A month ago AMD introduced the world’s first quad-core processor to debut at $99. Last week, AMD announced its third quarter earnings for 2009. While the company as a whole lost money, the Product Company (CPU and GPU design) turned a small profit. I don’t want to say that the worst is behind AMD, but things are definitely looking up.

Income Q3 2009 Q2 2009 Q1 2009
AMD -$128 Million -$330 Million -$416 Million
AMD Product Company +$2 Million -$244 Million -$308 Million

 

And for the consumer, AMD is providing a ton of value these days. You're getting more transistors per dollar than Intel will give you, and it's not just bloat, these things are fast:

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/X3 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
Intel Pentium E6xxx 2 45nm 64KB per core 2MB 0MB 82 mm2 228M

 

The value train continues with todays introduction of the first triple core Athlon II processors: the Athlon II X3 435 and 425. Clocked at 2.9GHz and 2.7GHz respectively, these processors are simply Athlon II X4s with one core disabled.

 

They’re also quite affordable. The 435 will set you back $87 while the 425 costs $76. This puts them on par with Intel’s Pentium E6000 series dual core processors, but cheaper than the Core 2 Duo E7500. This has been AMD’s high end dual core strategy for the Phenom’s life: sell three cores for the price of two. And in the past, it has worked.

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 X3 435 2.9GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $87
AMD Athlon II X3 425 2.7GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $76
AMD Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $87
AMD Athlon II X2 245 2.9GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $66
AMD Athlon II X2 240 2.8GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $60

 

The X3s AMD is announcing today are clocked high enough that you still have good performance in single threaded applications, and in those that can take advantage of three cores you’re almost guaranteed to have better performance than the Intel alternative.

The real question you have to ask is whether it makes more sense to spend a little more than get a quad-core processor or not.

The Athlon II X3s are 45nm 95W TDP parts and work in both Socket-AM2+ and Socket-AM3 motherboards. As I mentioned before, these are architecturally identical to the X4s just with one core disabled. That means you get a 512KB L2 per core but no L3 cache.

I’ll spoil the surprise for you here: they’re faster than the equivalently priced Intel CPUs in most cases, but that’s not too surprising.

The Athlon II X3 435 is a bit more overclockable than the X4 620. Without any additional voltage we got 3.25GHz on our 620 sample, but our 435 yielded 3.33GHz:

With an extra ~15% voltage we could get 3.63GHz:

AMD is also introducing a slew of energy efficient Athlon IIs as well. They’re all in the table below:

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache TDP Price Premium
AMD Athlon II X4 605e 2.3GHz 2MB 45W $143 +$44
AMD Athlon II X4 600e 2.2GHz 2MB 45W $133 +$34
AMD Athlon II X3 405e 2.3GHz 1.5MB 45W $102 +$26
AMD Athlon II X3 400e 2.2GHz 1.5MB 45W $97 +$21
AMD Athlon II X2 240e 2.8GHz 2MB 45W $77 +$17
AMD Athlon II X2 235e 2.7GHz 2MB 45W $69 +$9

 

These energy efficient processors are binned for lower voltages and thus have a 45W TDP. Unfortunately you do sacrifice clock speed in some cases as a result. There's also a hefty price premium, at the high end you lose clock speed and pay 44% more for a 45W TDP.

 

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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  • Fleeb - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Or maybe, these three are just the same person craving for attention in real life he cannot have. Do not hate the guy. Pity him. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link


    Sorry for the double post! The submission form just gave an error
    the first time round, but I guess it went through anyway. Anand,
    please feel free to delete this post and my previous duplicate.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link


    Anand, just curious, the test platform description includes mention
    of an X58 mbd, yet there are no i7 results in the tables. How come?
    Then again, including a couple of data points from a P55 with an
    i5 750 and i7 860 would be more useful. AMD wins on price by a mile
    of course (personally I reckon the 620 is the best buy much of the
    time) but for those occasions where only 1 or 2 threads are running,
    the i5 750 might win on price/performance. If it's deemed appropriate
    to include a top-end Ph2 in the results, then surely at the very
    least the i5 750 should have been included aswell just to put things
    into perspective? I would include an 860 aswell just to show where
    the curves are heading on the Intel side, but nothing above that.

