AMD is usually pretty aggressive with turning process tweaks and yield improvements into new products. Just two months ago AMD gave us the Athlon II X3 450 and the Phenom II X2 565, today we're getting speed bumps of both of those parts. The Athlon II X3 455 runs at 3.3GHz, up from 3.2GHz and costs the same $87. You get an additional 100MHz for free. The chip hasn't changed otherwise. You get a quad-core die with one core disabled, no L3 cache and a 512KB L2 per core.

At $87 this part competes head to head with Intel's Pentium G6950. The Athlon II X3 450 mopped the floor with the G6950 in our last review, and the speed bumped 455 will be no different in this review. If you CPU budget is right around the $80 - $90 mark, AMD has you covered.

The Phenom II X2 565 is an unlocked Black Edition part, also identical to its predecessors. Here you have a quad-core die with two cores disabled, a 512KB L2 per core and a shared 6MB L3. The 565 runs at 3.4GHz, up from 3.3GHz, but the clock increase comes with a $10 price increase.

The 565 goes up against Intel's Core i3 540 and 550 processors. The comparison here is less clear cut. In the case of the Athlon II X3, you get more cores for the same money which really helps AMD out. The 565 by default doesn't give you any more cores, all you get is a higher clock speed and a larger L3 cache. But you lose out on IPC, threaded performance and power consumption. While AMD easily wins between $80 - $90, around $110 - $120 the choice moves back towards Intel. There is just one more thing however.

Both the Athlon II X3 and Phenom II X2 are made from harvested die. As we've seen in the past, these harvested die aren't always bad. In the case of the Phenom II X2 we've seen a number of CPUs with disabled cores that could just as easily be re-enabled. Armed with ASUS' M4A89GTD Pro/USB 3 890GX motherboard I tried to see if I could enable any of the disabled cores on the two samples AMD sent me.

In the case of the Athlon II X3, enabling the fourth core wasn't a problem. ASUS' Core Unlocker enabled it and the system was just as stable as before, now with four fully functional cores. I could even overclock the four cores just as far as I could overclock the chip with only three cores enabled.

I managed to get three working cores on the Phenom II X2, however I couldn't boot into Windows 7 with the fourth core enabled.

A Phenom II X2 565: Overclocked and with one additional core unlocked

In the case of the $87 Athlon II X3 turning into an $87 Athlon II X4, you can't get better than that. Your mileage will most definitely vary. I've had Phenom II X2s that would work as quad core parts, triple core parts and refuse to work at all above two cores. The same goes for the Athlon II line. You can't count on core unlocking working, but if it does, it's great additional value.

The Phenom II X6 1100T

The six-core Phenom II X6 gets a speed bump as well. The 1100T increases default clock speeds from 3.2GHz to 3.3GHz, and increases Turbo Core frequency from 3.6GHz to 3.7GHz. Turbo Core is only supported on Thuban based processors (currently only Phenom II X6s) and increases operating frequency if half or fewer cores are actively in use.

The bigger news here is the 1100T reflects AMD's new Phenom II X6 pricing:

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X6 1100T BE 3.3GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $265
AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $235
AMD Phenom II X6 1075T 3.0GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $199
AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.8GHz 3MB 6MB 125W $195
AMD Phenom II X4 970 BE 3.5GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $185
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $165
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $145
AMD Phenom II X2 565 BE 3.4GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $115
AMD Phenom II X2 560 BE 3.3GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $105
AMD Phenom II X2 555 BE 3.2GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $93
AMD Athlon II X4 645 3.1GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $122
AMD Athlon II X4 640 3.0GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $100
AMD Athlon II X3 455 3.3GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $87
AMD Athlon II X3 450 3.2GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $87
AMD Athlon II X3 445 3.1GHz 1.5MB 0MB 95W $76
AMD Athlon II X2 265 3.3GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $76
AMD Athlon II X2 260 3.2GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $69
AMD Athlon II X2 255 3.1GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $66

At $265 this puts the 1100T between the Core i5 760 and the Core i7 860. While the Core i7 860 still has the edge in some of our tests, the 1100T is within striking distance and cheaper. In heavily threaded apps, the 1100T's six cores really come in handy and give AMD the win. Combine the two and you can get a better value. However Intel still holds the advantage in lightly threaded scenarios thanks to the i5/i7 aggressive turbo modes.

The Test

To keep the review length manageable we're presenting a subset of our results here. For all benchmark results and even more comparisons be sure to use our performance comparison tool: Bench.

We've moved all of our AMD CPU testing to the 890GX platform. While nearly all numbers are comparable you may occasionally see some scaling that doesn't quite add up compared to lower clocked versions of the same chips running on a previous motherboard.

Motherboard: ASUS P7H57DV- EVO (Intel H57)
Intel DP55KG (Intel P55)
Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
Chipset Drivers: Intel (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280 (Vista 64)
ATI Radeon HD 5870 (Windows 7)
Video Drivers: ATI Catalyst 9.12 (Windows 7)
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
Windows 7 x64
SYSMark 2007 & Photoshop Performance
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  • slagar - Wednesday, December 8, 2010 - link

    I think part of the problem is that AMD is a minority, and this affects their image. Intel has that big, family-friendly, it's-everywhere-so-it-must-be-good appeal. AMD being the niche, it feels like an unknown, possibly unsafe option.
    In the shop, if you see 7:1 machines with Intel Inside vs AMD, not knowing much about computers, the safer bet seems to be the Intel, regardless of specs.

