The Phenom IIs in quad and three core variations are in the market for quite a while, and after months of waith AMD is ready to replace the old Athon X2 series, which latest incarnations are the 7750 and 7850. The 7750 and 7850 were the last of 65nm K10 derived cores that sticked with us for quote a while but it was the time to replace Kuma with 45nm Rana. We were happy with the performance of the old ones, but power-consumption of Kuma 65nm dual core parts was sky-high. Now it's time to check if that has changed with 45nm parts.
The Athlon X2 250 is actually Phenom II but crippled by disabling the L3 cache. It looks that Athlon X2 250 will have all four cores inside and you will have to try to find the way how to enable them. This time, instead of 512kB per core as you get with every other Phenom II, this little bugger has 1024kB on each of the two cores.
The TDP is rated of 65W, which is now at the same level compared to Intels E5, E7 and E8 series. The Phenom II 550 is quite the same as every Phenom II but with only two cores enabled, the VCore has been reduced to 1.3000V and the TDP also lowered to 80W. Phenom II 550 is based on Calisto, yet another harvested quad core where AMD dissabled two cores but it didn't deactivated 6MB of L3 cache. Both CPUs are suited for AM3 and AM2+ boards.
MSI 790GX-GD70 (provided by MSI)
MSI DKA790GX (provided by MSI)
ECS Elitegroup A790GXM-AD3 (provided by Elitegroup)
AMD Athlon X2 4850e (provided by AMD)
AMD Athlon X2 7750 (provided by AMD)
AMD Athlon X2 7850 (provided by AMD)
AMD Athlon II X2 250 (provided by AMD)
AMD Phenom II X2 550 (provided by AMD)
Intel E7200 (provided by K&M Elektronik)
Scythe Kabuto (provided by Scythe-Europe)
Kingston 2GB Kit PC2-9600U KHX1200D2K2/2G (provided by Kingston)
CL5-5-5-15 CR2T at 1.90V
MSI R4850-2D1G-OC (provided by MSI)
PC Power & Cooling Silencer 500W (provided by PC Power & Cooling)
Western Digital WD4000KD (provided by Ditech)
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
Cooler Master Stacker 831 Lite (provided by Cooler Master)
Since we are still not fans of Vista, all tests are performed with XP SP3. As 64-bit software is still not very common, we stick with the 32-bit version.
The new Athlon II is clocked at 3GHz with 1.325V Vcore, the Phenom II is clocked a bit higer with 3.1GHz but with a lower VCore of 1.300V. This is still high VCore with a 45nm CPU, but temperatures are below 40°C when not overclocked. Of course, if your board supports it, you can under-voltage on your own.
Overclocking is a piece of cake, just raise the FSB and you are good to go. The Black Edition is multiplier-free, so you can go up without altering any other settings, but where's the fun in that?
We could boot up both CPUs with 4GHz, but sadly they were not stable. That forced us to stick with 3.9GHz:
The memory is of course overclocked too:
With the amazing MSI board, we could run power efficent Cool'n'Quiet while still overclocking:
Our benchmarks are quite self-explanatory. Beside the usual benchmarks we included the Far Cry 2 Bench, which should show only the benefit of a faster CPU. The Athlon II X2 is placed against the E7 series CPU, but in most cases, Intel is behind.
3DMark 2003 run at 1600x1200, 3DMark 2006 used defaults. As you can see, more CPU muscle doesn't really help. AMD has positioned the triple-cores against Intel's dual-core offerings, and as you can see in FarCry2 the third core does help to keep Intel in check, even when this game is clearly not optimized for AMD.
With a reduced TDP rating of 65W for the Athlon II it seems that's this CPU is the better choice compared to the old Phenom based Athlon X2s. AMD also shaved off 15W of the TDP of the Phenom II X2 which is not as much as we had hoped for. We have not forgotten to include the efficiency tests with the new CPUs, and as you can see, Intel keeps superior with it's E5, E7 and E8 lines.
CPU prices went down dramatically over the past few months. The older Phenom based CPUs 7750 and 7850 sell for under €50 and €58 respectively, the new AMD Athlon II 250 will cost about €80,-. The first listings appeared with prices between €85,- and €90,- which you can find here. The Phenom II 550 is already on the market and sells for under €90,- which only €5,- more compared to the Athlon II 250. This is also the same price which Intel is selling its E7300.
As we have proved the Athlon II/Phenom II are faster then the E7 series, except for Cinebench. If you are a gamer, you won't miss the 6MB L3 cache and because the Black Edition has nearly the same price but allows free multiplicator overclocking, it's the obvious choice.
So for the low budget customer we can recommend the new AMD dual-core series even with a higher power-consumption compared to Intel but closer then previous models. Especially the Phenom II 550 is a fierce competition for Intel but both CPUs deserve our Top Value Award.