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AMD Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250

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Phenom II X3 720 of all processors from its family has caused the biggest stir among the public and maximum favorable reviews in the press. Primarily due to its winning position versus dual-core processors from the Core 2 Duo 8000 series. According to these tests, this processor performed very well in programs that cannot use multithreading, and it reaped benefits in programs that can use more than two cores.

However, a modern line of Intel processors includes dual-core processors (Series 5000 and 7000) with democratic price tags, so they are quite popular. What concerns relatively new models from AMD for this market segment, we can name only Athlon X2 7750 and 7850 (both processors contain dual-core Phenom dice). They successfully compete with Pentium E5300/E5400. However, they are hotter and they do not overclock that much. And most importantly, as the company switches its production lines to Phenom II, it's growing harder to get the necessary number of Phenom dice for popular dual-core processors. Besides, manufacturing costs of such processors aren't low either. So engineers faced the following task: to launch more power-efficient (and more expedient in production costs) dual-core processors in the budget segment and to offer something new to compete with Series 7000 from the rival company. Let's see how they coped with the task. Interestingly, these processors appeared earlier than their initially announced release dates (late summer, autumn), which has become a nice tendency with AMD. It illustrates how fast the company upgrades to the 45nm process technology.

Physically, Phenom II X2 core is a quad-core Phenom II die (Deneb, although the die itself got its own name: Callisto). That is, just like Athlon X2 7750/7850, only based on a new processor. Rejected cores of a quad-core dice are locked down to obtain processors with fewer cores. This approach allows to maximize the yield of manufactured dice. And Athlon II is based on the Regor die with two physical cores and without L3 cache. As a result, this die is only 117.5 mm², while Deneb takes up 258 mm². It will be interesting to see how the lack of L3 cache affects performance of the K10 core, as we've never seen such processors (all Phenoms contained L3 caches).

Phenom II X2 550 has the maximum TDP of 80 W, and Athlon II X2 250 -- 65 W. From the practical point of view it means that there won't be problems with low-noise cooling even in compact PC enclosures. And subjective impressions from our CPU samples confirm this assumption. AMD most probably plays safe here, specifying such values, so that most processors easily meet them. We've already published one article about power consumption of Phenom II processors.

By the way, our samples did not contribute anything new to overclocking statistics for modern 45nm processors from AMD: both of them worked well at 3.8 GHz like most 3- and 4-core models we had previously reviewed. It's another matter that we had to raise CPU voltage only to 1.42 V for Athlon II and to 1.48 V for Phenom II -- but it can be peculiarities of our samples. In other words, overclocking potential of the dual-core processors is just as high as that of 3- and 4-core processors. But using a dual-core die for the lowest model did not reveal any additional bonuses.

Processor Athlon II X2 250 Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Pentium E5300 Core 2 Duo E7400
Core name Regor Callisto (Deneb) Wolfdale-2M Wolfdale
Process technology, nm 45 45 45 45
Core clock, GHz 3.0 3.1 2.6 2.83
Number of cores 2 2 2 2
L1 cache, I/D, KB 64/64 64/64 32/32 32/32
L2 cache, KB 2 x 1024 2 x 512 2048 3072
L3 cache, KB - 6144 - -
Memory* DDR2-800 / DDR3-1066 DDR2-1066 / DDR3-1333 - -
Multiplier 15 15.5** 13 10.5
Socket AM2+/AM3 AM2+/AM3 LGA775 LGA775
TDP, W 65 80 65 65

(*) The maximum frequency supported by CPU memory controller; one can choose a lower frequency, if it's supported by a 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 for overclocking.

Testbed configurations

  Motherboard Memory (actual mode)
Socket AM2+ Gigabyte MA790GP-DS4H (AMD 790GX) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D (dual-channel DDR2-1066/800, 5-5-5-15-2T, unganged)
Socket AM3 Gigabyte MA770T-UD3P (AMD 770) Apacer DDR3-1333 (dual-channel DDR3-1333/1066, 8-8-8-24-1T/7-7-7-20-1T, unganged)
LGA775 ASUS P5Q Deluxe (P45) Corsair CM2X2048-8500C5D (dual-channel DDR2-1066/800, 5-5-5-15-2T)

All testbeds were equipped with 4 GB of memory operating at maximum frequency supported by a given configuration. Phenom II X2 has the same memory controller as in Phenom II processors with 3 or 4 cores. So it works with DDR2-1066 and DDR3-1333. What concerns Athlon II X2, its nominal frequencies are one step lower (DDR2-800/DDR3-1066). For Pentium E5300 we used DDR2-800, for the E7400 -- DDR2-1066.

  • HDD: Seagate 7200.11 (SATA-2)
  • Cooler: Zalman CNPS9700 AM2/NT
  • Graphics card: Palit GeForce GTX 275
  • Power supply unit: SeaSonic M12D 750 W

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Page 1: Introduction, testbeds

Page 2: Tests

Page 3: More tests, conclusions

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