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AMD Phenom II X3 720 / X4 810 / X4 920 Processors

Aimed at leadership in the budget segment.

February 17, 2009



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As we already mentioned in our review of Phenom II X4 940, the next step in the expansion of Phenom II line is to roll out models with a universal dual-channel memory controller supporting both DDR2 (up to DDR2-1066) and DDR3 (up to DDR3-1333) memory. However, the first processors to come were representatives of the budget Series 800 and 700, which need DDR3 support even less than top models, while prices for such memory are rather high. Meanwhile, it's support for two memory types in Phenom II that looks like a very good idea to us. It will certainly promote popularity of these processors among PC manufacturers, who are seeking ways to reduce expenses. So they will be glad to have an opportunity for a dynamic decision -- for example, they can install already bought processors on motherboards with DDR3 memory exactly when it becomes profitable.

What concerns individual users, it all depends on their upgrade strategies and what hardware they already bought. It goes without saying that processors with a universal controller, compatible with existing and future motherboards, ensure more flexibility in upgrades. For example, you can install this processor now on an inexpensive motherboard with standard DDR2 memory, and later on, when DDR3 grows cheaper, and you decide to buy a new motherboard with Socket AM3 (for example, with a more powerful integrated graphics core or for some other reasons), you can upgrade only your motherboard and memory. However, this approach is more typical of users that prefer budget solutions. Those people, who consider only expensive motherboards, memory, and top processors, may decide that in the nearest future they will hardly want to upgrade a good motherboard for Phenom II (bought now or a bit earlier), for example with the AMD 790GX or 790FX chipset. And what concerns some DDR2-1066 kit of 8GB memory for overclockers, its adequate DDR3 replacement will appear only in distant future, when you will have to build a new platform. So it's irrelevant whether a processor supports DDR3 or not, it just needs to offer proper characteristics. AMD must be aware of that, so the company started adding DDR3 support from Low-End models.

Note that the process was initiated much earlier than planned. So if you want "everything at once", you won't have to wait for a long time. For example, counterparts of Phenom II X4 920 and 940 with DDR3 support are expected in March or April, i.e. when only our today's contenders should have appeared. Further expansion of the Phenom II line promises to be intense in all directions. It's a gratifying fact on the background of the general gloomy tendency to delay release dates or even cancel previously announced products. On the other hand, we cannot deny that this event was affected by the world crisis, as the overall slowdown in the last quarter has led to overstocking of the supply chain. So distributors are not enthusiastic about buying more of the same processors, monitors, or else. They want to sell what they've got first. What else to manufacture then? It's just that cutting down production, or especially closing factories is a hard decision for any company. Clever books give cheerful advice: "Roll out something new, for a wide audience, something that will attract consumers and make retailers buy these products. It will load production facilities or maybe even expand the market. The old stock will be sold by then, and the balance between old and new models in shipments at a later stage can again be adjusted to the current demand".

Let's stop our excursion into marketing at this point and proceed to the product review. All models of Series 800 differ from the 900th in smaller L3 Cache (reduced from 6MB to 4MB), while triple-core models from Series 700 actually copy characteristics of Series 900 (they are physically the same dice) -- 6MB L3 Cache, but only three cores.


  • AMD Phenom II X4 810, 2.6 GHz, estimated wholesale price for a boxed edition is $175*
  • AMD Phenom II X3 720, 2.8 GHz, as this processor becomes a top triple-core processor, it traditionally gets an unlocked multiplier, $145*
  • AMD Phenom II X3 710 is similar to the previous processor, but it's nominal clock rate is 2.6 GHz, and it has a locked multiplier, $125*

* These are approximate prices at the time these processors were announced.

Our test lab got hold of two first processors from this list. Besides, the company will ship another two models: Phenom II X4 805 2.5GHz and Phenom II X4 910 2.6GHz. But they will officially come as OEM only. As we already mentioned, all processors support both DDR2 and DDR3 memory, so they can be installed on motherboards with Socket AM2+, some models with Socket AM2 (they will need an updated BIOS) and future Socket AM3. TDP has been reduced to 95 W, and the allowable temperature inside a PC enclosure has been raised from 60°C to 71-73°C (processor cores can certainly endure much higher temperatures). You may think that this parameter is of interest only to engineers who design systems that should work in hot environments. But in fact, the higher the allowable limit, the lower speed is required from a cooler to maintain acceptable temperatures. So we can only welcome higher temperature limits. But as we already mentioned, low heating and thus a barely warm heatsink as well as low operating temperatures of the core seem to have become characteristics features of Phenom II. These properties are typical even of processors with TDP=125 W. And our processors under review demonstrate even lower appetites. So you may want to test processors in these extreme temperature conditions only if you like semi-passive cooling systems or if you are into hardcore overclocking of air-cooled systems. For such users we shall publish a separate article devoted to thermo-economic issues of Phenom II processors in various modes with several coolers.