    And btw no, I don't agree with anything maddoctor says. Speaking of
    which, can you please ban the guy? Once again the discussion section
    of an otherwise interesting article is just being filled up with
    junk. To everyone else: please don't reply to his posts, you're just
    making it worse. It's a sad fact of nature that half the population
    have got to be below average. Who _are_ these people? Sheesh, I can
    almost hear the banjo, da da ding ding ding... :D

    Ian.

    PS. One other thing Anand, have you ever tested how high the 620
    can be oc'd with a *good* air cooler? I know the retail AMD cooler
    allows it to reach 3.25, but what about with something better? Someone
    mentioned the Coolermaster Hyper TX2 as being a suitable alternative.

    Reply
  • rupa - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    hi ... my 620 is stable till 3.380 (260x13) - noctua nh-u12p default vcore x64 asus m3a78t

    Reply
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link


    Anand, just curious, the test platform description includes mention
    of an X58 mbd, yet there are no i7 results in the tables. How come?
    Then again, including a couple of data points from a P55 with an
    i5 750 and i7 860 would be more useful. AMD wins on price by a mile
    of course (personally I reckon the 620 is the best buy much of the
    time) but for those occasions where only 1 or 2 threads are running,
    the i5 750 might win on price/performance. If it's deemed appropriate
    to include a top-end Ph2 in the results, then surely at the very
    least the i5 750 should have been included aswell just to put things
    into perspective? I would include an 860 aswell just to show where
    the curves are heading on the Intel side, but nothing above that.

    And btw no, I don't agree with anything maddoctor says. Speaking of
    which, can you please ban the guy? Once again the discussion section
    of an otherwise interesting article is just being filled up with
    junk. To everyone else: please don't reply to his posts, you're just
    making it worse. It's a sad fact of nature that half the population
    have got to be below average. Who _are_ these people? Sheesh, I can
    almost hear the banjo, da da ding ding ding... :D

    Ian.

    PS. One other thing Anand, have you ever tested how high the 620
    can be oc'd with a *good* air cooler? I know the retail AMD cooler
    allows it to reach 3.25, but what about with something better? Someone
    mentioned the Coolermaster Hyper TX2 as being a suitable alternative.

    Reply
  • Zool - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    For a fast compare with other procesors the test setup is not bad but for some people some the benchmarks could be misleading.
    People will not buy these cpu-s just to put them together with a intel SSD drive and a gtx280.
    I think it wouldnt take much longer to test it with average hdd and a sub 100$ gpu. I would care much less if i cant compare it to other anad tests with high end cpus.
    Reply
  • Zool - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    For a fast compare with other procesors the test setup is not bad but for some people some the benchmarks could be misleading.
    People will not buy these cpu-s just to put them together with a intel SSD drive and a gtx280.
    I think it wouldnt take much longer to test it with average hdd and a sub 100$ gpu. I would care much less if i cant compare it to other anad tests with high end cpus.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Zool,

    The purpose of using an SSD is strictly for the variability between tests. What Anand's site never shows (and one of my major complaints) is % error. In any statistical measurement you always present the amount of error in a test. What this might show is there is no REAL clear winner, or very little difference as when you get close (say within 5%), and you have a large variability (say due to a standard HD or run-to-run variability), the numbers become moot.

    I will agree with you on the GTX280, however, as that is a pointless component for this price sector.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    As an example I went back and looked at the game data. The Fallout3 data is generated MANUALLY by running through an area and using FRAPS. The X2/X3 chips are bunched up with less than 1 fps between them. I would wager a hefty sum that the % error in this test is greater than 1fps and so any chips within that range are EQUAL. Same goes for Left 4 Dead... Reply
  • maddoctor - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I don't see anything wrong for the benchmark setup, but other SSD products are not competitive and have lower performance than Intel products. The most wrong thing about is Anand is compare AMD rubbish product to Intel products. Reply

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