“AMD in many cases delivers greater performance than the similarly priced Intel CPUs, but not nearly a large enough performance gap to make up for the difference in die size. Again, great for consumers, but potentially painful for AMD in the long run. As yields improve AMD should be able to make more of these cores members of the 900 family, but without a separate, smaller die there will still be economic inefficiencies at the lower end.”

“AMD’s Phenom II is very competitive, but the strategy does not have much long term staying power. AMD needs to introduce smaller die versions of its CPUs soon.”

Ask and you shall receive, right?

Intel did a bang up job tarnishing the Pentium name with its clock speed rampage during the Pentium 4 days, but the Athlon brand still holds a special place in our hearts.

This is the Athlon II, and it’s exactly what I’ve been asking for:

The Athlon II X2, to be specific, is a 45nm monolithic dual-core processor.  While the most recent Athlon X2s are derivatives of the original Phenom architecture, the Athlon II is based on the new and improved Phenom II architecture.


The name lives on

Take two Phenom II cores, increase their L2 caches to 1MB, leave out the L3 and you’ve got an Athlon II.  The entire die measures only 117.5 mm^2 and is made up of a meager 234 million transistors.  The table below compares the Athlon II’s die size to other competing parts:

Processor Cores Manufacturing Process L1 Cache L2 Cache L3 Cache Die Size Transistor Count
AMD Phenom II X2 2 45nm 128KB per core 1MB 6MB 258 mm2 758M
AMD Athlon II X2 2 45nm 128KB per core 1MB per core 0MB 117 mm2 234M
AMD Athlon X2 2 65nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 2MB 285 mm2 450M
AMD Athlon 64 X2 2 65nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 0MB 126 mm2 154M
Intel Pentium for Desktop 2 45nm 64KB per core 2MB 0MB 82 mm2 228M

 

The new Athlon II is actually AMD’s smallest dual core processor ever, even smaller than the original Athlon 64 X2.  It’s also AMD’s first 45nm dual-core processor.  It’s also AMD’s first Socket-AM3 processor to carry the Athlon brand (ok, I’ll stop).  As an AM3 chip it will work in both AM3 and AM2+ motherboards, just like the Phenom II.

The Athlon II is only launching with one model today the 3.0GHz Athlon II X2 250.  Priced at $87, it’s likely that we won’t see more Athlon II X2s until AMD is ready to further switch its lineup over to 45nm in order to keep up with demand.

The Phenom II X2 550 BE

We actually get two new dual-core chips today, the second is the new Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition.  Like all of the other chips in the Phenom II lineup, the X2 550 is simply a die-harvested Phenom II X4 part.  In other words, what we have is a quad-core Phenom II with two of its cores disabled.  Given that it’s still fairly early in GlobalFoundries’ 45nm manufacturing process, it makes sense to see so many harvested parts.  I would expect these Phenom II X2 and perhaps even the X3 derivatives to either disappear or shift out of the limelight as AMD’s yields improve.

Because it’s based on the quad-core Phenom II processor, the X2 550 BE has a full 6MB L3 cache that the two cores can share.  The L2 caches are still stuck at 512KB but with a large 6MB L3, there’s very little to complain about.  The unlocked Black Edition part runs at 3.1GHz and retails for $102.

Availability and New Energy Efficient Phenom IIs

AMD is expecting availability for both of these parts in the next week or so.

The table below shows AMD’s new lineup with these two chips.  Note that I’ve also included data on the Phenom II X4 905e and the Phenom II X3 705e.  These two CPUs run at 2.5GHz and have a 65W TDP, down from 125W and 95W for all previous AM3 parts.

Processor Cores Clock Speed un-core Clock L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 4 3.2GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $245
AMD Phenom II X4 945 4 3.0GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $225
AMD Phenom II X4 940 BE 4 3.0GHz 1.8GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $225
AMD Phenom II X4 920 4 2.8GHz 1.8GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $195
AMD Phenom II X4 910 4 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 6MB 95W $???
AMD Phenom II X4 905e 4 2.5GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 6MB 65W $195
AMD Phenom II X4 810 4 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 4MB 95W $175
AMD Phenom 9950 4 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 2MB 140W $173
AMD Phenom II X4 805 4 2.5GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 4MB 95W $???
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE 3 2.8GHz 2.0GHz 1.5MB 6MB 95W $145
AMD Phenom II X3 710 3 2.6GHz 2.0GHz 1.5MB 6MB 95W $125
AMD Phenom II X3 705e 3 2.5GHz 2.0GHz 1.5MB 6MB 65W $125
AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE 2 3.1GHz 2.0GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $102
AMD Athlon II X2 250 2 3.0GHz 2.0GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $87
AMD Athlon X2 7850 2 2.8GHz 1.8GHz 1MB 2MB 95W $69

And just for kicks here's a specs table with both AMD and Intel CPUs in it:

