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AMD Phenom II X4 810 and X3 720 BE Processors
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Date: Feb 09, 2009
Section:Processors
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Intro, Specs, and Related Info

Last month, AMD launched the Phenom II X4 processor line-up, and with it ushered in the first desktop processors built using the company's 45nm process node. While the first two Phenom II processors to arrive, the 3.0GHz X4 940 and 2.8GHz 920, were clearly superior to previous Phenoms in terms of performance and power efficiency, and they remain the two most powerful processors in AMD's product stack today, they did not exploit all of the capabilities offered by their newly tweaked, and redesigned cores.

You see, the AMD Phenom II X4 940 and X4 920 were designed for the socket AM2+ platform, and as such, they supported only DDR2 memory. The latest additions to the Phenom II line-up, the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810, however, are designed for the AM3 platform. That means these new chips can work not only in existing AM2+ motherboards with DDR2 memory, but in new AM3-based motherboards with DDR3 memory as well. The flexibility of these new socket AM3 based Phenom II processors should appeal to existing AMD system owners who may be thinking about a CPU upgrade, or potential new AMD-based system buyers who want the freedom to choose from a wide array of motherboards and memory type at multiple price points.

We've taken the new triple-core Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and quad-core X4 810 for a spin in our lab using both socket AM2+ and socket AM3 based motherboard platforms, to give you all an idea as to how each configuration performs. Take a look at the specs below for some particulars, and then read on for the full scoop...


AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition & Phenom II X4 810

AMD Phenom II X3 / X4 Processors 
Specifications and Features

Model / Processor Frequency: AMD Phenom II Processor Model X4 810 / X3 720 Black Edition
L1 Cache Sizes: 64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)
L2 Cache Sizes: 512KB of L2 data cache per core (2MB total L2 per X4 processor, 1.5MB per X3)
L3 Cache Size (shared): 4MB (X4 810) / 6MB (X3 720)
Memory Controller Type: Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller, capable of being configured for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes
Memory Controller Frequency: Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
Types of Memory: Unreg. DIMMs up to PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3 1333 (DDR3-1333MHz)
HyperTransport 3.0: One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4000MHz full duplex
Total Processor Bandwidth: Up to 33.1 GB/s bandwidth
Packaging: Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA) (backward compatible with Socket AM2)
Fab location: AMD's Fab 36 wafer fabrication facilities in Dresden, Germany
Process Technology: 45nm (.045-micron) DSL Silicon on Insulator (SOI)
Approximate Transistor count: approx. ~758 million (65nm)
Approximate Die Size: 258 mm2 (45nm)
Nominal Voltage: .0875-1.425 Volts
Max Ambient Case Temp: 71 / 73 degress Celsius
Max TDP: 95 Watts
*Note: MC configurable for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes
**Note: for DDR3-1333, AM3 boards will support 1-DIMM-per-channel @ 1333MHz


Although the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810 are new additions to AMD's processor line-up, they are part of what AMD has labeled the "Dragon Platform".  We have talked about the individual elements of the Dragon platform in a few previous articles here on HotHardware before, so we won't do the same again here. We will, however, recommend taking a look at a few recent articles to get familiar with some of the underlying technologies and components that partially comprise the Dragon platform.

The Enter the Dragon: AMD Phenom II X4 940 article listed above talks about the changes brought forth by AMD's 45nm Phenom II processors.  And the various 7-series chipset, Phenom and Athlon processor, and Spider platform related articles cover the remainder of the platform--with the exception of the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810 that is, which we'll be showing you next.
 

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Vital Signs and Overclocking

As you saw on the previous page, the new Socket AM3 Phenom II X4 and X3 processors look just like the original Phenoms, or older Athlons for that matter, due to the similar packaging and heat spreader designs.  There are some subtle differences with Socket AM3 processors, however, that we should point out.

