How does AMD respond to Lynnfield? Is it by drastically cutting prices on Phenom II? Nope. By introducing the world’s first quad-core processor to debut at $99. Now that’s cool.

It’s called the Athlon II X4 and its existence shouldn’t be any surprise. AMD quietly announced it along with the Athlon II X2 line.

Today we get two models: the Athlon II X4 630 and the Athlon II X4 620, priced at $122 and $99 respectively. The only difference between the two is clock speed; the 630 runs at 2.8GHz while the 620 runs at 2.6GHz. These are both AM3 chips meaning they'll work in AM3 motherboards with DDR3 memory or AM2+ boards with DDR2 memory.

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE 3.4GHz 2MB 6MB 140W $245
AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE 3.2GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $245
AMD Phenom II X4 945 3.0GHz 2MB 6MB 125W $225
AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE 2.8GHz 1.5MB 6MB 95W $145
AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE 3.1GHz 1MB 6MB 80W $105
AMD Athlon II X4 630 2.8GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $122
AMD Athlon II X4 620 2.6GHz 2MB 0MB 95W $99
AMD Athlon II X2 250 3.0GHz 2MB 0MB 65W $87

This isn’t a harvested Phenom II nor is it a pair of Athlon II X2s, instead it looks like we have a brand new die on our hands (some Athlon II X4s will be crippled Phenom IIs but AMD insists that the new die will be used). The Athlon II X4 has four cores on a single die, but unlike the Athlon II X2 each core only has a 512KB L2 per core. You can tell by the die shot that the core-to-cache ratio is much higher than on the X2:


The 45nm Athlon II X4 Propus die


The 45nm Athlon II X2 die (note the larger L2 per core)

Like the rest of the Athlon II lineup there is no L3 cache. This helps keep the die small (and affordable) but also hurts performance:

Processor SYSMark 2007 Overall E-Learning Video Creation Productivity 3D
AMD Phenom II X4 920 (2.8GHz) 173 151 212 167 167
AMD Athlon II X4 630 (2.8GHz) 157 128 221 131 162
% of Phenom II X4 91% 85% 104% 78% 97%

 

At the same clock speed the Athlon II X4 should offer roughly 90% of the performance of a Phenom II X4.

Processor Cores Manufacturing Process L1 Cache L2 Cache L3 Cache Die Size Transistor Count
AMD Phenom II X4 4 45nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 6MB 258 mm2 758M
AMD Athlon II X4 4 45nm 128KB per core 512KB per core 0MB 169 mm2 300M
AMD Athlon II X2 2 45nm 128KB per core 1MB per core 0MB 117 mm2 234M
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8xxx 4 45nm 64KB per core 4MB 0MB 164 mm2 456M

 

The price is unbeatable. If we ignore the 630 for a moment, the Athlon II X4 620 is by far the cheapest route to four cores on the market. Intel’s most affordable quad-core is the Core 2 Quad Q8200 at $163, while AMD would previously charge you $163 for a Phenom X4 9600B. This is where the AM3/AM2+ compatibility play really helps out. Motherboard/memory costs are as cheap as possible thanks to AMD's incredible socket flexibility.

And just in case you’re wondering, yes, the Athlon II X4 620 actually delivers performance competitive with the Q8200 but for 60% of the cost. It’s not all that clear cut, there are some cases where the 620 is faster but others where the Q8200 is much faster. On average it ends up being a wash but you’ll want to pay attention to the coming pages to see how the cookie crumbles as it does vary from test to test.


Codename Propus

Overclocking isn't unfortunately as good as the Phenom IIs; the result of a conscious design decision or simply the early nature of the Propus die. That being said, without a single extra millivolt I was able to hit 3.25GHz on my Athlon II X4 620 sample - making it even more valuable. Extra voltage proved mostly useless, I could only approach 3.4GHz with an extra 300mV.

Let’s see, have I thoroughly ruined the surprise? Check. Now let’s get to the tests.