Processor Cores Manufacturing Process L1 Cache L2 Cache L3 Cache Die Size Transistor Count
AMD Phenom II X4 4 45nm 128KB per core 2MB 6MB 258 mm2 758M
AMD Phenom II X3 3 45nm 128KB per core 2MB 6MB 258 mm2 758M
AMD Phenom II X2 2 45nm 128KB per core 2MB 6MB 258 mm2 758M
AMD Athlon II X2 2 45nm 128KB per core 1MB per core 0MB 117 mm2 234M
AMD Athlon X2 2 65nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 2MB 285 mm2 450M
AMD Athlon 64 X2 2 65nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 0MB 126 mm2 154M
Intel Core i7 4 45nm 64KB per core 256KB per core 8MB 263 mm2 731M
Intel Core 2 Quad 4 45nm 64KB per core 12MB 0MB 214 mm2 820M
Intel Core 2 Quad 4 45nm 64KB per core 4MB 0MB 164 mm2 456M
Intel Core 2 Duo 2 45nm 64KB per core 6MB 0MB 107 mm2 410M
Intel Core 2 Duo 2 45nm 64KB per core 3MB 0MB 82 mm2 228M
Intel Pentium 2 45nm 64KB per core 2MB 0MB 82 mm2 228M
Athlon II X2: Hardware C1E and Return of the CnQ Bug
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  • Gary Key - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    The X2 6400+ is in the charts now and you can always use our Bench tool to compare a whole litany of processors against each other. AMD is currently phasing out of 90nm production and even several 65nm products will be phased out this year as they ramp the 45nm production. Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, June 04, 2009 - link

    WOW, it really amazes me how little performance has improved. Athlon II X2 750 (3ghz) is barely faster in most benchmarks than a Athlon X2 6400+ (3,2ghz), and loses in 1 or 2.

    So the phenom core redesign buys around 300mhz around 3ghz, or only 10%. Everything else that improved in phenom is uncore.

    And this while the original is at 90nm and the new one is 45nm, what a waste of potential. It seems to me AMD could've tried a little harder with the Athlon II.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    There's a small util/service out there that brings phenom II cnq behaviour from vista over to windows xp (phenom II's cnq behaves like phenom I's cnq under windows xp). It does this by disabling standard cnq (set power management not on "minimal") and implementing pstate changing itself

    http://home.comcast.net/~pmc650/site/?/page/CNQ_Ph...">http://home.comcast.net/~pmc650/site/?/page/CNQ_Ph...

    Maybe it can do the same for the Athlon II X2 on vista...
    Reply
  • mohindar - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    Hello Anand,

    It will be very nice to provide some benches regarding desktop virtualization, like how windows-xp usage on this chip and so on...
    Reply
  • plonk420 - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    i'm curious to see this on the bench! Reply
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link


    I'm beginning to wonder whether AMD/Intel are making the same mistake
    we saw last year with gfx cards, ie. too many different options. What
    is the target market for the new AMD CPUs? Many retailers seem to
    offer just a small selection.


    Any chance you could add an i7 920 and a 6000+ to the tables please?
    The former for completeness, the latter to show how the newer AMD
    parts stack up against a typical older product. I'd been hoping for
    a suitable replacement for the 6000+ in my ASUS board, but still nothing (no BIOS support).

    Atm it looks like my next system will be an i7 920 setup (core task
    is video encoding). In the past there's been lots of talk about the
    higher cost of an i7 system, but looking around yesterday, I was
    surprised at how small the difference has now become. The i7 920 is
    only 18% more than the Ph2 955 BE. Expecting a larger difference for
    the mbd cost, I found an X58 board from Gigabyte (the GA-EX58-UD3R,
    135 UKP from LambdaTek) right in the middle of the price range of
    typical AM3 boards. They both use DDR3, so that isn't a factor. I
    was going to build a Ph2 955 BE system for my brother as his next
    gaming rig, but with such small price differences now in play, the
    i7 looks more sensible.

    Oh, a typo on the first page perhaps? Surely it should be 2 cores for
    the Athlon64 X2?

    Ian.

    Reply
  • smilingcrow - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    Judging by other reviews your choice of using the x264 HD Bench Pass 1 for the Power Consumption comparison doesn’t give a true representation of the situation.
    As expected other reviews shows the Athlon II X2 having a noticeably lower power consumption under typical loads.

    The Phenom II X2 has too much extra circuitry to have lower power consumption and I’m surprised that you didn’t deduce that something was amiss.
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    As I mentioned on the power consumption page, I'm guessing it has more to do with the current level of BIOS support for the Athlon II's power management. AMD is expecting a much better situation in the coming weeks.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    The one comparing various Athlon X2 specs. The table says the Athlon 64 X2 has 4 cores. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - link

    Woops, thank you :)

    -A
    Reply

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