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AMD Athlon II X2 215 Processor

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Having read the review of Intel's ultralow-end Celeron E3300, some readers agreed that one shouldn't try to save too much, even in the low-end segment. At the same time, other readers opined that the processor was $10 cheaper than the lowest-end Pentiums and performance difference between those wasn't critical. Obviously, both opinions have a right to exist. Some can spend a hundred bucks to get a little more. Some are content with the performance of today's (or even yesterday's) cheapest processors, so they are saving as much as they can. If this wasn't so, both companies wouldn't be rolling out products cheaper than $80, because there would be no demand. And since there is some, there is supply.

We already know what Intel offers. But it suddenly turned out we forgot the company's only rival -- one specializing in affordable processors at that. This isn't right. Though even Athlon II X2 250, the lowest-end of what we have tested before, can compete with Celerons in terms of price, AMD goes further, offering models 245 and 240 with lower clock rates at lower prices.

But there's way to save even more. Some markets, including our local, offer the interesting Athlon II X2 215 model. It differs from other Athlon II X2 models by both lower clock rate (2.7GHz) and halved L2 cache (512KB per core). Is this a regression? Because older Athlons had this much cache. Not only that. The matter is that 1MB L2 per core is atypical for AMD's 45nm processors as well. This amount of cache can only be found in the Athlon II X2 series. But Athlon II X3, X4, as well as all Phenom II CPUs, have the 512MB of cache. Therefore, the model 215 exists not only to cover the ultralow-end segment. This very CPU can be made using any die AMD works with. Have a Regor with a partially disabled cache? Or a Propus with half of cores malfunctioning? Made a Deneb with both cache and half of cores defective? You don't have to throw them away, there is one processor that can be made of those rejects. AMD has planned a long life span for this CPU not without a reason. As clock rates of "full-fledged" CPUs grow, their family will be thinned out. In particular, the formally junior Athlon II X2 240 is only going to last until the mid-year (to be reduced to shipping the previously made orders). The 245 model will last till the year-end at best. But 215 is going to outlive them all. They've been producing it for about six months now, and they will continue at least throughout 2010.

However, we suspect that all that rejects utilization talk is just what it is -- a talk. While the key reason to make cut-down processors is marketing. Well, in this case the 215 model will hardly feature any dies aside from Regor. Though hope springs eternal. Since the company makes Phenom II X2, and since they used to make Athlon X2 with L3 cache out of Phenoms with two cores disabled, there's still a possibility that some Propus-based 215's will make it to retail. There's also a chance that one or two cores, or at least the second half of cache, may still be unlocked. The latter is a radical difference from other Athlon II X2 processors, where there's just nothing to unlock.

On the other hand, unlocking is only interesting to a few. Most users care about processor's performance in the normal mode. There is Celeron, a shining example of cutting down everything that can be cut down (cache, clock rate, bus width). Athlon II X2 215 is a bit different, though. It is made of already affordable processors by means of a minor cut down. Let's see how this CPU actually performs.


CPU Athlon II X2 215 Athlon II X2 215OC
Core Regor Regor
Process technology, nm 45 45
Core clock, GHz 2.7 3.1
Multiplier 13.5 13.5
Number of cores 2 2
L1 cache, I/D, KB 64/64 64/64
L2 Cache, KB 64/64 64/64
L2 Cache, KB 2 x 512 2 x 512
RAM 2 x DDR3-1066 2 x DDR3-1227
HT, MHz 2000 2300
Socket AM3 AM3
TDP, W 65 65

We tested the processor in two modes: normal and overclocked, like we did with Celeron E3300 the last time. Overclocking was relatively minor, but it let us increase the clock rate to that of the series' senior model, Athlon II X2 255.

CPU Athlon II X2 255 Athlon II X3 425 Celeron E3300 Pentium E5300
Core Regor Rana Wolfdale-2M Wolfdale-2M
Process technology, nm 45 45 45 45
Core clock, GHz 3.1 2.7 2.5 2.6
Multiplier 15.5 13.5 12.5 13
Number of cores 2 3 2 2
L1 cache, I/D, KB 64/64 64/64 32/32 32/32
L2 Cache, KB 64/64 64/64 32/32 32/32
L2 Cache, KB 2 x 1024 3 x 512 1024 2048
RAM 2 x DDR3-1066 2 x DDR3-1333 -- --
FSB/HT, MHz 2000 2000 800 800
Socket AM2 AM2+/AM3 LGA775 LGA775
TDP, W 65 65 65 65

The latter CPU we used for comparison has twice as much L2 cache, but it yields to the overclocked 215 in RAM performance, because Athlon II processors only have the single means of overclocking: increasing the reference clock rare (along with all of the buses). AMD doesn't offer several reference clock rates in its processors, like those that greatly help overlock low-end Intel CPUs.

Another comparison point is Athlon II X3 425 located in the same price range as Athlon II X2. Thus, AMD allows users to choose between higher clock rate/cache and one more core at the same clock rate (215's clock rate is equal to 425's) and support for faster memory. Don't forget that of all 3 processors the Athlon II X2 series only support DDR3-1066.

Speaking of Intel CPUs, there will be two -- the direct rivals of Athlon II X2 215 in terms of price and market position: Celeron E3300 and Pentium E5300.

  Motherboard RAM
Celeron E3300, Pentium E5300 ASUS P5Q Deluxe (P45) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D (2 x 800, 5-5-5-15-2T)
Athlon II X2 215OC ASUS M4A78T-E (790GX) Corsair CM3X2G1600C9DHX (2 x 1227, 7-7-7-20-1T, Unganged Mode)
Athlon II X2 215, 255 Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P (AMD 770) Corsair CM3X2G1600C9DHX (2 x 1066, 7-7-7-20-1T, Unganged Mode)
Athlon II X3 425 Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P (AMD 770) Corsair CM3X2G1600C9DHX (2 x 1333, 7-7-7-20-1T, Unganged Mode)

Prices for DDR3 and DDR2 memory are almost the same, so we focused on the former in our tests. With one exception, though. The LGA775 CPUs were tested with DDR2, DDR3 less reasonable in that case. This is especially true in case of Celeron and lower-end Pentiums with 800MHz FSB. Using DDR3 with those results in too considerable a loss. In turn, using DDR3 is quite justified for Athlon II. Consider this an advantage.

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