Athlon Vs. Atom: Duel Of The Energy Savers

With the development of the Atom processor, Intel introduced a totally new chip design that consumes very little energy. AMD had to strike back, and did so by clocking down its Athlon 64, employing the K8 micro architecture, down to the lowest possible frequency of 1 GHz. The Athlon 64 2000+ runs with a core voltage of 0.90 volts and uses just 8 watts. As a result, the CPU easily operates without a fan. If you drop the 8 W Athlon 64 into a motherboard based on the 780G chipset, then the system hits power consumption numbers that, in our measurements, are below Intel’s Atom desktop solution. We were even able to lower the core voltage by 11%, without stability problems, and the power analyzer read lower numbers. Interestingly, AMD’s Athlon 64 2000+ processor, unlike Intel‘s Atom CPU, is not embedded in the motherboard. It can be run on any board with an AM2 or AM2+ socket.

Compared to Intel’s Atom, which runs at 1.6 GHz, the Athlon 64 2000+ is clocked at 1 GHz—60% lower. Despite this, the Athlon 64 outperforms the Atom in several benchmark tests as a result of its more efficient K8 architecture. In addition, the energy consumption of the entire system is lower, and that’s what really matters most.

We tried to run an AMD Sempron LE-1100 at 1 GHz and 0.90 V, but it crashed due to instability. Either the Athlon 64 2000+ was a pre-selected CPU, or the Athlon core has undergone a different manufacturing process than the normal processors. However, the AMD Athlon 64 2000+ will be significantly more expensive to manufacture than the Atom processor because Intel had optimized its energy-saving model to lower production costs.

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  • tai_anjing_lu
    Yeah Tom's now AMD/ATI fanboy
  • wh3resmycar
    oh please, spare me those kind of crap...

    clearly the 780g platforms owns any nvidia/intel chipset to date.

    about the article:

    this is a winner, i mean this is like the ultimate HTPC setup you can ever heat/power worries just plain movie enjoyment :D
  • tai_anjing_lu
    Believe it or not, my Sempron 1100 OC could kill the ugly Intel Q9550+ :lol
  • photoguru
    wow... good choices for matching mobos... why even take the time to write these articles? If you're comparing HTPCs that are low cost, efficient, and fast enough for encoding and decoding then do it with the right gear. Don't tell me that an ultra mobile processor just got pwned by a desktop chip unless they figured out how to make that desktop chip fit in an ultra mobile form factor.

    It doesn't make sense to compare them on those terms unless your entire argument is based on wattage and not actual form factor performance.

    I will say that it would be interesting to find out what combination of low cost parts makes the most reasonable HTPC as far as performance/cost goes (with watts and temps included in case we could passively cool these babies).
  • barathn
    Nice article.. surprising to see AMD doing better than Intel ATOM
  • guusdekler
    Tom's choice of AMD hardware is a bit shortsighted in my opinion.
    There exist a lot more options that the matx board of his choice.

    Let me name some of the MINI-ITX boards there are for AMD AM2 AM2+:
    - Albatron KI690-AM2
    - AOpen NMCP68ST-LA
    - JetWay NC62K-LF
    - MSI Fuzzy 690T

    Allricht they employ a different chipset than the 780G but still very competetive as i derive this information from a dutch hardware magazine that tested these boards against intel's solution and especially the AOpen and MSI boards beat the crap out of intel's D201GLY2 board.
  • apache_lives
    see this is what AMD is all about!!!!!!!!!!!

    Intel - produces first generation, limited, expensive and unflexible setups, AMD creates a cheaper flexible option for the masses, which kicks Intel back in line.

    This opens the low power platform up to all new ideas, and allows vista to run properly thanks to the video performance etc, and ram support.

    Nice one AMD!
  • Wow! great, I hope next time, in 45 nm AMD will bring 2 phenom in one socket and become the new Phenom X8(like Intel pentium D) its just kick the new Intel Core i7. He, he, he...
  • venteras
    I agree with photoguru, this is a pointless comparison. If you don't use the same form factor, i.e. mini-itx for both of them then what's the point? Unless if you want to disregard size and only compare performance/watt. However, since the whole point of the ATOM is to go 'smaller'... yeah, whatever.
  • nottheking
    I must say I'm a bit surprised at the results. It's good to see that perhaps there's more life (and use) left in Athlon64s than we'd previously thought, if they make ideal low-power CPUs. Likewise, it's a surprise to find a place where AMD trumps Intel in the performance-per-watt sector, which is always important; I can perhaps imagining chips like the 2000+ and Atom being used for low-maintenance servers and datacenters, where PPW has always outweighed raw performance, since it's infinitely easier to buy more chips than to upgrade the local power grid.

    Now, if only Intel would develop an Atom-specific chipset that didn't consume copious amounts of memory. If AMD can get low-end GPU power sufficient for high-def decoding (regardless of what the CPU is) in under a single watt, certainly Intel could make a chipset that can handle all that is done by the 945GC and its laughable GMA 950 in even less power, since we're talking a less-complex design that has considerably less graphics power on hand, as well as the fact that Intel has access to 45nm production right now, while AMD is still stuck with 55nm. If only the chipset for an Atom didn't have several times the thermal envelope of the CPU...
  • optimizer

    Well, the article clearly mentioned the price differential between the two platforms. Although I don't have direct information on the chipset die sizes, for the processors themselves, the Athlon is going to be much more expensive to produce, and the motherboard for it, too. So yeah, the two products are in different price classes. As far as comparing the platforms though, it is a fair comparison if you are interested in the lowest-power platforms the two companies are offering right now, because Intel just doesn't have an Atom board with the same features out. So if someone wants a low-power board/processor, these would be two of the main choices, and if you do a comparison based on that, the Athlon seems like a pretty good deal if you are not space-constrained.