 
Socket AM3 Phenom II X3 720 and X4 810 Side by Side

Socket AM3 processors are architected to work with both DDR2 and DDR3 memory, and with Socket AM3 or AM2+ motherboards.  Socket AM2+ processors do not have this ability though, so AMD made some changes to the Socket AM3 pin configuration to prevent AM2+ processors from being plugged into the socket.  Socket AM3 processors have 938 pins, whereas socket AM2 processors have 940, hence two pins have been removed from these new Phenom II processors.  If you look close at the shot above, you'll notice that there are two groups of three and two groups of two pins removed on the underside of the AM3 processors--on AM2+ processors, four groups of two pins are removed.  Keying the processors and sockets this way prevents AM2+ processors from being installed on AM3 motherboards, but allows AM3 processors to be installed on either type of motherboard.

The new Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810 are both compatible with DDR2 and DDR3 memory, and support a 2GHz memory controller frequency.  If you remember, the first Phenom II processors we showed you last month supported only a 1.8GHz memory controller frequency.  TDPs are rated for only 95W and each CPU has a total of 512K of L1 cache, 2MB or 1.5MB of L2 cache (512MB per core), and 4MB or 6MB of shared L3 cache.  The X3 720 Black Edition has a full 6MB L3 like earlier Phenom IIs, while the X4 810, and other 800 series Phenom IIs, will have only 4MB of L3.


  
AMD Phenom II X3 720 CPU-Z Details 


  
AMD Phenom II X4 810 CPU-Z Details

To get a closer look into each processor's inner workings, we fired up CPU-Z to take a peek at thier core and cache configurations.  CPU-Z correctly identifies the processors as Phenom IIs, based on the core codenamed "Deneb". As the information shows, the chips are manufactured using AMD's 45nm process technology and our particular samples have a stepping designation of 2 and core revision of RB-C2. The Phenom II X3 720 chip is clocked at 2.8GHz, due to its 14x multiplier and 200MHz base clock, the HT link is running at 2.0GHz, and there is 512K of L1 Data / Instruction cache, 1.5MB of L2 cache (512K per core), and 6MB of shared L3 cache available.  The Phenom II X4 810 chip is clocked at 2.6GHz (13 x 200MHz) also with an HT link running at 2.0GHz and 512K of L1 Data / Instruction cache, but with 2MB of L2 cache (512K per core), and only 4MB of shared L3 cache.
 

Overclocking The Phenom II X3 720 and X4 810
Pedal To The Metal



AMD Phenom II X3 720 Overclocked to 3.6GHz
 


AMD Phenom II X4 810 Overclocked to 3.33GHz

Overlcocking with AMD's Phenom II processors has been interesting to say the least. By now, you all should know about the significant headroom left in these CPUs.  So with that in mind, we set out to overclock them both using a stock AMD PIB cooler and MSI 790GX based motherboard.  With only a bump in CPU core voltage to 1.5v, we were able to take the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition to 3.6GHz with complete stability.  Remember, Black Edition processors are unlocked, so we were able to achieve this overclock by merely altering the CPU multiplier in the system BIOS.  The Phenon II X4 810 is not a Black Edition processor, so overclocking it required altering of the base HT clock frequency.

Our motherboard wasn't being very cooperative for this test, but with minimal effort we were still able to hit over 3.3GHz.  With some better cooling and more aggressive voltage tweaking, we suspect even higher clock speeds than these will be possible.  This is important to note because these processors are relatively inexpensive and should be attractive to you budget minded overclockers out there. 

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Socket AM3: Asus M4A79T Deluxe

For testing purposes, we thought it would be interesting to take these new Phenom II processors for a spin not only in an existing and proven socket AM2+ platform, but in a brand new DDR3-capable socket AM3 platform as well.  To that end, we enlisted the help of Asus who came through with a 790FX-based M4A79T Deluxe.


    

The M4A79T Deluxe is one of Asus' premiere socket AM3-based motherboards.  We'll show you the mobo itself in a minute, but first we want to explain what it comes with.  Bundled with the M4A79T Deluxe, included in the shiny, reflective green box, we found and assortment of five SATA cables, a case bracket equipped with both USB and Firewire ports, an IDE cable, two CrossFire bridge connectors, a package of Q-Connectors, a custom I/O shield, a driver CD, and of course a user's manual.

