How Does the New 4000+ Stack Up?

Today AMD is also introducing a new X2, the Athlon 64 X2 4000+. Running at 2.0GHz but equipped with a 1MB L2 cache, the X2 4000+ fits nicely in between the X2 3800+ and the X2 4200+. Its pricing is also in between the two chips, coming in at $25 more than a X2 3800+ and $37 less than the X2 4200+.

The closest competition from Intel, after its recent price cuts, is the Pentium D 950. Clocked at 3.4GHz and armed with a 2MB L2 cache per core, the Pentium D 950 is priced at $316 in 1,000 unit quantities putting it in between the X2 4000+'s $328 and the X2 3800+'s $303 price tag.

3D Rendering - Cinebench 9.5

Our first benchmark is a 3D rendering test using Cinebench 9.5. We focused on the multi-threaded CPU rendering scores since we're primarily testing dual-core CPUs here. The benchmark reports performance in its own Cinebench units, but the important thing is that higher numbers mean better performance.

3D Rendering Performance - Cinebench 9.5

Cinebench 9.5 shows absolutely no performance difference between the 3800+ and the 4000+, indicating that the 512KB of L2 cache per core is sufficient for the dataset used in this test (alternatively it could be that even a 1MB L2 cache isn't big enough to hold the working dataset). The end result is that since the 3800+ and the 4000+ feature the same clock speed, in situations where a larger L2 cache isn't helpful we'll see absolutely no performance difference between the two processors. Combine this with the possibility that 512KB parts perform better on AM2 than they did on 939 and we start off seeing very little need to recommend the 4000+ over the cheaper 3800+.

3D Rendering - 3dsmax 7

Our next 3D rendering test has been around for a while on AnandTech, it's the 3dsmax 7 SPECapc test that we've used in past CPU reviews. The results we're reporting here are the SPECapc composite scores which are a geometric mean of four rendering tests and scaled against a set of reference scores that are included with the SPECapc benchmark package.

3dsmax 7 - SPECapc Benchmark

Once again we see basically no performance difference between the 3800+ and the 4000+, proving that clock speed is all that matters here with the Athlon 64 X2. Unlike the Cinebench test however, the Pentium D 950 is able to take the performance lead. Intel's Pentium D architecture continues to be quite competitive in 3D rendering and media encoding tasks as we're about to see.

Video Encoding - DivX 6.1.1 Pro

Next up to bat is DivX 6.1.1 Pro, once again a benchmark used in previous CPU reviews. Our testing methodologies haven't changed, so let's take a look at the results.

DivX 6.1.1 Pro with Xmpeg 5.0.3

DivX performance is extremely strong with the Athlon 64 X2 4000+ and 3800+, but once again we see absolutely no performance difference between the two CPUs. Both AMD offerings are able to significantly outperform the Pentium D 950.

Video Encoding - Windows Media Encoder 9

While H.264 is the way of the future for video encoding, the vast majority of content today is still encoded in MPEG-2, DivX or using Microsoft's Windows Media Encoder codecs. Just as in previous reviews we're using the Advanced Profile enabled by installing Media Player 10 alongside WME9 which allows for better video quality options and as a result ends up stressing dual-core CPUs even more.

Windows Media Encoder 9 - Advanced Profile

The Athlon 64 X2 4000+ manages to pull slightly ahead of the 3800+, but the two are basically tied. The Pentium D 950 is far more competitive in the WME9 test but isn't tangibly faster than the X2 4000+.

Video Encoding - Quicktime Pro 7.0.4 (H.264)

Until we get support for GPU accelerated H.264 encoding and/or faster CPUs, the number of H.264 encoding applications will remain quite limited. Apple's Quicktime Movie Trailers site has a great deal of H.264 encoded content and using Quicktime 7.0.4 you can generate the same quality, bitrate and file size of content. This is the same test we've run in the past, re-encoding the SD Quicktime movie trailer for Hoodwinked using the H.264 codec. All of the encoding settings were left at their defaults.

H.264 Encoding with Quicktime Pro 7.0.3

We continue to see a very small performance advantage for the Athlon 64 X2 4000+ but it's nothing worth writing home about, the X2 3800+ is just as good. The Pentium D 950 continues to be a close competitor but definitely isn't any faster than the two AMD solutions.

MP3 Encoding - iTunes 6.0.1.4

Almost a decade ago MP3 playback and encoding could bring even the fastest system to its knees, but today we can encode a 300MB wav into a 192 kbps MP3 in far less than a minute. We left all settings on their defaults except that we did not allow iTunes to play back the song while importing.

MP3 Encoding with iTunes 6.0.1.3

Given the nature of MP3 encoding it's not a surprise that there's no performance difference between the 4000+ and 3800+, but there's also no difference in performance between the AMD solutions and the Pentium D 950.

Gaming - Quake 4 1.1

With the later versions of Quake 4, id Software implemented multi-core support and we saw some pretty impressive performance gains on dual-core CPUs. As always we ran at the game's built in High Quality settings at a resolution of 1024 x 768; SMP was of course enabled.

