Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

AMD Athlon II X4 620: Quad Core For The Masses At $100

AMD Athlon II X4 620: Quad Core For The Masses At $100
By

With the recent introduction of Intel’s new LGA 1156-based Core i5 and Core i7 processors, AMD faces even more pressure in the competitive upper-mainstream and high-end market segments. Phenom II is a great processor design, but it can only beat Intel’s growing Nehalem family on price.

However, it was only a matter of time until the firm introduced triple- and quad-core processors that don't include any L3 cache—a perfect opportunity for a comeback of the Athlon brand. Welcome the Athlon II X4, follow-up to the Athlon II X2 launched back in June.

What It Has

The new Athlon really isn’t new, although AMD introduces two fresh core names for it: Propus (for the quad-core family) and Rana (for the triple-core).

The first sample we received is a 2.6 GHz Propus blessed with all the features of the Phenom II, including its 45 nm SOI manufacturing process and four cores with 512KB L2 cache each. The chip also sports all of the extensions you’d want today: MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4a, Enhanced 3DNow!, the NX bit feature (or execute disable, on Intel CPUs), 64-bit support, AMD-V virtualization support, and Cool’n’Quiet to lower clock speeds and voltages during idle periods.

Since Propus is based on the Deneb design, all new Athlon II X3 and X4 processors can operate either on Socket AM2+ platforms with DDR2 memory or on Socket AM3 with DDR3. Clearly, the new processors represent an excellent upgrade option for older AM2 systems, especially if you consider the attractive $100 price point.

What It Doesn’t Have

No one should be surprised that $100 won’t buy you a top-of-the-line product, so we have to wonder about the chip’s limitations. The most obvious step down is the cache architecture. All Athlon II processors, including the already-introduced Athlon II X2 chips, lack any L3 cache memory.

Given this, the Athlon II X4 breaks with AMD’s tradition of implementing shared cache memory in unified multi-core processor designs. The L3 omission is the main differentiator between the Phenom II and the Athlon II families, although there are obviously also clock speed differences (lower on the Athlon II side).

However, the stripped L3 cache may introduce an advantage of one sort, as the transistors necessary to realize the Phenom II’s 6 MB L3 cache require power. It follows that the Athlon II X4 shouldn’t perform anywhere near the Phenom II X4’s level, but it could end up being more efficient.

Display 13 Comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 3 Hide
    mi1ez , 16 September 2009 15:52
    It would have been interesting to see a clock-for-clock comparison of a Phenom II X4 and Athlon II X4 to see the difference the L3 cache makes...
  • 1 Hide
    mi1ez , 16 September 2009 15:57
    ...However that does look like an attractive CPU, especially given the price. I can see this being very successful (might push for some of these in our next upgrade cycle!)
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , 16 September 2009 16:03
    I completely agree with mi1ez. Will going through the review, as was really hoping that there would be some clock-for-clock comparison.
  • 1 Hide
    ainarssems , 16 September 2009 20:41
    I can see OEM's selling theese like pancakes. Slap some cheap 1GB video card in and You have uber marketing. Quad core with 1GB Video card at low price, average uninformed Joes will be byuing these like crazy.
    OEM's have been selling Q8200 with 1GB GTS120 for £700, now they can cut costs and still sell in same pricerange. People buy and think they got superpowerfull PC because it has quad core and it is gaming PC because it's got !GB video card
  • -2 Hide
    morfinel , 17 September 2009 05:55
    I hope after i5 and i7 price of core 2 q will go down, as well i5 is very cheap and comparing performance its not really standing out of the crowd, so once more core 2 rules, q9550 is a killer
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 17 September 2009 23:25
    I agree, it does seem like a very respectable product - especially the price. It's quad-core for the masses and to be honest, there does not seem to be a massive performance hit due to the missing L3, in my opinion.