In addition to drivers, we should also note, that the CD included with the M4A79T Deluxe also contains a copy of Norton Internet Security 2008, and a few proprietary Asus utilities designed for overclocking (Turbo V) and power conservations (EPU).


    

    

   

The Asus M4A79T Deluxe is built around the AMD 790FX / SB750 chipset.  It features a dark colored PCB with color coded slots and expansion headers.  And un general, the layout of the motherboard is very good with no glaring problems with connector placement or clearance.  The M4A79T Deluxe features four, DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 16GB of memory, four PCI Express x16 slots (with a flexible lane configuration), and two standard PCI slots.  The M4A79T Deluxe also features an 8+2 phase power array design and an elaborate, all copper cooling apparatus that's attached not only to the components in the VRM, but to the 790FX and SB750 chips as well.

All of the board's various connectors and headers are situated around the edges of the PCB, and are clearly labeled for easy installation.  The M4A79T Deluxe also sports some handy integrated power and reset switches, and for you hardcore overclockers out there, there's even a CPU Overvolting jumper that unlocks core voltages as high as 1.9v.  While on the subject of overclocking, we should also note that the M4A79T Deluxe is outfitted with a full featured BIOS as well, rife with overclocking and performance related options.  We've only had the board in house for a very short time (about 2 days actually), but it has been running non-stop since we set it up and performance and stability seem top notch.

The ports in the M4A79T Deluxe's I/O backplane consist of PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, six USB 2.0 ports, analog (6) and digital (2) audio inputs and outputs, eSATA and Firewire ports, and an RJ45 LAN jack.  Audio on the board comes by way of a Realtek 1200 series HD codec, Gigabit Ethernet comes by way of a Realtek 8112 PCIe controller, and Firewire by a VIA VT6315N.
 

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Our Test Systems and SANDRA

 

How We Configured Our Test Systems: When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set memory timings for either DDR2-1066 with 5,5,5,15 timings or DDR3-1333 with 7,7,7,20 timings. The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

 HotHardware's Test Systems
 Intel and AMD - Head To Head 

System 1: 
AMD Phenom II X4 810
(2.60GHz Quad-Core)
AMD Phenom II X3 720BE
(2.8GHz Tri-Core)

AMD Phenom II X4 940
(3.0GHz Quad-Core)
AMD Phenom II X4 920
(2.8GHz Quad-Core)


MSI DKA790GX Platinum
(AMD 790GX Chipset)

2x2GB Corsair PC2-8500
CL 5-5-5-15 - DDR2-1066

Asus M4A79T Deluxe
(AMD 790FX Chipset)

2x2GB Corsair DDR3-1600

CL 7-7-7-20 - DDR3-1333

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
NVIDIA Forceware v180.43
DirectX Redist (August 2008)

System 2: 
Core 2 Duo E6850
(3.0GHz - Quad-Core)

Core 2 Quad Q9400
(2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

Asus P5E3 Premium
(X48 Express Chipset)

4x1GB Corsair DDR3-1800
CL 7-7-7-20 - DDR3-1333

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
NVIDIA Forceware v180.43
DirectX Redist (August 2008)

System 3:
Core i7 920
(2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

Intel DX58SO
(X58 Express Chipset)

3x1GB Qimonda DDR3-1066
CL 7-7-7-20 - DDR3-1066

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
NVIDIA Forceware v180.43
DirectX Redist (August 2008)

 Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA 2009
 Synthetic Benchmarks


We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA XII, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran three of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2009 suite with AMD's new Phenom II X4 810 and X4 720 processors (CPU Arithmetic, CPU Multimedia, and Memory Bandwidth).  All of the scores reported below were taken with the processors running at their default clock speeds of 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz, respectively, with 4GB of DDR2-1066 or DDR3-1333 RAM running in unganged mode.


