How does AMD respond to Lynnfield? Is it by drastically cutting prices on Phenom II? Nope. By introducing the world’s first quad-core processor to debut at $99. Now that’s cool.

It’s called the Athlon II X4 and its existence shouldn’t be any surprise. AMD quietly announced it along with the Athlon II X2 line.

Today we get two models: the Athlon II X4 630 and the Athlon II X4 620, priced at $122 and $99 respectively. The only difference between the two is clock speed; the 630 runs at 2.8GHz while the 620 runs at 2.6GHz. These are both AM3 chips meaning they'll work in AM3 motherboards with DDR3 memory or AM2+ boards with DDR2 memory.

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz 2MB 6MB 140W $245
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $245
AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $225
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE 2.8GHz 1.5MB 6MB 95W $145
AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE 3.1GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $105
AMD Athlon II X4 630 2.8GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $122
AMD Athlon II X4 620 2.6GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $99
AMD Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $87

This isn’t a harvested Phenom II nor is it a pair of Athlon II X2s, instead it looks like we have a brand new die on our hands (some Athlon II X4s will be crippled Phenom IIs but AMD insists that the new die will be used). The Athlon II X4 has four cores on a single die, but unlike the Athlon II X2 each core only has a 512KB L2 per core. You can tell by the die shot that the core-to-cache ratio is much higher than on the X2:


The 45nm Athlon II X4 Propus die


The 45nm Athlon II X2 die (note the larger L2 per core)

Like the rest of the Athlon II lineup there is no L3 cache. This helps keep the die small (and affordable) but also hurts performance:

Processor SYSMark 2007 Overall E-Learning Video Creation Productivity 3D
AMD Phenom II X4 920 (2.8GHz) 173 151 212 167 167
AMD Athlon II X4 630 (2.8GHz) 157 128 221 131 162
% of Phenom II X4 91% 85% 104% 78% 97%

 

At the same clock speed the Athlon II X4 should offer roughly 90% of the performance of a Phenom II X4.

Processor Cores Manufacturing Process L1 Cache L2 Cache L3 Cache Die Size Transistor Count
AMD Phenom II X4 4 45nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 6MB 258 mm2 758M
AMD Athlon II X4 4 45nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 0MB 169 mm2 300M
AMD Athlon II X2 2 45nm 128KB per core 1MB per core 0MB 117 mm2 234M
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8xxx 4 45nm 64KB per core 4MB 0MB 164 mm2 456M

 

The price is unbeatable. If we ignore the 630 for a moment, the Athlon II X4 620 is by far the cheapest route to four cores on the market. Intel’s most affordable quad-core is the Core 2 Quad Q8200 at $163, while AMD would previously charge you $163 for a Phenom X4 9600B. This is where the AM3/AM2+ compatibility play really helps out. Motherboard/memory costs are as cheap as possible thanks to AMD's incredible socket flexibility.

And just in case you’re wondering, yes, the Athlon II X4 620 actually delivers performance competitive with the Q8200 but for 60% of the cost. It’s not all that clear cut, there are some cases where the 620 is faster but others where the Q8200 is much faster. On average it ends up being a wash but you’ll want to pay attention to the coming pages to see how the cookie crumbles as it does vary from test to test.


Codename Propus

Overclocking isn't unfortunately as good as the Phenom IIs; the result of a conscious design decision or simply the early nature of the Propus die. That being said, without a single extra millivolt I was able to hit 3.25GHz on my Athlon II X4 620 sample - making it even more valuable. Extra voltage proved mostly useless, I could only approach 3.4GHz with an extra 300mV.

Let’s see, have I thoroughly ruined the surprise? Check. Now let’s get to the tests.

The Test

Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-UD5P (AMD 790FX)
Chipset: Intel X48
Intel X58
AMD 790FX
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Patriot Viper DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
NVIDIA ForceWare 178.24 (Vista32)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (for SYSMark)
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
SYSMark 2007 Performance
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  • smn198 - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - link

    [quote][It] is unfair to present the results this way, turbo is overclocking[/quote]

    I think we need to review our definition of overclocking. For years both Intel and AMD, have varied processors' speed and voltage based on temperature and workload. Intel has now changed how they are doing this. Using two cores your processor runs at one speed and using all four, it runs at another. As this is how Intel is selling the CPU I'd argue that this isn't overclocking as by definition, this is running at a frequency beyond spec. Therefore it is a perfectly fair way to present the results.
    Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - link

