by Rob Williams on October 9, 2009 in Processors
Last month, AMD became the first company to bring a $99 quad-core processor to market, the Athlon II X4 620. The question, of course, is whether or not it delivers. At 2.60GHz, it looks to offer ample performance, but the lack of an L3 cache is sure to be seen in some of our tests. Luckily, the chip’s overclocking-ability helps negate that issue.
It goes without saying that power efficiency is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds today, and for good reason. Whether you are trying to save money or the environment – or both – it’s good to know just how much effort certain vendors are putting into their products to help them excel in this area. Both AMD and Intel have worked hard to develop efficient chips, and that’s evident with each new launch. The CPUs are getting faster, and use less power, and hopefully things will stay that way.
To help see what kind of wattage a given processor draws on average, we use a Kill-A-Watt that’s plugged into a power bar that’s in turn plugged into one of the wall sockets, with the test system plugged directly into that. The monitor and other components are plugged into the other socket and is not connected to the Kill-A-Watt. For our system specifications, please refer to our methodology page.
To test, the computer is first boot up and left to sit at idle for five minutes, at which point the current wattage is recorded if stable. To test for full CPU load, IntelBurnTest is run with maximum memory stress for a total of five minutes. During that run, the highest point the wattage reaches on the meter is captured and becomes our “Max Load”. For i7, we use eight instances of SP2004 instead of IntelBurnTest, as the latter is not yet fully compatible with the newer processors.
The X4 620 might not be the best performer out there, but it sure does a good job at beating all of our other quad-cores in way of power consumption. 217W at max load! For a quad-core!
Before getting into our overall conclusions, I must give kudos to AMD for being the first company out the door with a sub-$100 quad-core processor. Any way you look at it, reaching this point is impressive, because once again, quad-cores haven’t even been available for a full three years yet, so to have such an affordable offering is fantastic. Couple this chip with a sub-$100 motherboard like we did, and you have a sweet base to a great multi-tasking rig.
The overall results of the X4 620 is a mixed-bag, and it’s hard to draw up an accurate conclusion of just how great this $99 wonder is. In some of our tests, the chip surpassed the performance of the X3 720, which has a higher clock speed, and also Intel’s Q8200, which in general has a faster architecture and twice the amount of cache. But in others, it fell behind Intel’s 3.0GHz dual-core E8400. Granted, that chip has a faster clock speed, but the X4 620 has twice the cores.
What it all comes down to is the fact that the lack of L3 cache hurts, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if AMD followed-up soon with a “high-end” Athlon II X4 that included at least 3MB of L3 cache. Because as it stands now, AMD has a $99 quad-core, with the next step up being the $175 Phenom II X4 905e. It almost seems like we’re in need of something to fill that void, and a chip similar to what we tested today, with additional L3 cache, would seem to do a good job of that, without compromising the company’s Phenom II line-up.
From a value standpoint, the X4 620 is an incredible offering. It’s a freakin’ quad-core for under one-hundred bucks! Just don’t make the mistake of picking it up and expecting well-rounded performance across all of your applications and scenarios, because as we’ve seen, that’s just not going to happen. It excels in some cases, and falls behind in others, namely in gaming and also our multi-media tests, such as image manipulation and video encoding.
What makes the X4 620 even better is the overclocking-ability. As we saw on the previous page, we gave our chip a clock speed boost of 35%, and it required absolutely minimal effort… a simple heist of the system bus speed. The board automatically increased the voltage, so that was one less factor we had to worry about. And once again, this was done on a $95 motherboard, not a $200 offering built for overclocking.
Hopefully by now you have a good idea of whether or not the X4 620 is for you. If you don’t often stress your CPU with a single task, but rather want the most out of multi-tasking, then the chip is a superb value. If you want the fastest performance for your multi-media jobs, then another chip with a faster clock speed, and additional cache, will make all the difference in the world.
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