Phenom X3 720 @ 2.8GHz
CPU Arithmetic
 


Phenom X3 720 @ 2.8GHz
Multimedia
 


Phenom X3 720 @ 2.8GHz
Mem. Bandwidth:
DDR2-1066
 


Phenom X3 720 @ 2.8GHz
Mem. Bandwidth:
DDR3-1333
 


Phenom X4 810 @ 2.6GHz
CPU Arithmetic


Phenom X4 810 @ 2.6GHz
Multimedia


Phenom X4 810 @ 2.6GHz
Mem. Bandwidth: DDR2-1066


Phenom X4 810 @ 2.6GHz
Mem. Bandwidth: DDR3-1333

All of the various SANDRA CPU benchmarks we ran reported scores in line with expectations.  The new Phenom II X4 810 performs behind the higher-clocked Phenoms IIs and Core 2s, and the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition comes in a notch behind the X4 810, due to its having one less core.  The memory bandwidth tests tell a more interesting story, however.  While operating with DDR2-1066 memory, both of these new Phenoms put up peak bandwidth scores as reported by SANDRA of about 12.3 - 12.6GB/s.  Replace the DDR2 with DDR3-1333 memory though, and those bandwidth numbers hit a peak about 13.5GB/s.  That extra bandwidth should pay some dividends in the more taxing tests in out benchmark suite.

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PCMark Vantage

We ran a handful of processors and platforms, including the new Phenom II X4 810 and X3 720, through Futuremark‚Äôs latest system performance metric built especially for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV and movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity.  Most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, so the tests can exploit the additional resources offered by a quad-core CPU.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance



The new socket AM3 Phenom II processors performed well in PCMark Vantage.  The Phenom II X4 810 and X3 720 finished slightly behind the higher clocked Phenom IIs and Intel-based competition, but that was expected considering their clock speed deficits.  The most interesting comparison here is between the Phenom II DDR2 and DDR3 powered configurations.  With the exception of a single anomaly in the communications tests with the Phenom II X4 810, the DDR3-powered configurations were a few percentage points faster than their DDR2-powered counterparts, across the board.

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LAME MT and Kribibench v1.1

In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content.  LAME is an open-source mid to high bit-rate and VBR (variable bit rate) MP3 audio encoder that is used widely around the world in a multitude of third party applications.

LAME MT
Audio Encoding

In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a hallucinogenically-induced Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application in single and multi-thread modes. Processing times are recorded below, listed in seconds. Once again, shorter times equate to better performance.

LAME MT can support of maximum of only two threads, hence the X3's strong performance versus the lower-clocked quad-cores here.  Once again, the new Phenom II processors perform well, albeit just a bit shy of of the Intel-based competition.

Kribibench v1.1
CPU-Bound 3D Rendering

For this next batch of tests, we ran Kribibench v1.1, a 3D rendering benchmark produced by the folks at Adept Development.  Kribibench is an SSE aware software renderer in which a 3D model is rendered and animated by the host CPU and the average frame rate is reported.  We used two of the included models with this benchmark: a "Sponge Explode" model consisting of over 19.2 million polygons and the test suite's "Ultra" model that is comprised of over 16 billion polys.



The new socket AM3 based Phenom II X3 and X4 processors clearly outpaced the Core 2 Duo in this test, despite the Core 2's significantly clock speed advantage. And once again, as we've seen a few previous tests, moving to faster DDR3 memory boosts the AMD platform's performance by a few percentage points.

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Cinebench R10 and 3DMark 06
 

Cinebench R10 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. Cinema 4D is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others.  It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.

Cinebench R10
3D Rendering

This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The rate at which each test system was able to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below.

Clock for clock, its clear that the Intel-powered rigs have a distinct advantage in this test.  The Phenom IIs perform well though, and again we see the DDR3-powered rigs with a slight edge over their DDR2-based counterparts.

Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

3DMark06's built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded DirectX gaming metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance.  Calculations that are normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering.  The frame-rate generated in each test is used to determine the final score.

All of the quad-core Phenom II's were tightly grouped in the 3DMark6 CPU benchmark; the tri-core X3 trailed the others despite its relatively high frequency because the test is multi-threaded and benefits from that fourth core.  The tri-core had no trouble dispatching the much higher clocked Core 2 Duo though.