    Personally I'm rooting for AMD to catch up of course :)
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    You do realize that core i3, i5 and i7 for the socket 1156 all use the same socket? Feel free to drop a G6950 or i7 870 in there - the board doesn't care.

    Socket 1366 with 3 memory channels and the upcoming high end platform with 4 channels are where the fun ends. Oh, and Socket 1155 for Sandy Bridge breaking compatibility (again) sucks.

  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    misfit410 writes:
    > If I go i3, I have very few upgrade options, need a new motherboard for i5,
    > then If I want to move up from there yet another motherboard for i7..

    Why not just use a good P55 board? Supports all of them. eg. Asrock P55
    Deluxe, only about $110. I have one with an i3 540, another with an i5 760,
    and two with i7 870s, the latter overclocking nicely:

    And from what I've read so far, the i3s oc like crazy (I'm expecting good
    results, not started yet, but the chip is idling at only 17C with a TRUE).

    You don't need different mbds for these CPUs, just choose wisely.

  • rwgove - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    they didnt mention bulldozer, either. what's your point?
  • ckryan - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    I'm glad AMD topped of the tank. I like what they're doing, and as a recent AMD convert, I like to think the future is bright. But that's the problem. The future. I don't know what they've got in the works, but it will have to be funky to compete with Intel. As it now stands, you can't get more value for the money than buying an AMD processor. But even if you buy the newest AMD processor, its almost like you're already two years behind. I've bought 3 AMD processors in the past few months, and I like the value. Sooner or later though, AMD is going to have to seriously revamp their CPUs to stay in the race.

    Sometimes I feel like AMD is the USSR, and Intel is America. Yeah, they got a basketball into space. We landed on the moon. At some point, AMD isn't going to be able to lag behind as they are, just competing on price. If Intel sold a 32nm 4 core part for $150, it would end AMD as we know it. Sometimes I feel like AMD is running on borrowed time. Unlike the space race and arms race, no one at Intel tosses and turns at night thinking about what the next weapon coming out of AMD is. AMD needs to take about 10% more market share from Intel, then someone might start worrying. Still, even if AMDs run is over, the past few years have been awesome for consumers reaping the benefits of AMDs pricing.
  • OneArmedScissorB - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    "If Intel sold a 32nm 4 core part for $150, it would end AMD as we know it."

    AMD have already been selling $99 quad-cores for over a year. What would that change?

    Let me guess: you're inventing some hypothetical situation where Intel decides to just give away Sandy Bridge, their fancy new technology, when it's at the top of its game.

    And yet, that's exactly what you're accusing AMD of doing wrong. Stick to what you know, people. Being an "enthusiast" of something is a hobby and not a profession. There's a reason the people in charge of those things wear suits instead of comic book shirts and don't do anything remotely like what every backseat businessman of the tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny DIY desktop market suggests. :p
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    I believe what he means is that if Intel were to sell current Bloomfield/Clarksfield quad-core processors for $150 -- and let's be honest, they could do so considering the chips aren't bigger than the Thuban core -- then there would be less incentive to buy an AMD quad-core at $100. But then, Intel has never sold their top-flight processors for under $180 really, so we continue with the status quo.
  • Calin - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    AMD is not really a competitor for Intel right now, so Intel is happy to leave it be. On the other hand, AMD's existence lessen the weight of any "monopolistic practices" accusations against Intel.
    As for lowering prices... a price war hurts all the competitors, and Intel really has nothing to gain by selling more processors at lower prices
  • Finally - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    Sometimes I feel like AMD is the USSR, and Intel is America.

    space race and arms race

    Yeah. But you have to follow through with your historical anecdotes:
    The USSR couldn't compete with the industrial power giant USA, so it went bankrupt due to the - pardon the pun - astronomical - costs of a hi-tech (nuclear) arms race combined with a space program combined with a useless war of atrition in Afghanistan. They ran out of money, USA lost, hooray USA - that's where you'd like to close your book and pretend that (hi-)story is over and done with.

    The only thing is: It isn't over (yet)!
    You (i.e. the USA) are committed to the very same mistake. You are still trying to outrun yourselves in useless money wasters - except that you occupy not only Afghanistan, but also Iraq. I'm always astonished when I hear about the daily costs (was it a million per day? Several millions?) and how you (i.e. the American taxpayer) gladly pay up corrupt government contractors as well as evil private mercenary companies...

    If you keep spending like this your crumbling empire will vanish just like the USSR.
    It's an amusing irony that you trained, supplied and funded your own terrorist #1 to fight the eeevil Soviets :)

    You created your very own monster and now it's loose.
    With a budget of $2.50 for a bunch of box cutters he makes you spend millions and billions on "homeland" security. His plan works. You are terrified, crazed and spending your ass off in order to prevent terrorist attacks that are several thousand times less likely to kill you than dying from a peanut allergy...

    And this is why that analogy doesn't work.
    Intel is much bigger than AMD and has a R&D budget AMD could only dream of, but they are no superpower committed to throw their money out of the window...
  • Finally - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - link

    It should be:
    "They ran out of money, USSR lost, hooray USA!"

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