by Rob Williams on February 18, 2010 in Processors
AMD last month launched five processor models, three Athlon II’s and two Phenom II’s, and we’re taking a look at one of each. The Phenom II is a 3.20GHz dual-core, and a Black Edition dual-core at that, while the Athlon II is the ultra-affordable 2.9GHz quad-core. Let’s see how both stack up to the rest of AMD’s line-up, and the competition.
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.
Interestingly, despite the higher clock-speed, the Athlon II X4 635 idled at a lower wattage than the X4 620, but it had a much higher load wattage. Also interesting is that the X2 555 dual-core pretty-well matches the power consumption of the original X4 620 quad-core. For what they are, though, these are some great results.
I hate to use the word “interesting” once again, but I can’t help it, because it’s the perfect word to describe both of the models we put through the ringer here. I regret not having Intel Core i3-530 results to include here, because that is the perfect competitor to both of these, price-wise (+$5 over the X4 and +$25 over the X2). We’ll be testing out that CPU thoroughly over the next week, however, and will deliver results for it next week.
As it stands, though, it’s easy to recommend either of the two models we took a look at today, and it reaffirmed my faith that the value in processors right now is simply incredible. Take a look at the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition, for example. It’s clocked at 3.20GHz, has a boat-load of Cache, and costs $100! That to me is undeniably exciting, because for a mere $100, you can have a true powerhouse of a CPU in your machine.
But as mentioned earlier, it’s tough to recommend one of these two models over the other to an end-user, because it boils down to what’s done most often on the machine. For things like media encoding, the Athlon II would be the better choice, due to the fact that it’s a quad-core. Many applications today can take good advantage of multi-core processors, and as you could see in our TMPGEnc Xpress test, the X4 635 shaved near 30% off the encoding time.
In fact, the X4 635 was faster in all of our tests over the X2 555. That doesn’t mean the latter is a poor choice, however, because with its higher clock speed and additional Cache, it can take care of single-threaded tasks a bit faster. Because we utilize only multi-threaded applications in our test suite, this is hard to showcase. But for things like Adobe Photoshop, the faster dual-core would likely be the better choice, as that application isn’t truly multi-threaded at this point in time.
For a fantastic all-around processor, I’d recommend the X4 635, and for a more feature-rich and fast processor, I’d recommend the X2 555 Black Edition (especially if you want to overclock). What would I go with? Seeing as I tend to juggle a lot of tasks at any given time, and take good advantage of many multi-threaded applications, I’d without question jump all over the X4 635 quicker than the X2 555. But that’s me.
Once again, please stay tuned for our Core i3-530 article next week, as it will shine an even better light on the current competition. That chip is about $125 retail, and with its HyperThreading feature, it’s sure to be great competition for both of the CPUs we looked at today.
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