    Lets be fair, at least in this instance, the AMD solution, while more flexible, more powerful, etc., is not a cheaper option. I do like the fact, though, that K8 still has some life in it.
  • this actualy still is a niche amd beats intel in hehe. pretty good there chipset uses amazingly little power and so dous there energy efficient athlon. i hope they might launch there deneb soon. no i dont think it will strangle the core i7 but it might deliver good preformance for an affordable price.i dont have 999 euro to pay for some core2 extreme you know im not rich but if you want to support me feel free to give me one :D
  • justjc
    @photoguru: The article has nothing to do with building the best HTPC or form factors.
    The article is clearly about AMDs soon to come answer to Intels Atom, the AMD Athlon 64 2000+, and how it on existing hardware(a Gigabyte 780G motherboard) can beat the Atom in both energy efficiency and processing power.
    I admire guusdeklers work finding AM2 boards in the mITX formfactor to answer photoguros complaint, however there is no need to use the less effective 690t chipset when boards like the J & W Minix 780G-SP128MB Mini ITX 780G Motherboard allready provides a mITX motherboard based on the 780G chipset :)
  • BSMonitor
    Bert and Theo spend all their time trying to flame Intel. Any article they write is slanted that way.
  • KyleSTL
    $90 for the 2000+? That seems ungodly expensive for what it is. I guess it's a cherry-picked single core to be able to lower the Vcore that much.

    Also, a little editing goes a long way, on the test configuration page the graphics card (8800GTX) claims to have 786MB 384-bit GDDR4 ram. I don't think so .... :P
  • knickle
    Every time I see a new article about the Atom, I get my hopes up that there will be an actual comparison to others in the MiniITX market. Every time I get my hopes up, I am disappointed with benchmarks using apples and oranges. Where is VIA in all this? They have been doing MiniITX long before Intel, and the boards include their own manufactured CPU.

    I guess I can keep dreaming.
  • hurbt
    Hmm... I'm usually more interested in the fastest, latest, greatest thing out there, but this article has me interested more in how efficient these things can get... as a prospective notebook purchaser.

    Nice article... Clearly in favor of the AMD, which performs better and uses less power... there's no fanboy there. I'll be interested to see how efficient the AMD's can get when (or if) they go to 45nm production.
  • invlem
    While the motherboard comparison is a bit odd, seeing as they are in vastly different classes. There is one thing people do seem to be overlooking.

    The 780g motherboard, which contains a hell of a lot more graphics power and expansion capabilities. Is much more energy efficient than Intel's, stripped down ITX model which is being sold with their super energy efficient processor.

    Its a massive oversight on Intel to create a so-called energy efficient solution, with an obviously very energy IN-efficient motherboard.

    If AMD is serious in this market they could easily make a 'lite' version of the 780g, (If they were to half the SATA ports, and cut back on some of the expansion slots, ITX sizing the 780g would be a cinch).

    Now if only they could get their high performance parts up to par as well :P
  • JerryC
    Score one for AMD when they so desperately need it.
  • piesquared
    Welcome to SOI. ;)
  • My Athlon 64 X2 4000+ can do 1.2ghz with 0.9 volt.

    I use 1200mhz@0.9 volt if cpu is less than 20%
    I use 2400mhz@1.2 volt if cpu is more than 20%

    Switching with crystalcpuid.
  • Dade
    Ok could someone explain to me why Tom's Hardware keeps saying that the Pentium Dual Core has VT? I've been to Intel's website a million times...only the E6000 and E8000 series have VT. If I am wrong please show me where you found your information. Thanks.
  • Baladen
    Wow, talk about unbiased: 0.95W TDP for 780G / 22.2W TDP for 945G. That's amazing!

    Of course, according to this review the 0.95W is for idle, at full power it's 11.4W (I couldn't find a page on AMD's site that told me this). According to the 945G spec (which was pretty easy to find on Intel's site) the 22.2W is assuming 2 x 667MHz Dual channel DDR2 memory sticks, 1066MHz FSB, and 400MHz graphics core speed, operating at 99C temp. and running real world worst case power intensive applications in a stress test. And adding a margin to account for variations in manufacturing.

    To recap: the direct comparison chart for power consumption shows the absolute minimum possible power consumption at idle with nominal values for the AMD chipset compared to the absolute maximum power consumption at full 100%-stress-test-worst-case-scenario load with maxed out frequencies and DRAM loading for the Intel chipset.

    Yeah, the 780G IS a lot more energy efficient than the 945G, but it's NOT 23.38 TIMES more energy efficient!
  • sarwar_r87
    760G is 12W on load....true
    again, 760G is not built to be used with this cpu. it has options that a ultra mobile cpu is not suposed to hav, ie:pci-e, 6 sata,etc. plus it has if u customize the 780G for this platform and leave out the extra bits, i am sure amd platform would be better off.
    only disadvantage for amd is that its not a minifactor.

    but the funny thing is, intel spent so much money on devolopin a new 4W procesor, but amd did it with a underclocked 4yr old cpu. and did it better.
    the question of using a "better efficient chipset favors" amd is not valid. becoz a cpu by itself is meaning less.....chipset is as important and there is no point saying atom requires less power, coz to run atom it reqires a chipset and the entire platform requires a "lot" more power than amd platform