iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






AMD Athlon II X3 425, 435 Processors

Three cores for the price of two.

October 30, 2009

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Data compression

Archivers expectedly helped Phenom II X3 710 demonstrate the advantage of large cache, so that no other processor could catch up with it. So cache size is definitely the master factor in this group of tests. On the other hand, the new triple-core processors, which cannot boast of large cache per core, nevertheless demonstrate a good balance compared to their dual-core competitors. It apparently happens owing to the relatively high clock rates and efficient memory operations. Besides, even though multithreading is not implemented very well in archivers, the third core still has some job to do.

Audio encoding

We proceed to media encoding tests, which means that dual-core processors will have nothing to hope for here. But theoretically, triple-core processors should enter the race. In this case, the quad-core processor is much faster despite the lower clock rate. It can be explained with dBpoweramp -- this shell demonstrates a relatively low performance gain from the third core, but takes full advantage of the quad-core potential. So the new triple-core processors outperform dual-core CPUs, but they are significantly slower than the quad-core processor, even though they have higher clock rates. What concerns Phenom II X3 710, it's in dire waters, because its clock rate is similar to that of the quad-core processor, and its larger cache is irrelevant here, because streaming data cannot fit cache anyway.

Video encoding

On the contrary, most video encoders are already capable of using four cores, but they don't demonstrate linear results, as the number of cores grows. Each additional core usually provides performance gains, but relative gains become smaller with each new core added. So the new triple-core processors are not too much slower than the quad-core CPU. As clock rates are very important here, the 435 processor looks especially good. When you look at results of Phenom II X3 710, you may think that video encoders do not care about large cache, just like in the previous group. But in fact, that's not exactly right. The average result of this processor is hampered by XviD, so that Phenom II demonstrates lower results, and the overall performance picture is distorted. So we take another look at detailed results.

Runtime (lower is better), mm:ss Phenom X3 8750 (DDR2) Athlon II X2 250 (DDR3) Athlon II X3 425 (DDR2) Athlon II X3 425 (DDR3) Athlon II X3 435 (DDR2) Athlon II X3 435 (DDR3) Athlon II X4 620 (DDR3) Phenom II X3 710 (DDR2) Pentium E6300 (DDR3)
ProCoder 0:05:08 0:04:06 0:04:28 0:04:19 0:04:13 0:04:04 0:04:28 0:04:15 0:05:08
DivX 0:06:41 0:06:08 0:05:43 0:05:36 0:05:26 0:05:21 0:05:32 0:05:25 0:05:50
VC-1 0:11:41 0:11:58 0:10:07 0:09:51 0:09:35 0:09:19 0:08:40 0:09:31 0:12:22
x264 0:20:01 0:19:42 0:16:15 0:16:08 0:15:15 0:15:06 0:11:16 0:16:02 0:20:18
XviD 0:07:29 0:05:00 0:04:45 0:04:38 0:04:32 0:04:21 0:04:17 0:06:13 0:04:50

If we ignore the incorrect result (XviD), the new triple-core processors defeat Phenom II X3 710 only in x264. This codec is really indifferent to large cache. But in the other three codecs only Athlon II X3 435 with DDR3 can outperform the 710, which we tested only with DDR2. However, it does not belittle accomplishments of the new triple-core processors from Series 400. Their results are really brilliant, we couldn't even dream about such results in this price range!

We don't even have to take into account that along with a powerful CPU, the AMD platform offers other ways to accelerate video encoding. Even if less universal ones. As we already mentioned in our review of the AMD 785G chipset, if you are interested in transcoding (converting video from one format into another to watch on mobile devices or upload to Internet), there is an option to use GPU resources. Even the integrated graphics core may accelerate transcoding twofold. But in this case it's not important, those users, who are used to classic encoders, which do not support GPU yet, will have high results anyway.