    "Therefore it is a perfectly fair way to present the results."
    - Yes, but it's also an incomplete way of viewing Turbo CPUs, as demonstrated in Gary's follow up benchmarks. Based on his benchmarks, the i5 loses its Turbo advantage if you start heavily multitasking the system. In heavy multitasking, the i5 performance approaches the performance of i5 with Turbo off, which was generally worse than the Phenom II 965, at least based on the benchmarks supplied by Gary. So it's definitely another variable to keep in mind when comparing CPUs.
    Reply
  • jonup - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - link

    Well Intel could not clock the i5 at higher stock because it would have outperformed the i7s. People should stop complaining about benches with turbo on. Fact of the matter is i5 outperforms the PII clock for clock and overclocks higher that the PII. the 965BE is clocked 700+MHz higher than the i5 and it consumes a lot more energy. The fact of the matter is that Intel will not clock the i5 at 3.2GHz and disable the turbo mode (because of the i7), but you can do it (safely). Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 - link

    > People should stop complaining about benches with turbo on.
    Well, it depends on what the complaint is. For me personally, my complaint has been that the Turbo on numbers alone are not enough to describe the capabilities of a Turbo CPU. I wanted Turbo off numbers too, to get a baseline on what the CPU can do when Turbo can't help.

    Thankfully, Gary has done that and it shows that when you throw a lot of tasks at the i5, it falls noticeably behind the 965BE. And that's important to know. If I had to choose between the i5 and 965BE at home, my choice is the i5, because I do so little at home that pushes 4 cores, that the Turbo would be useful and helpful. At work, however, I'm pushing all of my available cores compiling large amounts of source code, while zipping or unzipping files, while my version control client app is busy doing whatever it's doing in the background eating up one of the cores at 100%, while I'm running a simulator app which requires another core. In this case, I MUST choose the 965BE over the i5, because the i5's Turbo can't help me, so it performs closer to Turbo off, making it worse than the 965BE.

    So for me, that's why I want Turbo off numbers. I'm after the complete picture.
    Reply
  • jonup - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    Well as erple2 said make your decision based on the multithreaded benchmarks. Also, even in multithreaded apps the turbo kicks in (marginally), therefore, disabling the turbo is not giving you an accurate picture.
    Anyways, it seems like in you work environment you will be better off with an i7, because Gary's number do show significant improvement with HT on in multithreaded test. Especially since you use it for work, the ROI will justify the additional $100 expense.
    My point however was that if you are given the opportunity (bios access) you will be better off OCing the i5 to 3.2GHz (the single core turbo on value). After all 965BE is an OCed PII; it is obvious from the power consumption numbers. And due to the reasons I mentioned you will not see a factory OCed i5 (3.2GHz stock clock). That does not mean that i5 cannot run 3.2GHz turbo off (safely), and out perform the PII. I would actually speculate that @ 3.2GHZ, i5 will be within the thermal envelop of 965BE.
    Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    > Anyways, it seems like in you work environment you will be better off with an i7
    You are right and I agree that the i7 with hyperthreading would be the BEST choice for my work loads. Convincing an IT guy that I NEED an i7 when all of our programmers can adequately get work done with our old Pentium D's, uh, that's another matter.

    > you will be better off OCing the i5 to 3.2GHz (the single core turbo on value)
    Yep, this is also an alternative for me, but it works around the issue on how to compare Turbo CPUs to non Turbo CPUs. Also, see my, uh, "essay" written above.
    Reply
  • jonup - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    "Convincing an IT guy that I NEED an i7 when all of our programmers can adequately get work done with our old Pentium D's, uh, that's another matter. "
    Well, in that case you might have an issue convincing them that you need a 965BE. Or a i5 for that matter. :)
    Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    > Well, in that case you might have an issue convincing them that you need a 965BE. Or a i5 for that matter. :)

    Haha, yeah, I know! I'm stuck with my Pentium D for the foreseeable future. :( Unless our IT guys will bite at a $100 Athlon X4... and a bagel or two. :P
    Reply
  • maxxcool - Friday, September 18, 2009 - link

    heh, I gutted my workstation after hours and installed a Kuma 7750 onto a 8200 series asus board. i *had* a p4 3.0ht and it was killing me inside when doing log file grep'ing, compression and local database work.

    the best part was using the companies "reward dollars" to buy the mobo and cpu. :) now.... I magically can do *more* work and am getting more reward bucks.... :D
    Reply
  • jonup - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    Well maybe if you get the begels u can talk him into it. Reply

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