    If I was building a rig to play GTA IV I'd seriously consider this, because what I save on the CPU I can put towards a better graphics card. If it's good enough to run alongside Intel' Core 2 Quad, at a lower price, then I really can't see the problem - especially when there are people out there with AM2/AM2+ boards who want to step up the performance ladder a bit without breaking the bank or forcing the local power station to go on over-drive.

    What has i5 to offer? It it's price is low it could render Core 2 as a redundant product, just like Core 2 did with Pentium 4. Plus, it carries with it overheads in terms of new boards and memory. The only alternative is to get a much faster (and more expensive), Core 2 Quad or overclock. Both are feasible of course, but this little Quad-core gem for 100 bux..a drop-in replacement for existing products that's able to fit within the existing power range? Hard to resist that in these tough economic times.
  • 1 Hide
    kulwant , 18 September 2009 01:04
    "and the fact that an average mainstream AMD motherboard is still cheaper than an Intel equivalent..." - erm - what planet are you living on? An entry level Intel G31 based motherboard sells for around £30 in the UK (which would easily support a C2Q Q9550 at full speed) whereas TH has chosen to benchmark this new AMD chip on a £110 motherboard!

    If you're serious about touting this chip as an ideal drop in upgrade for an older AM2+ motherboard, benchmark it on such a board so at least us plebs can see how well it really performs.

    All I can see on the AMD front around the £30 motherboard mark are GeForce 7050 or 6100 AM2+ based boards. The cheapest AM3 motherboard currently available in the UK is an MSI 770-C45 AMD 770 for £50.

    Given that DDR3 is still around 1.5 times the price of DDR2, the only way to build a cheaper AMD based Quad core solution is by plugging it into an AM2+ motherboard with DDR2. So lets see some benchmarks of this chip in exactly that sort of set up.
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 18 September 2009 08:28
    Hiya Kulwant,

    I wouldn't expect it to perform as good in an AM2+..if that were the case, wouldn't AMD be shooting itself in the foot, so to speak? On the other hand I wouldn't expect the actual difference to be huge, either.

    For anyone that has an older system and wants some more grunt for say, transcoding or running games like GTA IV, I can't really see a problem with it especially at this price point. I reckon you'd be able to get some decent overclocks even on AM2+ as well. For around the same money as a dual-core CPU my clients can now go Quad, if they need it. Some do go AM3, and boards like that £50 seem to have an awful lot of bang for the buck compared to Intel, but most just have older boards that need a bit of a boost. The Intel alternative is simply beyond their price point but naturally it comes down to who the client is and their personal preference.
  • 1 Hide
    psiboy , 20 September 2009 19:11
    Would it have been so hard to include the Phenom II 720 X3 BE ? 3 core curiosity to compare vs these processors?
  • 1 Hide
    Rescator , 21 September 2009 03:09
    Here's a quick way to compare relative performance:
    Normalized Performance Rating CPU chart
    AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE Heka 3 AM3 x64, SSE4A 4.10
    AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 4 AM3 x64, SSE4A 3.93

    Hardly any difference just ~4%, so it's more about price than performance between those two.
  • 0 Hide
    wild9 , 27 September 2009 01:57
    Thanks Rescator. If Santa doesn't bring me one of these I'm gonna kick him in the belly 16 times for every core I lose out on.
  • 1 Hide
    leexgx , 29 September 2009 10:24
    i got an II X4 620 (the AMD II X2 the retail heatsink does not warm up under full load) and there is no heat issues at all the thing runs at 35-40c constantly removing the L3 cache really does lower the temps a lot even the Phemon II runs hot when its idle

    now i can use an Quad core AMD cpu with out having to buy an very big heatsink to cool it
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , 30 September 2009 21:57
    just bare in mind guys. its a quadcore from athlon, and although it's not specified,it's 2.6GHz per processor. which means this darn chip doesn't actualy need a meter of cpu usage because it's four times faster and could possibly have no limits. i say thumbz up to athlon. i really need to get myself one of these.