by March 4, 2009 0 comments

Competition in processors is heating up, and it’s really back with a bang.
AMD’s new family of desktop processors has been introduced and they look really
promising this time. Phenom ll, as this new line of CPUs is known, consists of
quad core and triple core processors and is meant for users with high
performance needs like gamers, digital artists, etc. We laid our hands on the
top of the line Phenom ll X4 940 and boy didn’t we love it! We tested this quad
core processor last month and found that it isn’t the fastest quad core around.
The crown for that definitely goes to Intel’s Core i7 range of CPUs. But it is a
mix of other features like backward socket compatibility, DDR 2 RAM and decent
performance that make Phenom ll, better than the Core 2 Quad that we compared it

This time we tested not one but two processors from the Phenom II family. We
test a triple core, the X3 720 and a quad core, the X4 810, a lower frequency

Why Phenom ll?
Though the Intel Core i7 965 is the fastest processor available in the
market, it is also insanely expensive. The Phenom ll has been competitively
priced near the Intel’s Core 2 Quad range of processors but has a better
performance. Core i7 can only work with a new motherboard, one which has the X58
chipset. Plus it only supports the triple channel DDR3 memory which is still
quite expensive as compared to the affordable DDR2 which the Phenom ll uses.

The Phenom ll enjoys a performance level in between the Core 2 Quad and the
Core i7 at an affordable price. At least till the time Intel cuts prices and
DDR3 memory is cheaper.

Price: X3720:
Rs 8,320; X4810: Rs 10,088 (3 yr warranty for both)
Meant For: Desktop users
Key Specs: X3 720 — 2.8 GHz, socket AM3,
95 watt TDP X4 810 — 2.6GHz, socket AM3, 95 watt TDP
Pros: Price and performance
Cons: None
Contact: AMD India, Bangalore,
Tel: 18004256664
SMS Buy 130372 to 56677

The test bed
We used a similar test bed as the X4 940 last month for testing the X3 720.
The triple core processor was mounted on a J&W 790GX Extreme motherboard coupled
with 4 GB DDR2 RAM and a 320GB HDD @ 7200 rpm. The GPU used in this setup was an
NVIDIA Geforce 9600GTX. Tagan 1300 Watts SMPS was used along with the setup. PC
Mark 05, CineBench R10 and POV Ray were the benchmarks used and were run on
Windows XP 32 bit OS. The same test bed was also used for the four core X4 810.

Fighting with three cores: the X3 720 Black Edition
AMD has had triple core processors in their range of CPUs for a long time
now. Something which Intel couldn’t do because of their MCM designs which helped
them achieve a quad core by putting together two dual cores. With introduction
of the Nehalem microarchitecture, though Intel has managed to chuck the MCM
designs, there is still no triple core offering. The new triple core CPU from
AMD is a good intermediate option for people who want to move ahead of the
conventional dual core.
The X3 720 is manufactured on a 45 nm process, runs at a clock frequency of 2.8
GHz and a TDP of 95 watt. The CPU is compatible with the AM3 socket and shares
the same technology as other Phenom ll quad cores. And like the quad core
processor there is 6MB of L3 cache. The total L2 cache is 1.5MB as compared to
2MB on quad cores.

PC Mark 05
This industry benchmark tests the systems computational prowess. A
particular set of tests specific to a CPU were chosen and run. The triple core
processor managed to achieve a score of 7651. When compared, the score is less
than the X4 940 we tested and the Core i7 but is still higher than the Intel
Core 2 Quad 6700.

Another popular benchmark, which tests the CPUs performance by rendering an
image, was used. The render averaged 63230 PPS over 196608 pixels. The result
achieved is more than decent. When the same test was run on a Core 2 Quad, the
CPU managed to achieve just 45010 PPS which is much less than the X3 720.

How they compare

CineBench R10
CineBench checks the CPU by running a few visually challenging tests. When
rendering one core the result achieved was 2571. When rendering all three, it
jumps to 6998. This is again higher than the result achieved by the Core 2 Quad.

Power consumption
The facts mentioned above might be enough to tell you that the three core X3
720 performs better than the four core Core 2 Quad 6700. But it’s power
consumption where AMD has broken all records. When we stretched both CPUs to
their max when running benchmarks, the X3’s power consumption reached 178 watts
only as compared to the Core 2 Quad, which consumed a massive 258 watts. When
idle, it consumed 107 watts, a whole 55 watts less than the Core 2 Quad. So it
can be said that in terms of performance and power efficiency the X3 is much
better than the Core 2 Quad 6700 as well as the Core i7.

The four core X4 810
The X4 810 is a low end quad core processor in the Phenom ll family. It runs
at a clock frequency of 2.6 GHz and has a smaller L3 cache of 4MB instead of a
6MB L3 cache, present on some of the other CPUs in the family. The processor is
AM3 socket compatible and has a TDP of 95 watts. Let’s now look at how it
performed in our benchmarks.

PC Mark 05
The PC Mark 05 score obtained by X4 810 was a decent 7867, slightly higher
than the X3 720 but much higher than the Core 2 Quad 6700.

The score for this benchmark amazed us though. The result achieved was
58525, which is lesser than the triple core processor we tested. Though this is
still higher than the Core 2 Quad by a considerable margin, we did not
anticipate it to be less than the X3 720.

CineBench R10
When rendering all four cores, the result achieved was 8416; higher than the
triple core X3 as all four cores are engaged in running this test, and this is
much higher than the Core 2 Quad 6700.

Power consumption
As mentioned above the power efficiency of this breed of CPUs is amazing.
The maximum power consumption while running a benchmark rose to 181 watts and
when idle it was just 110 watts. In terms of power consumption, both processors
are better than the Core 2 Quad and the Core i7 processors that we have tested

Bottomline: Priced competitively, the Phenom ll is a great performer
and a worthy option between the Core 2 Quads and the Core i7.

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