iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






AMD Athlon II X2 215 Processor

The cheapest AMD has to offer.

March 10, 2010

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Java Virtual Machine behaves like VS2008 with one considerable exception: it's not critical about cache. As a result, it's not surprising that, working in the normal mode, Athlon II X2 215 even outperforms Pentium E5300 a little (the clock rate of which is 100MHz lower). When overclocked to the frequency of Athlon II X2 255, X2 215 only lags behind the latter by 3%. Moreover, even the lowest-end Athlon II X3 performs in quite a different way in this test, as we have expected.

Audio encoding

Firstly, audio codecs do not require large cache. Secondly, they are quite sceptical about any AMD processors. Thus the results. It would take another 500 MHz to at least catch up with Intel processors. Outperforming them would require one or two more cores. Without either, Athlon II X2 215 can only compete with older Pentium or Core 2 Duo processors, being incapable of outperforming even the new Celerons. However, as we have previously mentioned, the general speed of audio encoding these days makes any modern (or not very old) processor suitable for converting an album or two once in a while.

Video encoding

Video codecs require higher performance. The fact that they are not as selective in terms of CPU architecture yields nice results: Athlon II X2 215 works on a par with Pentium E5300. While this Pentium CPU is the lowest-end model, Athlon II is the junior product as well, offered for a price of a Celeron at that. If you're really into working with video, you probably should disregard dual-core processors at all, because even the lowest-end triple-core solution is radically faster. However, this is still early to dot the i's in this area. AMD has another ace up its sleeve -- some of its discrete graphics cards and even integrated chipsets support video encoding. Consider 785G, for example, it's not that bad. An Athlon II X2 250 + 785G bundle encodes h264 about as fast as a single Athlon II X4 630. However, if you have an Intel PC, this way of boosting performance is available to you as well, given you have a discrete graphics card. Among integrated graphics, hardware video encoding is almost exclusive to Socket AM3. Almost, because you can get a motherboard on NVIDIA GeForce 9300/9400 to use with an Intel CPU. However, such motherboards are not as popular as Intel G43/G45.

3D games

We suspect that AMD largely focuses on games in terms of comparative CPU positioning. At least we have no other explanations for Athlon II X3 and Phenom II X2, as well as Athlon II X4 and Phenom II X3, sharing the same places. This time is not an exception. This company kind of disregards Celeron as a rival of Athlon II X2. Though, as we have seen above, the former performs even better, often yielding as much as Athlon II X2 lags behind Pentium. But in games the lowest-end Athlon II X2 is on a par with the lowest-end Pentium (even though it's already E5300, not E5200). Other processors are even faster.

Now let's see how many games we can actually play with the settings we use, and with our GTX 275 graphics card. Also let's consider 30fps the threshold of comfort. The minimal fps would've been more indicative, but there are only a few applications that can measure it right. So, Celeron E3300 is completely out of bounds in three games of eight. Besides, it performs at 32fps in Crysis Warhead, which is close to the threshold. With Pentium E5300 and Athlon II X2 215, this game performs better, but the other three failures are still there (though FC2 performance is already close to the threshold). Overclocking these processors or moving to Athlon II X2 255 or Pentium E6500 still doesn't let you play GTA4 with comfort (30-32fps is not quite good for an action-packed game). In turn, World in Conflict is quite sceptical about dual-core processors in general, probably with the only exception of Core i3/i5. But even the lowest-end triple-core Athlon II X3 425 (offered for less than $100 even in Moscow, the City of Ridiculous Prices) runs WiC at the desired 30fps, other games performing better. So there you have it. Now you know whether a gaming PC processor actually needs more than two cores or not.


In the end, there is no miracle. Athlon II X2 215 is a bit faster than Celeron, but slower than Pentium. It's positioned on a par with the lowest-end Celeron anyway. Besides, it works well with DDR3 memory. Something which LGA775 processors, especially low-end, cannot boast of. So Athlon II X2 215 is not meaningless. Though there isn't much sense either, its performance is low in today's terms. And since you do not usually upgrade every month or so, and since CPU price is not the only factor to consider, we still believe that saving too much is not reasonable. If you do want to upgrade often, you might want to buy the latest and cheapest first (probably with a few older parts thrown in), then you'll upgrade the PC a bit, then hexacore CPUs will probably go on sale, so you'll be able to buy one and enjoy high performance. But while seemingly attractive, this approach is not quite sensible. Besides, it's only possible if you upgrade your PC yourself. Regular users should consider Athlon II X2 215 as another ultralow-end CPU, which is still a part of an up-to-date platform.

But wait, there's something more interesting about the test results. As you can see, Athlon II X2 255 and Athlon II X2 X2 215 overclocked to the former's clock rate performed on a par, the difference being just 3%. Of course, you shouldn't disregard the faster memory mode, but even considering it the difference doesn't exceed 4%. So does this CPU series really need 1MB of cache? The size of Regor is 117mm2, with 234M transistors. Propus/Rana are 169mm2 large, with 300M transistors. Naturally, a part of the manufacture budget is spent on units like memory controllers and HT, so such a head-on calculation might not be quite correct, but still... The estimated "overexpenditure" is at least 20mm2 and 60M transistors, meaning that 20% higher cost price provides 4% higher performance. Mind you, we're not talking high-end, we're talking affordable solutions. Besides, even traditions cannot explain such amount of cache. In times of 130nm and 90nm process technologies, 1MB L2 was primarily found in top products. Speaking of 65nm, neither Athlon, nor Phenom had such cache. Why, even Regor and Sargas are unique for the 45nm process technology, because all other dies have 512KB per core. So how come? Well, this is shrouded in mystery, and only AMD knows the answer.

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Page 2: Tests

Page 3: More tests, conclusions

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