AMD Athlon II and Phenom II X2 Processors Debut

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A Closer Look At the Processors

As we've mentioned, AMD's Athlon II X2 250 processor is comprised of roughly 234 million transistors and is built using Global Foundries' advanced 45nm fabrication process...

AMD Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz Processor

AMD Athlon II X2 Die Shot

Save for the unique markings on the CPU's heat spreader, the Athlon II X2 250 looks just like another socket AM3 AMD processor. It uses the same packaging and heat spreader design, and obviously has the same pin configuration. The Athlon II X2 250 hums along at a cool 3.0GHz (15x200MHz) and features a full 1MB of L2 cache per core (Phenom II's feature 512K of L2 per core), 64K of L1 and instruction and data cache per core (256K total), and it supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory types.

Although AMD already has similarly clocked Athlon X2 processors in their line-up, the current crop of chips use more power and are built using a 65nm process, which makes them more expensive to produce. The Athlon II X2 250's native dual-core design and 45nm manufacturing process, coupled with the processor's support for PowerNow 3, will make it cheaper to produce and should make it more power friendly.

AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition Overclocked to Over 3.8GHz

Touted as AMD's fastest dual-core processor to-date, the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition is the other new dual-core processor being introduced today. The chip sports a 3.1GHz frequency (15.5x200MHz), a similar L1 cache configuration to the Athlon II X2 250, but only 512KB of L2 cache per core. The Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition, however, is also outfitted with 6MB of shared L3 cache. And it too supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory types.

Because the chip is a Black Edition, the Phenom II X2 550 has an unlocked multiplier, which allows for easier overclocking. To see just what kind of frequency headroom the chip had, we gave it a bump in voltage to 1.48v and raised the multiplier until our test system was no longer stable. Using only the stock AMD PIB heatsink, we were able to take the chip up to a speed 3.8GHz without issue.

We should also note that we spent some time experimenting with the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition on an Asus 790FX-based motherboard that supports Advanced Clock Calibration to see if we could "unlock" the additional cores on the chip. Like the Phenom II X3 720 BE that generated quite a buzz a few months back, the Phenom II X2 500 Black Edition is built around the same quad-core die as Phenom II X4 processors--but with two cores disabled. Unfortunately, no setting allowed the additional two "hidden" cores to function on our mobo. We caught wind that one analyst was able to unlock additional cores using an Asrock motherboard, but can't confirm this on our own. We can say, however, that we do not think it's a good idea to buy one of these processor under the assumption that it will be possible to enable all of the cores.

Finally, AMD is also releasing two new low power processors today the Phenom II X3 705e and Phenom II X4 905e. Both chips operate at 2.5GHz (12.5x200MHz) and had 65w maximum TDPs. Their design is identical to all of the other Phenom II X3 and X4 processors. 

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

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