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Low Res Gaming: Crysis and FEAR

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with Crysis and F.E.A.R. When testing processors with Crysis or F.E.A.R., we drop the resolution to 800x600, and reduce all of the in-game graphical options to their minimum values to isolate CPU and memory performance as much as possible.  However, the in-game effects, which control the level of detail for the games' physics engines and particle systems, are left at their maximum values, since these actually do place some load on the CPU rather than GPU.

Low-Resolution Gaming: Crysis and F.E.A.R.
Taking the GPU out of the Equation



Crysis and F.E.A.R. tell two conflicting stories.  In the F.E.A.R. benchmark, the Phenoms has a marked advantage over the Core 2 processors and hung with the much more expensive Core i7.  And the exact opposite happened in the Crysis benchmark.  Notice the Phenom II X3 720's strong performance, especially when using DDR3 memory.  We suspect gamers on a budget are going to really dig the Phenom II X3 720 BE.

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Total System Power Consumption

We'd like to cover a few final data points before bringing this article to a close. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems consumed using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the processors alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

These new 45nm Phenom II processors are quite power friendly.  While idling, they consumed the least amount of power of the bunch when paired to DDR2 memory.  And the same holds true while under load.  When using DDR3 memory, the new AM3 processors still consumed relatively little power, but we suspect the Asus motherboard we used didn't completely exploit the C1E power state available in the new Phenoms with its current BIOS, hence the slightly higher power usage.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810 processors performed very well in multiple categories.  According to their respective benchmark scores, both processors are competitive with similarly priced offerings from Intel, trading victories depending on the application being tested.  Overall though, Intel still has the performance edge clock-for-clock and core-for-core.  The X3 720 Black Edition, however, finished well out in front of even a higher-clocked 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo in multi-threaded applications, due to the X3's third processor core.  Both the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810 processors were also very good overclockers, and they were quite power friendly as well.



 
 

Although we showed you only two new Phenom II processors in this article, AMD is announcing immediate availability of the following five new AM3-packaged Phenom II processors today, the Phenom II X4 810, the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition, and the Phenom II X3 710, at prices of $175, $145, and $125, respectively, in 1K quantities, and the Phenom II X4 910 and Phenom II X4 805 (pricing wasn't available for the X4 910 and X5 805 as of this publication).  At these prices, and with the excellent overclockability these processors have shown, we suspect they will be very popular with the enthusiast and gaming communities.  The Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition is an especially enticing product.  Couple this unlocked processor with an inexpensive 790GX based motherboard and 4GB of DDR2 RAM, and you've for yourself a killer overclocking and gaming platform, for right around $300.  That third core in the X3 also offers marked performance benefits over most dual-core CPUs in multi-threaded applications, which is something rather important to consider.  These new processors have also proven to run cool and consume less power, relatively speaking, making them well suited to quiet or HTPC system builds too.

The flexibility of the AM3 platform, with its support for DDR2 and DDR3 memory types, is also a big plus.  Existing owners of socket AM2+ plus motherboards looking to take advantage of AMD's latest processor offerings can rest assured that these new chips will plug right into their existing systems and just work, with no need to upgrade any other components.  And new system builders, in the market for an affordable, high performing platform have the flexibility to choose from a wide range of motherboards and memory types, at multiple price points.  If you want the best AMD has to offer, you've got the 790FX and DDR3; want to save a few bucks and there's always the 790GX (or other 7x0 series chipsets) and more affordable DDR2.

They may not break any performance records in their stock form, but the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition and X4 810 processors are definitely worthy of consideration at their respective price points and are excellent additions to AMD's affordable processor line-up.  They also offer a glimpse at what AMD has in store with, higher-clocked, future AM3 processors.  Using DDR3 memory with these processors resulted in performance gains across the board.  We can't want to see what a fully loaded X4 Black Edition can do when overclocked to almost 4GHz with some speedy DDR3-1600 memory.  Fun times lie ahead.

 

  • Good Performance
  • Highly Overclockable
  • Low Power
  • Very Affordable
  • Compatibility with AM2+ and AM3

 

  • Not Quite as Fast as Core 2
  • Confusing Naming Convention

 



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