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AMD Launches New Phenom II and Athlon II Processors
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Date: Sep 21, 2010
Section:Processors
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

AMD is launching a half dozen new processors today, targeted at virtually all market segments, ranging from an inexpensive, mainstream dual-core Athlon II offering to a new, relatively high-end six-core Phenom II. The complete list of processors launching today, along with their respective price points are as follows:

  • 3.0GHz (3.5GHz Turbo) Phenom II X6 1075T - $245
  • 3.5GHz Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition - $185
  • 3.3GHz Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition - $105
  • 3.1GHz Athlon II X4 645 - $122
  • 3.2GHz Athlon II X3 450 - $87
  • 3.3GHz - Athlon II X2 265 - $76

As its name suggests, the Phenom II X6 1075T drops in between AMD’s existing 1055T and 1090T six-core offerings, but the rest of the processors all represent the highest clocked models in their respective product families. Please note, however, that pricing for some models does not change much from the previous flagships in each product family. Due to AMD’s recent price cuts, these new chips are slightly more expensive than the previous offerings, but they're being introduced at essentially the same price points.

We decided to take a look at AMD's latest six-core and higher-end quad-cores in both the Phenom II and Athlon II flavors. The full specifications for each of the processors are listed below and performance for each of the new chips is detailed on the pages ahead...


Behold, The Phenom II Sandwich...

AMD Athlon II X4 and Phenom II X4 / X6
Specifications & Features


All of the new processors being launched today are based on existing CPU cores—they only differ in their frequencies and model numbers. As such, we won’t be detailing their respective architectures again here. We would, however, recommend checking out these recent HotHardware articles for the full breakdown of each processor family and their respective features:

 

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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 the memory frequency to DDR3-1333. 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 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 Athlon II X4 640
(3.0GHz Quad-Core)
AMD Athlon II X4 645
(3.1GHz Quad-Core)

AMD Pehnom II X4 970
(3.5GHz Quad-Core)

AMD Phenom II X6 1075T
(3.0GHz Six-Core)


MSI 890FXA-GD70
(AMD 890FX Chipset) 

2x2GB Corsair 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.

We have compared AMD newest processors to the models they supplant at the top of their respective product line-ups, or to the fastest chip in the family as is the case with the Phenom II X6 1075T.

As you can see in the chart above, the 100MHz clock speed increases to the Phenom II 970 Black Edition and the Athlon II X4 645 processors give them a slight advantage over the Phenom II 965 and Athlon II X4 640, respectively. The six-core Phenom II X6 1075T, however, although technically clocked 200MHz lower thant he 1090T by defaults, isn't all that much slower due to both chips having similar Turbo Core frequencies.

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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 results reported by 3DMark06's built-in CPU test were as expected. The increases frequencies of the Phenom II X4 970 and Athlon II X4 645 gave them a slight edge over lower-clocked counterparts, while the Phenom II X6 1075T dropped in just behind the faster 1090T.

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 performance trend with 3DMark Vantage's CPU Test 2 is expectedly similar to that of 3DMark06 above, but the deltas separating the chips are somewhat smaller. Still, the results are in-line with expectations.

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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.

 

 

We saw more of the same with the Cinebench R10 benchmark. The Phenom II X6 1075T finished just behind the 1090T, and the Phenom II X4 970 BE and Athlon II X4 645 finished just ahead of the Phenom II 965 and Athlon II X4 640, respectively.

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.

The performance trend that we've seen throughout testing is repeated in the LAME MT benchmarks, with the 1075T slightly trailing the 1090T, but with the Phenom II 970 and Athlon II X4 645 pulling slightly ahead of the 965 and 640.

 

 

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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

In both the Crysis CPU benchmark and our custom Enemy Territory: Quake Wars test, all of the new AMD processors performed as expected. The same performance trend we've seen throughout the article is repeated here.
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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


As was the case in the rest of our testing, the results from our power consumption tests were as expected. The higher-clocked chips in each product family consumed slightly more power than their lower-clocked counterparts; no surprises there. Now that both AMD and Intel have made significantly strides in terms of power consumption over the CPU architectures of yesteryear, what's more interesting than the total power consumption of each platform---at least to us--is how little power (relatively speaking) they use in the grand scheme of things. The fact that a powerful six-core system with a discrete GPU and 4GB of RAM consumes only marginally more power under full load than a couple of 100W light bulbs is just plain impressive.
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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Due to the fact that all of the new processors featured in this article were simply speed bumps of existing CPU designs, summarizing their performance is quite simple. As expected, the new Phenom II X6 1075T wasn’t quite as fast as the higher-clock Phenom II X6 1090T. Throughout our testing, the 1075T finished a couple of percentage points behind the 1090T. The new Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition and Athlon II X4 645, however, due to their higher clocks, finished slightly ahead of the Phenom II 965 and Athlon II 640 they supplant at the top of their respective product line-ups—as they should.

Other than their clock speeds and model numbers, there may not be much new to report in regard to the fresh batch of processors being launched today by AMD, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the new Phenom II X6 1075T, AMD brings an affordable, yet high performance, sub-$250 6-core CPU to market. And the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition and Athlon II X4 645 represent great values in their respective price segments. Additionally, the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition represents the highest clocked quad-core processor to ever leave AMD’s labs. At 3.5GHz with a sub $185 street price, the Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition offers the best single-thread performance of any AMD desktop processor to date along with excellent multi-threaded performance as well.


Clockwise From Top: The AMD Athlon II X4 645, Phenom II X6 1075T, and Phenom II X4 970 Black Edition

These new processors don’t do much to erase the significant performance advantage Intel’s desktop Core 2010 processors continue to enjoy over AMD’s offerings.  We’ll have to wait for Bulldozer to see if AMD can manage that feat. For now though, all of these new processors represent strong values at their respective price points. The fact that you can build an entire Phenom II X6 1075T-based system for less than the cost of any Intel 6-core processor alone is a testament to that. If you’re in the market for a new processor and any of these new chips fall within your budget, do yourself a favor and check them out. Intel may still have a firm grasp on the desktop CPU performance crown, but dollar-for-dollar AMD continues to have some very compelling offerings.

 

 

 



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