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
Chipset Drivers: Intel (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


View All Comments

  • yacoub - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    I'm glad they're putting these out and vying for the low-end market, but I don't see the point when apparently my E4400 Core2Duo running at 3.0GHz, as it has been for two years now, is still faster.

    When it comes time to replace this, I would expect after two or three years, one could buy a CPU for $99 that near-doubles the performance. I guess not?
  • maddoctor - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    Stick to your E4400 rather than but one of these craps. Intel is much better for you and is cheaper. Reply
  • SunSamurai - Sunday, November 01, 2009 - link


    Oh look a cheaper AMD CPU outperforming a more expensive Intel CPU

  • maddoctor - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Stick to your E4400 Core 2 Duo rather than buy this rubbish. Even averages Joe know who is the brand with most powerful product. Intel is the only company with everyone know about it with the best brand awareness. Reply
  • mihaimm - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Well... you can do exactly that. The Athlon II X4 620 it's exactly 99$ and it OCs to 3.6GHz. I expect it would exactly double the performance of E4400@3GHz. For more than 2 threads that is... Reply
  • Titanius - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    maddoctor is to Intel what snakeoil is to AMD and SiliconDoc is to NVIDIA. Apart from taking different companies side, they are the same thoughtless person in personality probably on the payroll of their respective companies they obsess over.

    Three points:

    1. Competition is the foundation of getting the best bang for the buck.

    2. A monopoly might be good for a little while, but it gets corrupted by its own power and starts abusing its customers.

    3. People that obsess over a particular business disregarding the facts and truths is an annoying, idiotic, hypocritical, retard or they are on the payroll of the company as an annoying marketer in charge of spamming the comments section of articles regarding their products or competing products (how much does that pay BTW, if the price is right, I might be interested...)
  • maddoctor - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    I believe Intel as a single source supplier is the best situation for PC Consumer and the customers. Intel will prices their stuf accordingly with the production cost. I believe someday everyone will be happy when AMD is no more. Reply
  • fineliner - Wednesday, October 21, 2009 - link

    How's Intel "pric[ing] their stuf accordingly with the product cost" in this case?

    September 2009 Price List (From Intel.com):
    i7-950 (8M L3, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 3.06GHz, 4.80GT/sec, Intel QPI 45nm) - $562
    i7-920 (8M L3, 4 Cores, 8 Threads, 2.66GHz, 4.80GT/sec, Intel QPI 45nm) - $284

    I see a gain of clock speed of 400MHz (~15% clock improvements) with the price nearly DOUBLEd! How's Intel treating their customers (probably you are one of them) right?

    I can only see the reason behind is lack of competition. The best Phenom II X4 BE in the market is, maybe, on par with i7-920 (in some of the test, best case scenario). Performance level of a i7-950 is totally out of AMD's reach.
  • Grizybaer - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    Competition shifts power to the buyers. how much is your computer worth to you? trade excel for your calc * paper; trade picassa for shelves of photo albums, trade ur music collection to stacks of cd's.

    I'm cant think of a time when a monopoly is good.

    people who dont post objectively sound more and more like fox news. dont call it stupid or better; gimme some facts, gimme some numbers. Gimme some logic.
  • erple2 - Tuesday, October 20, 2009 - link

    The only time I can think of a monopoly being "good" was waaaay back when cable companies first started rolling along. The monopoly gave them the incentive to roll out cable to (almost) every household in the US, on the stipulation that they had "guaranteed" profits for many years. They wouldn't have gone to the trouble of rolling out cable to so many homes so quickly otherwise.

    Now, however, there's real competition, and those that are stuck with cable only are realizing the "problem" with cable.

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