Review: Though it's no match for Intel, yet
After long denying any Phenom-based Athlons, then releasing the 6500 silently, now AMD introduces new models of the 7000 series. The naming is adding to some confusion for the customers, because there is no distinction between Phenom-based CPUs, codename "Kuma" and the old "Brisbane" core of the original Athlon, now available as 4450e, 4850e, and 5050e. Why they did not choose to use "Athlon II" as they did with the new Phenoms is beyond our understanding.
The CPU is, in fact, a Phenom with only two cores. No surprises here, 2x 64kB instruction and data 1st level cache, 2x 512kB 2nd level cache and addtional 2MB shared 3rd level cache. The disappointing news is that it has a TDP of 95W. While AMD is positioning this CPU against the E5200, with a TDP of 65W. The TDP difference is quite substantial, even when AMD comes close in performance.
MSI DKA790GX (provided by MSI, special thx for fast sending)
AMD Athlon X2 3800+ EE
AMD Athlon X2 4850e (provided by AMD)
AMD Athlon X2 7750 (provided by AMD)
Intel E7200 (provided by K&M Elektronik)
Scythe Andy Samurai Master (provided by Scythe-Europe)
Kingston 2GB Kit PC2-9600U KHX1200D2K2/2G (provided by Kingston)
CL4-4-4-12 CR2T at 1.80V
Jetway Radeon HD3870 (provided by mec-electronics)
Seasonic S12II 500W
Samsung Spinpoint F1 (provided by Ditech)
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Cooler Master Stacker 831 Lite (provided by Cooler Master)
The clock runs at 2.70GHz which is the highest of any K10 based CPU so far.
We noticed the VCore seems to be 1.3250V, which is quite high compared to other CPUs. We are not sure if this was detected correctly by the board and we could not reach anyone over the weekend. So, we tested if lower VCores are workable; and yes, they are. The CPU ran stable with 1.2000V, which will shave off some bucks on your power bill.
Overclocking in the BIOS is a piece of cake, because this is a multiplier-free Black Edition. Just increase the multiplier and there you go. With 1.3500Vcore we managed a stable 3.30GHz. We tried 3.40GHz, but 3DMark was not able to run through even increasing the VCore to 1.4500V, so we stuck it at 3.30GHz. We guess some more is manageable with AMD overclocking tool, but we would not recommend it anyway.
Our benchmarks are quite self-explanatory. Besides the usual benchmarks we included the Far Cry 2 Bench, which should show only the benefit of a faster CPU. Because we don't have a 7550, which is clocked 200MHz less with 2.50GHz and gives a better comparison with the 4850e, we downclocked our 7750. Sorry, we could not organize an E5200 in that short time, but an E7200 should be adequate enough.
Of course, we did not forget to test an old 90nm Athlon X2 3800+ EE.
First benches are Cinebench and Lame. it's interesting to notice that AMD Kumas manage to scale over 2x.
Kuma is clearly superior to the Brisbane, but we doubt it will catch an E5200.
The most disappointing is the 95W TDP rating, which is the same TDP as most of the Phenom X4. This is quite ridiculous and shows in our energy consumption charts. We did not have a 7550, so we down-clocked the 7750 200MHz, which should also give a better comparison to the 4850e which is also clocked at 2.50GHz. The only impressive thing is the Kuma does keep its idle power consumption low even when overclocked, but we suspect that is due to the mainboard VRM design.
Speed-wise, it's a good step forward for AMD, but Intel has clearly the lead with their Wolfdale CPUs. Intel Core i7 is a different story entirely, but of course they are in another performance league.
The price for this new CPU is around €75,- now €20,- cheaper compared to the slower 6500. We are sure the price will decline under the €70,- mark, so pricing is very competitive. The problem is with the boards. AMD says it's best to pair their CPUs with 790GX boards. We found only three boards under the €100,- mark, most are around the €120,- mark. On the other hand, you can find Intel P35 boards which will run nicely with E5 and E7 series for about €60,-.
Mind you, if you opt for an AMD 740G or 780G-based motherboard instead of the 790GX, you'll have to spend even less, as they cost around €40 and €50, respectively. This means you can get a motherboard and CPU for under €125, which sounds like a good deal, all things considered, although you should expect limited overclocking with such low-end motherboards.
For gamers a chipset with graphics does not make sense, but the integration of the graphics core does add cost. Until now there is no graphics-card that can be shut down completely when not in use, so the energy-saving argument is not a valid one here, either. The 790FX chipset and boards are out for over a year and don't have the latest innovations in CPU power regulations, such as power off phases when not in use, as our MSI DKA790GX board does.
There is much work ahead for AMD. They need to lower the TDP and introduce a cheaper chipset, if possible, a single chip solution. Due to the low price we are sure there will be some attractive bundles for the big OEMs. If you like to build an HTPC machine, it's best you go with 780G and Athlon X2 4850e, because this will at least save you some money on your power bill, help keep heat and noise down, whereas CPU speed does not matter as much. On the other hand, the new Athlon 7750 could also be an interesting and affordable upgrade option for K8 users who don't need a quad-core just yet. Intel is still top dog in this market segment, but AMD is finally starting to put up a fight.