AMD's Smart Strike: Athlon X2 BE-2350

It is almost incredible to watch the recent price drops in the processor segment. You can get an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ for as little as $80, and only the 6000+ top model exceeds $200. Intel's Core 2 Duo family struts past the Athlon line with the faster products, but you should carefully consider the price premium before purchasing. Since AMD cannot attack Intel in the high-end or the upper mainstream, it dropped prices, so you might get more bang for the buck with AMD. On June 5th it introduced new mainstream CPUs to strike Intel where it is really vulnerable: the low power desktop segment.

The new processors are called simply "Athlon X2", as AMD has decided to drop the "64" suffix. This is a good choice, I believe, because no one really cares much about 64-bit; the new Phenom processors won't carry the "64" label either. It will take many months until 4 GB RAM enters at the upper mainstream, which finally requires a 64-bit operating system to fully utilize the memory. So, 64-bits is a must-have, but by no means a real selling point.

The Athlon X2 BE-2350 runs at 2.1 GHz, while its smaller brother, the BE-2300, operates at 1.9 GHz; they're priced at $90 and $85 respectively. How do these differ from the Athlon 64 X2 4000+ and 3600+, though? All of them are based on the 65 nm DSL SOI process (dual stress liner, silicon on insulator) with 1 MB L2 cache, but the new BE processors are rated for a maximum thermal design power (TDP) of only 45 W.

While Intel had been quick to increase its thermal envelopes to as much as 130 W to support its Pentium 4 and Pentium D hot rods, it reduced the TDP to 65 W in the mainstream with the introduction of the Core 2 Duo. Intel currently does not have a desktop processor to get by with just 45 W, though it does offer two processors under the Pentium brand that might be able to get close to it. The Pentium Dual Core E2140 (1.6 GHz) and E2160 (1.8 GHz) are based on the Core microarchitecture, but they only utilize 1 MB L2 cache and they lack some features.

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