AMD releases Athlon II X4, first sub-$100 quad core CPU
The Athlon II X4 series, based on the “Propus” die is no secret. It comes delayed by more than two quarters, and has been available for 3 weeks in Europe and was mistakenly listed in Newegg a week back.
AMD have finally announced the Athlon II X4 series officially, with two variants on launch day, as we have known for more than a month now.
More details next page.
The Athlon II X4 series, based on the “Propus” die is no secret. It
comes delayed by more than two quarters, and has been available for 3
weeks in Europe and was mistakenly listed in Newegg a week
AMD have finally announced the Athlon II X4 series officially, with two
variants on launch day, as we have known for more than a month now.
Athlon II X4 620 – 2.6 GHz – $99
Athlon II X4 630 – 2.8 GHz – $122
The first eye-popping figure is of course the price. Yes, that is a quad core CPU for $99! In fact, it ends up cheaper than Intel’s entire Core 2 line-up – including dual cores. The only Intel products cheaper than the Athlon II X4 620 are the budget Pentium Dual-Core CPUs.
Of course, the reason why AMD can sell them so cheap is that these CPUs do not come with the large 6MB L3 cache on its Phenom II siblings. This leads to a much smaller die size of 169 mm2, thus cheaper to manufacture. Athlon IIs sport only 2MB L2 cache. However, despite having 0MB L3 cache, the Athlon II is 90% as fast as the Phenom II CPUs clock-for-clock, on average. The end result is world’s first budget quad core CPU, which competes well with Intel’s cheapest quad core, the Core 2 Quad Q8200, which is priced at over 50% more. In any application which uses more than two threads, the Athlon II X4 steamrolls over Intel’s more expensive dual cores. It’s not all rosy though – applications such as gaming, which require large cache memory buffers, and favour clock speeds over core counts, end up slower on the Athlon II X4. Even in this worst case scenario, you still can’t go wrong with the $99 price tag. However, if you are strictly using your PC for gaming, the Phenom II X2 or Core 2 Duo are potentially better options. In a multi-threaded game like GTA IV, for example, the Athlon II X4 does run much faster, though. The Athlon II X4 630, priced 22% more only features a 8% speed bump and is clearly not as good value as the Athlon II X4. The TDP stays at 95W, which is a little disappointing, considering the lower clock speeds and the smaller die.
Athlon II X4 640, running at 3.0 GHz will be introduced in Q4, along with the first 45W quad core CPUs, branded Athlon II X4 6xxe. Tri-core derivatives, Athlon II X3, are also expected in Q4.
There have been some rumours in the past regarding unlocking the full 6MB L3 cache. AMD insists that these were only possible on the early samples, which were Phenom II “Deneb” based, where the L3 cache was simply disabled. The retail Athlon II X4s are based on the “Propus” die, which has no L3 cache at all – thus making any unlocking impossible. You may still get lucky if you pick up one of the early units, you never know.
The Athlon II X4 is an exciting budget product – and good value for money in just about any case. However where it really shines is in media applications. For applications like video encoding and playback, the Athlon II X4 620 is virtually without competition, easily outperforming dual core CPUs, and ending up faster than Intel’s >$150 Core 2 Quad competitors. This makes it the perfect choice for a budget HTPC build, when combined with a 785G motherboard. That is less than $200 for motherboard + CPU combined!
Intel will surely have to respond, by either cutting prices or introducing its own budget Core 2 Quad (as has been rumoured previously).