II X3 CPU. The Propus CPUs we tested a month ago topped out at 3.679GHz and 3.76GHz respectively. With one of its cores disabled, we were hoping to hit higher speeds with our 435 chip, but alas it wasnít to be.
At stock voltage the chip topped out at 3393MHz (14.5x234). We then needed 1.475V of juice to get the CPU to run at speeds as high as 3639MHz (14.5x251). Thatís a little bit lower than the other Propus CPUs we tested.
Fortunately the Regor-based Athlon II X2 240e went a little further. Here we managed to hit speeds of 3514MHz (14.0x251) on stock voltage. We then bumped the voltage up to 1.45V to achieve a max stable speed of 3878MHz (14.0x277). We could actually boot into Windows at speeds of 4GHz, but couldnít get stability.
All CPUs were OCíed with a Zalman CNPS9700-Cu. It certainly isnít the latest and greatest cooler on the market, and perhaps we couldíve gone further with an even better cooler.
As we outlined at the outset of this article, completing the 45-nm transition is a significant step to getting AMD back in the black. These chips are cheaper for AMD to manufacture than older Phenom parts, they run cooler, and thanks to their high clock speeds, perform better. Itís a win for the consumer, and a win for AMD.
As it stands right now, AMDís the clear performance leader in this space of the CPU market, and frankly it isnít even close. From a price/performance perspective, AMDís latest Athlon II CPUs are often priced against 45-nm Pentium, rather than Core 2, CPUs. As you saw in the benchmarks, the $84 Pentium E6300 we included in the charts was outrun by Athlon II X3 and Athlon II X2 CPUs in all of our gaming benchmarks, and only put up a strong showing in our MP3 testing with LAME. Everywhere else AMDís Athlon II X3 435 reigned supreme. Its toughest competitor isnít Intel, rather itís AMDís other Propus core that we raved about back in September, the Athlon II X4 620.
Intelís not only lacking in performance in this space either. Their value CPU lineup also lacks variety. While AMD offers a wide range of dual, quad, and now triple cores in the $60-$100 segment, Intel relies solely on dual-core Pentium CPUs.
Intel could easily improve their position in this space if they wanted, all it would take is Core 2 Duo E7400 and Core 2 Quad Q8200 price cuts to make that happen. But so far Intelís stubbornly refused to drop Core 2 prices, even while Lynnfield CPUs deliver better performance and the same, if not lower pricing.
Obviously Intelís willing to concede this business to AMD for the time being.
While the wide array of CPUs AMDís now offering in this space is definitely a bit hard to follow, at the same time itís also refreshing to see so many choices on the market. Whether you need two, three, or four cores, and based on your performance and power needs, AMDís got something for everyone in the value segment.
AMD has this space locked down tight, and as long as Intel continues to basically ignore it in favor of higher margin Core 2 and Core i5/Core i7 CPUs, we donít see this changing until Intel begins to introduce 32-nm parts. At that point, things may begin to get tougher for AMD. Until then though, AMD delivers the best budget CPUs money can buy.
Now youíll just have to pick which value AMD CPU to choose from. This answer is going to depend on your needs and your budget. HTPC users will probably opt for one of the 45W CPUs, but if you need more performance, the X3 435 or X4 620 would be better buys. And if you absolutely canít cough up more than $70 for a new CPU, the Athlon II X2 is the CPU for you.
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