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AMD Athlon II X4 640: 4-Cores On The Cheap
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Date: May 11, 2010
Section:Processors
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

We are officially declaring May 11, 2010 "Athlon II" day. Why you ask? Because AMD is launching a total of six new Athlon II processors today, including a new flagship model, targeted squarely at budget conscious consumers. We should point out, however, that all six of the processors launching today feature existing core microarchitectures. While they do differ from previous offerings in terms of frequency, and of course their model names, all of the new Athlon II processors arriving today are based on the same Propus (X4), Regor (X2), and Rana (X3) cores that were introduced a few months back.

The new line-up of Athlon II processors AMD is introducing today consists of the following products:

  • Athlon II X4 640 - $122 (3.0GHz, 95W max TDP, 4 cores)
  • Athlon II X3 445 - $87 (3.1GHz, 95W max TDP, 3 cores)
  • Athlon II X2 260 - $76 (3.2GHz, 65W max TDP, 2 cores)
  • Athlon II X4 610e - $145 (2.4GHz, 45W max TDP, 4 cores)
  • Athlon II X3 415e - $102 (2.5GHz, 45W max TDP, 3 cores)
  • Athlon II X2 245e - $77 (2.9GHz, 45W max TDP, 2 cores)

We got our hands on the new flagship Athlon II X4, the 3.0GHz Athlon II X4 640, and have its performance results posted on the pages ahead. Before we get to the numbers though, take a moment to peruse its specifications in table below...


The AMD Athlon II X4 640 Processor
AMD Athlon II X4 640 Processor
Specifications & Features

  

  
AMD Athlon II X4 640 CPU-Z Details, Click to Enlarge


 

  

As we have already mentioned, the new Athlon II X4 isn't based on a new core and doesn't feature any new technology. As such, we won't go into detail on the Athlon II architecture again here and will instead offer up this performance quick-take. If you would like a refresher, however, as to what makes the 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 Athlon II X4 640 and the rest of the Athlon II line-up, for that matter.

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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)
AMD Athlon II X4 640
(3.0GHz 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 our 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.

 

As expected, the new Athlon II X4 640 performed slightly better than the Athlon II X4 635 it supplants at the top of the current Athlon II CPU line-up in PCMark Vantage. It also traded victories with the Intel Core i5-661 and much older Q9400.

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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 640 performed well in the 3DMark06 CPU benchmark, besting all the Core i5 661 and Core 2 Quad Q9400.

 

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. 

 

 

The new Athlon II X4 640 nudged ahead of the Athlon II 635 in PCMark Vantage's CPU Test 2, but it couldn't keep pace with the i5 or Q9650. It did manage to outpace the Q9400 though.

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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 new Athlon II X4 640 pulled ahead of the lower-clocked 635, but it couldn't quite compete with any of the Intel processors here.

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.

Our custom LAME MT benchmark tells the same story as Cinebench above. The Athlon II X4 640 is the fastest of the Athlon II X4 processors, but it can't catch Intel's offerings here.

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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



 

The Athlon II X4 640 easily broke the 90FPS mark in both games, but again, these new budget-priced quad-cores from AMD can't quite keep pace with even the older Intel offerings.

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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

The Athlon II X4 640 is a relatively power-friendly processor. Due to its higher clock speed, it consumed somewhat more power then the Athlon II X4 635 under load, but it was still one of the more power-friendly overall--only the Core i5-661 platform consumed less power.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new Athlon II X4 640 performed relatively well, especially considering its affordable price point. Generally speaking, the Athlon II X4 640 processor was outpaced by Intel's latest dual-core, the Core i5-661, but keep in mind AMD's new offering is significantly less expensive. In both single- and multi-threaded tasks, the higher frequency of the 3.0GHz Athlon II X4 640 gives it an edge over the 2.9GHz Athlon II X4 635, but there were still a number of scenarios where Intel's older Penryn-based quad-cores were faster than the Athlon II.

When we took a look at the first speed bumps to the AMD Athlon II line-up a few months ago, we began our conclusion by saying, "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." And that statement rings true again today. The new Athlon II X4 640 comes in at the same price point of the 635, which now drops down to $99.

At about $120, the Athlon II X4 640 is a potent processor for the money. Match this processor up with a decent, dual-channel 4GB DDR3-1333 memory kit and a nice AMD 800-series chipse based motherboard, and you'll have yourself the foundation of a relatively powerful system, with cutting edge features (i.e. SATA 6G), for around $340. That's good news for anyone looking to build a full-featured, quad-core powered PC, on a limited budget. It may not be the fastest CPU on the market, but the Athlon II X4 640 is well worth its paltry asking price.

 

  • Decent Performance
  • Low Power
  • Affordable Price

 

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

 



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