The Test

Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-UD5P (AMD 790FX)
Chipset: Intel X48
Intel X58
AMD 790FX
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Corsair DDR3-1333 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Patriot Viper DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
NVIDIA ForceWare 178.24 (Vista32)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit (for SYSMark)
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
SYSMark 2007 Performance
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  • damage98 - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    I have an asus m4n78 pro mobo. Would the new gt240 be appropriate?
    Thanks!
    Reply
  • Archer0915 - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    Well I have put it through the ringers and this is what I came up
    with: http://www.techreaction.net/2009/09/25/athlon-ii-x...">http://www.techreaction.net/2009/09/25/...-x4-620-...

    This thing can smoke or at least keep up with the common PhII or Core 2
    Reply
  • monkeyman1140 - Monday, September 21, 2009 - link

    I'm kinda iffy about how this compatibility thing works, and it seems manufacturers aren't terribly interested in compatibility bios updates either, preferring you to fork over fresh cash for the latest mobos.
    I'd like to put this in an older dual core system thats perfectly fine but its just not as fast as it used to be...
    Reply
  • flexy - Friday, September 18, 2009 - link

    What version of Cinebench R10 are you using?

    The 64 bit version or the 32 bit version?

    G.
    Reply
  • ClagMaster - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    Another well written article by Mr Shimpi on the latest AMD mainstream quad core offering. Article was brief and to the point with adequate benchmarking to support his claims. It's articles like this that keeps me coming back.

    The i5/P55 is the mainstream processor par excellance to acquire for a major upgrade if you presently have an Intel rig. This is what I am going to upgrade to next year because I have a 3 year old Intel rig. By that time, there will be 65W Lynnfields available with P55 boards thoroughly debugged.

    However, if you have an AM2+ motherboard in good shape with a 780G/785G/790X/790GX chipset with continuing BIOS support, then the Athlon II X4 620 is an outstanding upgrade from dual to quad core for $100-$120. This is a really good value for bargain or mainstream. Price:Performance ratio is better than i5 just on the basis of the CPU alone. Throw in a paid-for motherboard into the equation and it gets even sweeter.
    Reply
  • jtleon - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    Great Article Anand - as usual!

    Despite the other Intel Fanboy comments here, I take away from this that AMD is bringing Quad to the masses - and undercutting the competition at the same time.

    Running an old Athlon XP as I write this, I am glad to see AMD resurrecting the Athlon name, and applying it to what may be their new bread & butter piece of silicon.

    Clearly in a depressed worldwide economy, performance takes a backseat to price - AMD has an ace here with this design, in its 1st iteration, appears to have Intel over a barrel with regard to their inflated price structure. From the benchies here, the performance differences are almost imperceptible. Thus the Athlon II based boxes should jump off the shelves, leaving the other guys gathering dust.

    Kudos to AMD - and Best of Luck on the next gen Propus.

    jtleon
    Reply
  • Genx87 - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    That X4 955 is being smoked for the most part by the i5 750. Intels basement i series processor. The i5 performs better, costs less, and consumes less power.

    Why cant AMD get their act together? Ever since Core 2 Duo they have been on the wrong end in a bad way.
    Reply
  • the zorro - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    that's false.

    the results are biased because core i5 750 its overclocked at least 600 mhz.
    phenom 955 beats core i5 750 clock by clock.
    also when overclocked to 4 ghz core i5 temperatures are almost 100 C which is a failure.
    also core i5 power consumption when overclocked skyrockets because of the integrated northdbridge.
    Reply
  • Genx87 - Monday, September 21, 2009 - link

    That is really irrelevant to the avg user is it not? The avg user doesnt care how the processor achieves it power\performance. Only that it does. That is a design feature of the Intel chips that isnt in AMD. Bottom line is in the suites and everyday use AMDs top processor is often beat by Intels next gen entry level chip. Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - link

    Clock for clock? I don't think so. True, if the i5 didn't have Turbo, it wouldn't sprint ahead so far in single threaded applications, but the fact is it does and it's a legitimate technology. However, the 955 pulls closer, clock for clock, in multi-threaded tasks.

    The i5 ships with a rather weak cooler. It's not suitable for heavy overclocking... but then again, if you want to do it right, you'd get an after-market cooler anyway.

    Nothing that AMD has out now is better clock-for-clock than Core2 or Nehalem, no matter how much we'd like to believe there is.
    Reply

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