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AMD Phenom II X2 555 and Athlon II X4 635 Performance
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Date: Jan 25, 2010
Section:Processors
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

AMD is launching a bevy of new processors today, targeted squarely at budget conscious consumers, looking to save a few bucks on the their next PC build. The new processors differ from previous offerings in their respective product families in terms of frequency, and of course their model names, but all are based on existing architectures and technology.

The new line-up of processors AMD is introducing today consists of the following products...

  • Phenom II X2 555  -  $99
  • Athlon II X4 635  -  $119
  • Athlon II X3 440  -  $84
  • Athlon II X2 255  -  $74
  • Phenom II X4 910e  -  $169

We decided to take the 3.2GHz Phenom II X2 555 and 2.9GHz Athlon II X4 635 for a spin and have their performance results posted on the pages ahead. Before we get to the numbers though, take a moment to peruse The Phenom II X2 555's and Athlon II X4 635's specifications in table below...


The AMD Phenom II X2 555 and Athlon II X4 635, Side By Side
 

AMD Phenom II X2 & Athlon II X4 Processors 
Specifications and Features

Phenom II X2

Athlon II X4

Model
Core Frequency
HyperTransport 3.0 Technology Link
Clock Multiplier
TDP (Thermal Design Power)
Number of CPU Cores
L1 Cache
L2 Cache
L3 Cache
Core Voltage (VID)
Manufacturing Process
Total Die Size
Packaging
Socket Compatibility
Memory Type
AMD PowerNow! Technology
MSRP
555
3.2 GHz
4000 GT/s
16x
80W
2
256KB (2 x 128K)
1MB (2 x 512KB)
6MB
0.85-1.425V
45nm
258mm²
AM3 938-pin
AM2+, AM3
DDR2, DDR3
3.0
$99
635
2.90 GHz
4000 GT/s
14.5x
95W
4
512KB (4x 128KB)
2MB (4 x 512KB)
0MB
0.825-1.425V
45nm
169mm²
AM3 938-pin
AM2+, AM3
DDR2, DDR3
3.0
$119


The hardcore AMD fans among you will notice that the two processors we've chosen to test here are the fastest of their respective product families--3.2GHz for the Phenom II X2 and 2.9GHz for the Athlon II X4. As we've mentioned though, not much else has changed over previous offerings than clock speed. As such, we won't detail the Phenom II and Athlon II architectures again here and will instead offer up this performance quick-take. If you would like a refresher, however, as to what makes the Phenom II and Athlon II tick, here are a couple of recent HotHardware articles with all of the pertinent details:

Those three articles cover all of the architectural information necessary to understand the technology at the heart of the new Phenom II X2 555 and Athlon II X4 635.

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Test Systems and Vantage

Test System Configuration Notes: 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 DDR3-1333 with 8,8,8,24 timings. The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 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, performed a disk clean-up, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

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

System 1:
Core i5 661
(3.33GHz - Dual-Core)

Asus P7H57D-V EVO
(H57 Express Chipset) 

2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
(@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

Intel GMA IGP 
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows 7 x64
System 2: 
Core i5 750
(2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

Asus Maximus III Formula 
(P55 Express Chipset) 

2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
(@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows 7 x64
System 3: 
Core 2 Q9650
(3GHz - Quad-Core)
Core 2 Quad Q9400
(2.66GHz - Quad-Core)

Gigabyte X48T-DQ6
(X48 Express Chipset)

2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
(@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

GeForce GTX 280
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA 

Windows 7 x64
System 4:
AMD Phenom II X4 965
(3.4GHz Quad-Core) 
AMD Phenom II X2 555
(3.2GHz Dual-Core) 
AMD Athlon II X4 635
(2.9GHz Quad-Core)

Asus M4A79T Deluxe
(AMD 785G Chipset) 

2x2GB Kingston DDR3-1600
(@ 1333MHz, CAS 8)

Radeon IGP
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD150 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA 

Windows 7 x64

 Preliminary Testing with PCMark Vantage
 Synthetic Benchmarks

First up, we ran a number of different test systems through Futuremark’s latest system performance evaluation tool, 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.