Games usually load all three cores, so both triple-core processors outperform dual-core models in this group of tests. However, modern games still cannot take advantage of four cores (although they try). This will probably happen in games for DirectX 11, which offers certain procedures to distribute the load. And it won't make any sense to ignore them. As for now, thrifty users can buy a triple-core processor for games. It started to make sense since the rollout of Series 700.

By the way, it must be noted that Phenom II X3 710 preserves its positions even against the new triple-core processors, that is the 435 model with DDR3 memory is outperformed even with DDR2 memory. Considering that its clock rate is noticeably lower, it means that we shouldn't write off the large cache in games. And we cannot say that the fourth core is useless! It helps the 620 model with the lowest clock rate and cache become the leader in this group. What should we prefer, when we choose a CPU for games? If you have a new graphics card based on Radeon HD5850/5870, you should pay attention to something like Phenom II X4 945 or 955, which have higher clock rates than dual-core processors from this article, they have large cache, and they contain four cores. But in case of a Mid-End single-GPU graphics card for DirectX 10, Athlon II X3 435 is the "optimal minimum". However, it will all depend on real retail prices, especially at first -- 600-series processors have been available in stores for a long time already, while Series 400 is only entering the market.

These are just generic conclusions. To clear up the situation, let's get back to our tests and take a look at average framerates in each game.

Game Phenom X3 8750 (DDR2) Athlon II X2 250 (DDR3) Athlon II X3 425 (DDR2) Athlon II X3 425 (DDR3) Athlon II X3 435 (DDR2) Athlon II X3 435 (DDR3) Athlon II X4 620 (DDR3) Phenom II X3 710 (DDR2) Pentium E6300 (DDR3)
STALKER: Clear Sky 44.7 51.6 49.5 51.5 51.1 53.2 51 52.6 50.6
Devil May Cry 4 177 184 188 197 195 202 197 200 187
Far Cry 2 28 32 33 35 34 36 38 36 30
Grand Theft Auto 4 35 29 39 42 42 45 52 51 27
Lost Planet 43 43 43 43 43 43 43 43 47
Unreal Tournament 3 100 101 113 119 116 121 118 126 95
Crysis Warhead 39 42 43 45 45 46 46 46 41
World in Conflict 24 28 28 30 30 32 37 33 27

What concerns games balancing on the verge of "playability" (with the average FPS about 30), FarCry 2 votes for the three most expensive processors in our selection of products, the best pick being the quad-core processor. GTA IV also prefers Athlon II X4 620. However, the triple-core processors also show acceptable support for this game, including the old Phenom X3 8750. The dual-core processors fail here. And finally, World in Conflict is inexorable -- if you want smooth gameplay, take a quad-core processor.


As we can see, Athlon II X2 250 can still compete with the E6300, these processors demonstrate similar performance. So the rollout of new triple-core processors based on the new core has consolidated AMD's positions in the market segment of below $100. Quite in time before Christmas. But apparently this was not the only goal. Pay attention to the nearly identical results demonstrated by Athlon II X3 435 and Phenom II X3 710, the latter being more costly to manufacture. There is probably no necessity to cut down streamlined 4-core dice from Series 900 and then reduce their clock rates to the level of the 710 model. So with its new processors AMD continues to optimize its existing model range: quad-core processors from Series 600 have replaced Series 800, and representatives of Series 400 are infiltrating the territory of Series 700. In our opinion, demand (and supply) for Phenom II X3 720 will be preserved to a certain degree, especially for the model with an unlocked multiplier. AMD will preserve Series 700, and it will be probably supplemented with higher-clocked models. They are successful products, and the unlocked multiplier and a potential opportunity to unlock the fourth core attract enthusiasts. However, the mass consumer will focus on Series 400 and 600.

Users will benefit from this situation -- they will get multi-core processors with attractive performance in the market segment that used to offer only dual-core processors with mediocre clock rates.

The GeForce GTX 275 graphics card for the testbed provided by Palit.

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