Platform

Taking into account modern tendencies to examine processors in the platform context, we publish links to reviews of previously tested motherboards and chipsets that support these processors. Just as examples of what functions you may get and how much it will cost you.


Motherboard Chipset  
ECS A740GM-A AMD 740G $50
ECS GF8200A NVIDIA GeForce 8200 $74
ASUS M3N-H/HDMI NVIDIA GeForce 8300 $94
ASRock A770CrossFire AMD 770 $74
Gigabyte MA78GM-S2H AMD 780G $90
Gigabyte MA78G-DS3H AMD 780G $101
MSI K9A2 CF AMD 790X $98
ASUS M3N-HT Deluxe/Mempipe NVIDIA nForce 780a $192
ASUS M3A78-T AMD 790GX $159
Foxconn A7DA-S AMD 790GX $142
MSI DKA790GX AMD 790GX $172
Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H AMD 790GX $162

Indeed, it's easy to find a motherboard for a budget or a top-notch computer owing to compatibility with existing motherboards. We are pleased to note that motherboard manufacturers were ready now, as lists of compatible motherboards (and BIOS) appeared on official web sites long before the rollout of the new processors. These lists will certainly grow, which is excellent news for owners of good motherboards, who just need to upgrade their processors. Besides, along with launching new products supporting DDR3 memory, the biggest manufacturers are also going to update their product lines for DDR2 memory. They expect that popularity of motherboards with Socket AM2+ will grow soon, as the Phenom II family is expanding.

Testbed configurations


Processor Core 2 Duo E8200 Core 2 Quad Q6600 Core 2 Quad Q8200 Core 2 Quad Q9300 Phenom II X3 720 Phenom II X4 810 Phenom II X4 920
Core name Wolfdale Kentsfield Yorkfield Yorkfield Deneb Deneb Deneb
Process technology, nm 45 65 45 45 45 45 45
Core clock, GHz 2.66 2.4 2.33 2.5 2.8 2.6 2.8
Number of cores 2 4 4 4 3 4 4
L1 cache, I/D, KB 32/32 32/32 32/32 32/32 64/64 64/64 64/64
L2 Cache, KB 6144 2 x 4096 2 x 2048 2 x 3072 3 x 512 4 x 512 4 x 512
L3 cache, KB - - - - 6144 4096 6144
Memory (*) - - - - DDR2-1066/ DDR3-1333 DDR2-1066/ DDR3-1333 DDR2-1066
Multiplier 8 9 7 7.5 14 (**) 13 14
Socket LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 LGA775 AM2+/AM3 AM2+/AM3 AM2+
TDP, W 65 95 95 95 95 95 125

(*) The maximum frequency supported by CPU memory controller. You can choose a lower frequency, if it's supported by the given memory standard (for example, DDR2-667 and DDR2-800 for processors supporting DDR2-1066). Frequency and memory type of LGA775 processors are detected by the chipset.
(**) Unlocked so that users could increase it for overclocking.


Processor Motherboard Memory (real frequency in tests)
Phenom II Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H (790GX) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D (DDR2-1066)
Core 2 (all processors except for the Q8200) ASUS Maximus Extreme (X38) Corsair CM3X1024-1800C7DIN (DDR3-1333)
Core 2 Quad Q8200 ASUS P5Q Deluxe (P45) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D (DDR2-1066)

  • Memory installed: 4 GB
  • HDD: Samsung HD401LJ (SATA-2)
  • Coolers: Thermaltake TMG i1, Zalman CNPS 9700 AM2
  • PSU: Cooler Master RS-A00-EMBA

As you can see, we've tested our Phenom II processors on a Socket AM2+ motherboard only with DDR2 memory so far. DDR3 tests will be performed later. Besides, for technical reasons we tested Core 2 Q8200 on a different LGA775 testbed. It's probably for the better -- this processor will hardly be used on a motherboard with the X38 chipset. And we already had an opportunity to illustrate minimal advantage of DDR3 memory even for top Core 2 processors. In this case data exchange is limited by FSB bus performance. The choice of a rival for Phenom II X3 720 is apparent -- it's a dual-core processor from Intel in the similar price range. What concerns Phenom II X4 810, it can be compared not only with its direct competitor Q8200, but also with the Q6600, which is still available in stores. This processor has a similar price, but its clock rate is a bit higher, and it has a larger cache, while the Q8200 offers only 1333MHz FSB (versus 1066MHz) and Yorkfield optimizations. We also decided to add results of Phenom II X4 920, which was launched together with the 940 processor and is already available in stores.


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Page 2: Tests

Page 3: More tests

Page 4: Conclusions



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