AMD have a potential killer product at hand – the AMD Athlon II X4 quad core processors based on the L3 cache-less Propus core. It is launching early September, and is already available for sale in several e-tailers in the UK and Europe.
The prices? Starting at an incredible <£65 excl. VAT. Yes, that puts it below Intel’s Core 2 Duo E7400 at 2.8 GHz and not far away from E5xxx Pentium Dual CPUs!
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The Deneb-based Phenom II X4 an X3 have been a great success, by any measure, snatching the price-performance crown from Intel. However, behind the low prices, AMD’s margins took a hit as the Deneb core’s 6MB L3 cache took a lot of die space – leading to a die size of nearly 260 mm2, well above Intel’s Core 2 Quad, which weigh in at 214 mm2, and nearly that of the faster Core i7 CPUs.
The solution? Completely do away with the L3 cache. As a result, this decreases the die size considerably, bringing the Propus core to an estimated 160 mm2. This means AMD can sell the quad core CPU at a far more affordable price than its Phenom II counterparts.
The result? Truly affordable quad core CPUs – well below the price of comparative dual cores from Intel. The base model – Athlon II X4 620 is a 2.6 GHz part, now selling at various European/UK stores such as Technalogic and Povdirect for a price below Intel’s E7xxx dual cores, let alone E8xxx series or Core 2 Quads. Even the 2.8 GHz Athlon II X4 630 is available for a full £20 cheaper than the cheapest Core 2 Quad – the crippled 2.33 GHz Q8200 with 4MB L2 cache. Sure, the lack of a large L3 cache will significantly reduce performance on cache-dependent applications such as video encoding or gaming – but a reasonably clocked quad core at the price of a cheap dual core is a bargain too good to pass up on.
Image reference: INPAI
In addition to bringing quad core CPUs to the entry-level, AMD also brings them to the ultra-efficient 45W TDP in the form of 2.2 and 2.3 GHz clocked Athlon II X4 600e and 605e. Also releasing at 45W are energy efficient Regor based dual cores and Rana tri-cores, which will be die harvested versions of the Propus cores. Higher clocked Rana tri-cores – X3 435 and X3 425 at 2.7 GHz and 2.9 GHz respectively – are expected to give the Pentium Dual Core CPUs a hard time in the entry-level segment, sporting an extra core.
With the release of the upcoming Athlon II CPUs in early September, AMD seem to have devised a strong hold on the entry-level market. Intel will surely have to respond with major price cuts. Also rumoured is a Core 2 Quad Q7500 in response, but that is only a rumour. The real winners, as always, are the consumers.