Quake 4

Just as we saw performance differences between AM2 and 939 in games, we see a difference between the 4000+ and 3800+ in these very same games. The fact that the AM2 platform sees a performance gain in 3D games indicates that they are noticeably more memory bandwidth dependent than other applications, and thus we see a benefit to the 4000+'s larger L2 cache. The Pentium D 950 does surprisingly well here, especially considering Intel's very poor reputation for gaming performance.

Gaming - F.E.A.R.

With the graphics options set to F.E.A.R.'s default High Quality and the computer settings at Maximum, we ran the built in F.E.A.R. benchmark reporting average frame rate.

F.E.A.R.

The Athlon 64 X2 4000+ holds a 6% performance advantage over the 3800+ thanks to its larger L2 cache, which continues to make a reasonable difference in our gaming tests. The Pentium D 950 is nipping at the heels of the 3800+, but the 4000+ is untouched at the top here.

Gaming - Oblivion

Our final gaming benchmark uses Oblivion at the same quality settings we used in our recent Oblivion CPU comparison, the only difference is that we ran at 1024 x 768 to make this more of a CPU test and less of a GPU test. We used our Oblivion Town benchmark and reported the average frame rate obtained using FRAPS.

Oblivion

As we saw in our Oblivion CPU comparison, this game really favors AMD's K8 architecture for all of its strengths and severely penalizes the Pentium D for its NetBurst roots. The Athlon 64 X2 4000+ does continue to hold a performance advantage over the 3800+, but it isn't as large in Oblivion as we've seen in the previous two games.

So How Does the Athlon 64 X2 4000+ Stack Up?

At the end of the day the Athlon 64 X2 4000+ is still a very nice CPU that doesn't cost that much more than an X2 3800+; however, unless you're a gamer, you can probably get by pocketing the difference and sticking with the extremely competent 3800+. This is one of the unfortunate consequences of AMD's model number system, where a model number increase can be attributed to either a clock speed bump or an increase in cache size - the model number won't always convey true performance.

Surprisingly enough, the Pentium D 950 is extremely competitive here. Since it's built on Intel's new 65nm process the CPU is actually fairly cool compared to Pentium Ds of the past. Competition is good, but with sometimes significantly higher gaming performance, the Athlon 64 X2 still gets our recommendation here.

Does AM2 Reduce the Impact of L2 Cache Size? A New FX
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  • darkdemyze - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    z-ram isn't due for AMD procs for quite some time, I doubt this is their plan for June.. Reply
  • mlittl3 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    Basically this is what I said above for my guess of the "trick" AMD will use. Anand said it will only affect some high-end users, read FX series so it can't be price cuts as some have suggested (that would effect everyone). Adding L3 cache is the only performance improvement I can think of that doesn't require changing the microarchitecture of the cores (well at least not a big change).

    However, TDP is still an issue here as someone above suggested. I don't know how much more power it takes to run L3 cache. Last time AMD did it was on K6 and power wasn't really measured back then.

    By the way, please ignore Questar's comment below about z-ram being pig slow. I really don't think he knows what he is talking about. /shields eyes from incoming Questar flame
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - link

    K6-III did not have L3 cache. It had L2 cache, making the cache that all socket-7 boards had then an L3 cache.

    So, let's stop saying things like 'AMD hasn't done L3 cache since K6-III', etc.
    Reply
  • mino - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - link

    Well, IMHO the point is AMD has used exclusive 3-level cache structure in the past so they have som experience with thi arrangement. Reply
  • Questar - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    No flame here, look it up for yourself.

    Z-RAM has high capacitive loading, which results in slow speed.

    At 4MB it'll run half the speed of SRAM.
    Reply
  • Questar - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    Large amounts of Z-RAM are pig slow. Reply
  • Ecmaster76 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    Seriously, the one area an Athlon X2 would be bandwidth starved and does it get tested in the preview? NO
    In the review? NO

    How long ago did we know that the K8 was not bandwidth limited in single application usage? YEARS


    So yeah, DDR2 din't increase the 3dMark, big surprise
    Reply
  • mlittl3 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    I think 3dMark06 is multithreaded now so all available cores and bandwidth should be used within the limits of the program. I could be wrong about this however. Reply
  • Ecmaster76 - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    3Dmark06 is almost completely GPU limited. The 3Dmark CPU score did increase a bit, but I really was referring to graphics benchmarks in general. Reply
  • cscpianoman - Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - link

    I was just noticing the performance differences between the FX and the EE. In some cases the FX tromps the EE by "gasp" 30%! In other cases the EE makes it's mark. This is part of the reason I am skeptic on Conroe. Yeah it's good. But I always take what Intel, or AMD for that matter, with a grain of salt. Just today we saw the 30% advantage translate down to about 15%. This seems just like any other generation change where 15% is to be expected. The current hype for the Conroe is a product of Intel's excellent marketing dept. Reply

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