The new Athlon II X4 635 and Phenom II X2 555 performed relatively well according to PCMark Vantage. In this test, AMD's newest affordable processors put up a good fight against the Core i5 661 and Core 2s, but obviously don't come close to the more expensive Core i5 750.

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3DMark Vantage and '06

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.

Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

The Athlon II X4 635 puts up a nice number in the 3DMark06 CPU benchmark, besting all the Core i5 661 and Core 2 Quad Q9400. The dual-core Phenom II X2 555 doesn't fare as well, but it's worth noting that its score is the highest we have seen from any AMD dual-core processor to date.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

3DMark Vantage's CPU Test 2 is a multi-threaded test designed for comparing relative game physics processing performance between systems.  This test consists of a single scene that features an air race of sorts, with a complex configuration of gates. There are aircraft in the test that trail smoke and collide with various cloth and soft-body obstacles, each other, and the ground. The smoke spreads, and reacts to the planes as they pass through it as well and all of this is calculated on the host CPU.

Although the results look very different, 3DMark Vantage tells virtually the same story as its predecessor. The Athlon II X4 635 bests the Core i5 661 and Core 2 Quad Q9400, but the Phenom II 555 X2 trails the pack.

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Cinebench and LAME MT

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.

The Phenom II X2 555's high clock speed allows it to compete favorably with all of the other processors we tested in the single-threaded Cinebench R10 test, but in the multi-threaded test it can't hang with the quad-cores or the HT enabled Core i5 661. The exact opposite is true of the Athlon II X4 635, where its quad-cores help in the MT test, but its relatively low frequency hinders single-thread performance.

LAME MT
Audio Encoding

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.

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. Shorter times equate to better performance.

LAME MT runs best on the Intel platform, as is evident by the performance results above. Only the 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q9400 trails AMD's newest processors, and even then it's only be a second in both tests against the roughly 600MHz faster Phenom II X2 555.

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Low-Res Gaming: Crysis and ETQW

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with Crysis and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When testing processors with Crysis or ET:QW, 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 ET: Quake Wars
Taking the GPU out of the Equation--Somtimes



We decided to pair the new Phenom II X2 555 and Athlon II X2 635 to an AMD IGP for this round of testing, and as a result, the relatively limited performance of the 785G's integrated GPU hold the processor back in both game tests. Not much to see here, other than the fact that AMD's IGP outpaces the Intel HD graphics in the ETQW test and essentially ties with it in Crysis.

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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

AMD's latest budget priced processors were quite power friendly according to our testing.  In terms of idle power consumption, the new Athlon II X4 635 and Phenom II X2 555 were the best of the bunch by a few watts each. And peak power consumption was very good as well, although neither could quite match the Core i5 661.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new Athlon II X4 635 and Phenom II X2 555 performed well, especially considering their affordable price points. In general, both of the processors were outpaced by Intel's latest dual-core Core i5 661, but please keep in mind AMD's new offerings are significantly less expensive. In single-threaded tasks, the higher frequency of the Phenom II X2 555 gives it an edge over the Athlon II X4 635, but the Athlon II X4 635 additional two execution cores help it out significantly in multi-threaded workloads, where it comes out on top.

Today's launch by AMD doesn't break any major new ground, but the products do represent better values than the previous offerings they're replacing at the top of their respective product line-ups, which is a good thing for consumers.


AMD Athlon II and Phenom II Processors

The $119 Athlon II X4 635 becomes the fastest quad-core in the Athlon II line-up, and it does so at a price that's actually few dollars lower than the Athlon II X4 630, which was $122 at launch. We should also note that the release of the X4 635 pushes the X4 630 down to the $99 price point, making it one heck of a value.

As we've mentioned, the Phenom II X2 555 has the distinction of being the fastest dual-core processor to ever come out of AMD. And it too is quite affordable, thanks to a sub-$100 price point. The Phenom II X2 555 also turned out to be power friendly, putting up some of the lower power consumption numbers we have seen to date. In light of today's fast quad-core processors, the Phenom II X2 555 isn't going to break any benchmark records, but at under a 100 bucks it's certainly a powerful chip worth considering if you're looking to build a speedy system on shoestring budget.

 

  • Decent Performance
  • Low Power
  • Affordable Prices

 

  • Couldn't Catch Intel's CPUs in most tests

 



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