by Rob Williams on February 19, 2009 in Processors
Phenom II may have just launched last month, but AMD didn’t want to waste time in following-up with their first AM3-based processors. We’re taking a look at two, including the X4 810 and X3 720 ‘Black Edition’. Both offer great performance at their respective price-points, but the X3 became the more appealing chip, thanks to its overclocking ability.
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.
Both of AMD’s new CPUs offer superb power efficiency here, partly in thanks to their 45nm process. The X4 810 is especially interesting, as it proved to draw less power than AMD’s own Dual-Core 7750. Twice the cores, and less power… gotta love progress! I should also note that the AM2+ board we benchmarked with is nowhere near as robust as the one we use for our Intel machines, so some skewing in our results will occur because of that. However, Gigabyte’s board that we chose is one of the most popular at the moment for new system builders or upgrades, so the results above are still highly relevant.
As I mentioned in the intro, AMD’s main goal right now is to remain price competitive. Their processors are not quite as fast as Intel’s offerings clock-for-clock, so pricing is a huge concern not just for AMD, but consumers as well. The current state of the economy aside, consumers always want the best bang for the buck, and if it means paying a little more for a far better processor, they’ll probably do it. Likewise, if they can save $20 and cut back on 100MHz they won’t notice gone, they’ll take that route as well.
Both of the processors we’ve taken a look at today are priced almost on par with Intel’s offerings that AMD was going after. In this particular case, the X3 720’s (~$170) target was the E8400 (~$165) at 3.0GHz, and the X4 910 (~$196) was to take on the Q8200 (~$170) at 2.33GHz, which in most cases, it did just that, and well.
The X3 720 was the more impressive of the two, however, but primarily thanks to overclocking. AMD said the chip would be competitive to the E8400, and that I do believe, as it beat it out in pretty-well all of the important tests. But, at $170, it’s priced identically to the Q8200… the chip that the X4 910 was designed to compete with. When those two CPUs are pit against each other, the Q8200 will come out the winner, as seen throughout our results. The Q8200 has the extra core to thank for that. If it were a Tri-Core, it wouldn’t be that competitive due to its much lower frequency.
Choosing between these two chips, though, is quite simple. Let’s start off with the X4 810, which is the more difficult of the two to dissect. This chip, at ~$196 is quite competitive with Intel’s Q8200, which is $26 less expensive. The X4 810 out-performed that chip in our most important tests, and I guess that’s how it should be, as it’s the more expensive of the two. If it was a matter of choosing between them and no overclocking would occur, then either or would be a fine choice.
After toying around with the X3 720 though, I quickly forgot about the X4 810. This $170 chip starts out at a great clock speed of 2.8GHz, and proved itself to be much faster than Intel’s equally-priced E8400. It also happens to have great power efficiency and overclocking-ability. We hit 3.2GHz with no voltage increase whatsoever, and 3.5GHz with a modest 0.075v boost. While the X4 was a chore to overclock, the unlocked X3 was not, and I actually found myself having fun pushing it to its limit.
Regardless of which model here has caught your eye, you’re very unlikely to regret either. From a stock-clocked perspective, both offer excellent performance in both single-threaded and multi-threaded perspectives, and the price is right (although I wouldn’t mind seeing the X4 810 priced closer to the Q8200… it would become a dominator). If there’s one thing to be said here, it’s that it’s great to see AMD back, and competitive. It’s something enthusiasts have been waiting for, and we can all hope that the year ahead will continue to bode well for the company.
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