AMD Athlon II X4 Debut: Enter The $99 Quad-Core

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The Athlon II X4 series is based on a new spin on the familiar Deneb core used in existing Phenom II processors, called Propus. The new Propus core is essentially a trimmed down Deneb with the L3 cache removed. 


   

A quick peek with the latest version of CPU-Z shows us that unlike the dual-core Athlon II X2s which benefit from increased L2 cache to compensate for the lack of L3 cache, quad-core Athlon II X4s have to make do with the same amount of L1 and L2 cache as Deneb. Just like Deneb-based Phenom II processors, the Athlon II X4 630 and 620 are equipped with 64KB of L1 instruction and 64KB of L1 data cache per core, for a total of 512KB of L1. Each core also has 512KB of L2 data cache, for a grand total of 2MB L2 cache. Unlike Deneb which has 6MB of L3 cache, we see that Propus has none at all.

The reduction in cache means the new Propus core is significantly smaller than Deneb at just 169mm2, compared to Deneb's 258mm2. The drastic reduction in size means the new Propus cores are much cheaper to build and AMD seems to be passing the savings down to consumers.

While the removal of Deneb's 6MB of L3 cache results in drastic die size savings, it comes at the cost of performance. As we saw in our Athlon II X2 review, cutting out the L3 cache isn't debilitating, but it does hurt performance in certain applications. 

   
 169mm2 Propus die
 258mm2 Deneb die

Other than the removal of L3 cache, the Propus core is otherwise identical to Deneb. As you can see in the images of the Propus and Deneb dies above, the Propus appears to literally be a Deneb with the L3 cache chopped off.

In fact, some of the early Athlon II X4 engineering samples that are currently floating around are actually 258mm2 Denebs cores with the L3 cache disabled and not true 169mm2 Propus cores. Some users who have gotten their hands on these chips have even claimed to have been able to unlock the L3 cache. However, if you have hopes of doing the same, you'll have to hurry as all future Athlon II X4 stock will be made from Propus cores with the L3 cache physically removed. 

Tags:  AMD, CPU, processor, Athlon, AM3, AM2

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Crisis Causer 5 years ago

It seems good for the price point, but I'm really not sure this is the best idea for AMD.  With the introduction of the i5 and soon i3, AMD has been forced to put virtually its entire line (save the 965) into the sub $200 market.  Now they are adding even more to a clustered $90-$140 range.  Now you have a ton of choices for AMD in that range, but is that a good thing?  Surely they can't sell a ton of everything.

Dual core: $92 3.0GHz 545 or $102 3.1GHz Unlocked 550.  Both have L3 so they will outperform the Athlon II X4 per MHz per core (but they only have two cores).  For people who still feel Dual Core is plenty of performance, they will head this way.

Triple core: $119 2.8GHz Unlocked 720.  Again, it outperforms the Athlon II per core because of L3.  Most gamers will choose this because few games take advantage of 4 cores (but 3 is becoming more common).

Then there's these new quad cores.  For people on a budget, yes they have a purpose.  If your programs do take advantage of all 4 cores, like in some of these tests, we can see that these beat the X3 720.  So if you can only spend ~$110 but want 4-core utilization then these are key.  But I'm not sure how many people do want all 4 cores and don't want to spend $169 for the 945.  I also suspect that AMD will have to lower prices of the higher end parts even more because of Intel, and once a 945 is even lower then it's gonna be even more attractive.

I built someone a Phenom II X4 810 system a month ago.  That has 2.6GHz and 4MB of L3 (most Ph II have 6MB L3) and was $146 at that time.  Because he doesn't overclock, I might have recommended the Athlon 630 instead.  Save $20+ and the performance would probably be only a bit slower since the 820 doesn't have as much L3.  These now replace the 810 as the cheapest Quads, so they have a use.  But only if you think 3 cores are not enough.

realneil 5 years ago

Saving for a pair of 965's as nothing else will do for me.

They will replace a pair of 940's that I use now.

In 6 or 8 months I'll do it again.

That's what we're supposed to do,..right?

Super Dave 5 years ago

If I was seriously looking at these two inexpensive AMD quad-cores, I think I would instead purchase the Phenom II X3 920. Available HERE for only $119, that thing is an awesome overclock monster! AMDCrankItUp, our resident overclock guru, will verify this for me, I am sure.

bob_on_the_cob 5 years ago

Yeah that's the big question I had when I first saw this. If it was unlocked like the Phenom II X3 920 I would go for this, but I think the unlock would help a lot with a cheap build where you are not going to have the best motherboard.

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