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AMD Athlon 64 X2 Retrospective

The entire series in tests.

September 8, 2008

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  1. Our test method is described here.
  2. All data types are reduced to one relative integer score: performance of a reviewed processor compared to performance of Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, which is considered 100 points.
  3. Detailed results are available in this cumulative Excel spreadsheet. The article contains only summaries of each benchmark class.
  4. If detailed results are worthy of your attention, we mention them.

Professional tests

3D modelling

Of the Intel camp only Core 2 Duo E4700/6550 could make it to the chart top. And the Athlon 64 X2 family is represented on top exclusively by its fastest 6400+. The rest is occupied by AMD Phenom, which is completely natural, as the number of cores is critical for this software group -- rendering performance grows almost linearly with each additional core.


It's clear that there is no reason at all to choose Phenom X4 for this kind of tasks, since it hardly outperforms Phenom X3. And that small difference between two X3/X4 pairs is, most likely, caused by the 100MHz higher clock rate of X4. Anyway, what can we say, if neither the fastest X4, nor the fastest X3 can outperform Athlon 64 X2 6000+. Still, in terms of megahertz, performance of the new AMD core has grown comparing to the old one: 6000+ has the efficiency of about 0.032 points/MHz, while X3 8750 has 0.038 points/MHz efficiency, e.g. 19% higher. Pentium E2140 and Core 2 Duo E4300 yield to even Athlon 64 X2 4800+, but higher-frequency Pentium E2220 and Core 2 Duo E4700 (especially the latter) look better. This makes us think that in this test group clock rate might be as important as a large cache. However, the fact that Core 2 Duo E6550 is on the very top, while yielding in frequency to both of them, indicates that, on the other hand, a deficit of clock rate can be compensated by a large cache.


Obviously, this test doesn't favor small-cache CPUs. Just compare gaps between 5200+ and 5600+ and between 5600+ and 6000+. The benefit of 1 MB L2 cache against 512 KB is clear. Phenom's performance can be considered a success, since the top X4 has managed to occupy the honorary third place.

Professional photo processing

This test knows well how to use 2, 3 and even 4 cores, so the result is predictable: of the first seven places, four (including the top three) are occupied by Phenoms. This is really simple: in Adobe Photoshop the one with more cores wins. The lone Athlon 64 X2 6400+ has managed to outperform the low-end Phenom X3, only thanks to its clock rate that is 1.1 GHz higher.

Scientific suites

As we have written before, low places of Phenom X4 can be explained by its strange behavior in one of the subtests of MATLAB's built-in benchmark. There's a 90% possibility that it's programming error, not an architectural drawback. Thus, we won't focus on Phenom X4 results.

On the other hand, Phenom X3 is no conjurer as well -- it could outperform neither 6400+, nor even 6400+. And its equality to Core 2 Duo E4300 is pitiable. In other words, like in the CAD/CAM group, we see nothing optimistic about the new AMD core, because it's outperformed by higher-frequency representatives of the previous core. In terms of efficiency, 6400+ has 0.025 points/MHz and X3 8750 has 0.030 points/MHz, that is 20% higher. This is somewhat comforting.

Web server

Phenom X4 is very good and there's no doubt why: its higher number of cores provides a considerable bonus. In the Intel camp it's reasonable balance between clock rate and cache size that wins. E.g., Pentium E2220 with the smallest cache (among Intel CPUs) and relatively high clock rate is in the middle, followed by Core 2 Duo E6550 with the biggest cache but lower clock rate. Both are outperformed by Core 2 Duo E4700 that has the highest clock rate and cache in between two extremes.

Total professional score

In general, we can see that Phenoms rather correctly overlay the previous processor series. In the total professional score chart they alternate with Athlon 64 X2, but don't go lower than the 9th place (of 17 possible). Thus, we can say that today Phenom has all chances to push away the previous top-end processors thanks to similar performance at better prospects. If only it could outperform them sufficiently.

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