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

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

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Top Comments
  • 15 Hide
    chaohsiangchen , September 16, 2009 4:09 AM
    Where is overclocking test?
  • 13 Hide
    anamaniac , September 16, 2009 10:32 AM
    Budget quad core, yay!

    Would be great for a secondary computer.
    Give it my 4870, and put a 5870 in my new rig. ^_^

    ...
    Quad core for $100, 4870 for $100, 4GB RAM for $40, board for $50, PSU for $25 (I would be cheap here, being a dirt cheap system. No way in hell I'd use a crappy PSU on my i7 though). Use an old mouse/keyboard/monitor/case/HDD/DVDD, and I have everything I need.

    My i7 system: total cost (including shipping/taxes etc.) = $1,700
    i7 920, bloodrage mobo, 1GB 4870, 6GB DDR3, CM V8 HSF, Antec 300, 3x Scythe fans, 22x DVD drive, 1TB HDD, 2 UV cathodes, g5 mouse, game controller, 23" monitor...

    Athlon x4: approximately ~ $350.

    For the same price of the i7 920 cpu alone (assuming you're paying full price, because us Canadians don't have a Frys or Microcenter) I could jerry rig a cheap AMD quad core... awesome.
  • 12 Hide
    Andraxxus , September 16, 2009 10:13 AM
    For the user looking for a cheap alternative it's looking good.
Other Comments
  • 15 Hide
    chaohsiangchen , September 16, 2009 4:09 AM
    Where is overclocking test?
  • 11 Hide
    anonymous x , September 16, 2009 4:33 AM
    chaohsiangchenWhere is overclocking test?

    I had to head over to anandtech for that
    http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=3638&p=9
  • 4 Hide
    Stardude82 , September 16, 2009 4:47 AM
    Wow.. talk about a mixed bag. Though its a great marketing ploy if nothing else. $50 and Vt over the Q8200 is something.

    The overclocking (on the particular board reviewed on, Anand used a 790 board) would be interesting. Too bad Tom's got lazy. I know I've had good luck with budget G31 boards.
  • 0 Hide
    skora , September 16, 2009 4:58 AM
    I get the budget tri core, as some games are starting to use dual threads and the core in the back for the OS and garbage. Not sure what the price point will be as the 710 is in that range also. But the quad escapes me. The A/V editing crowd are the ones that benefit most from a quad, but the lack of speed and large cache really hold back the fact that there are 4 cores. Better to get speed and get a Phenom II x2 in the same price range.
  • 3 Hide
    IronRyan21 , September 16, 2009 5:28 AM
    This great news for anybody lookin to buy into a quad core, tho I want to see AMD come out with something big awesome, not a budget cpu.
  • 3 Hide
    randomizer , September 16, 2009 5:52 AM
    Just curious, but do you guys use the scanline renderer or mental ray for 3DS Max?
  • -2 Hide
    falchard , September 16, 2009 6:08 AM
    Westemere Verse Fusion, Who will win? Much more interesting to many at Toms hardware over, whats the best sub $100 processor? Actually nevermind it is good info, I know how to build a sub $200 rendering comp to be included in a massive rendering farm.
  • 0 Hide
    cyberkuberiah , September 16, 2009 6:33 AM
    quote : "All modern processors consist of three main elements that must be carefully balanced: core count, cache capacities, and clock speed".

    sure , but what happened to micro-architecture and the resulting instructions/clock ? Intel has a clear advantage in their arch , whether core 2 or, now, i5 for the masses .
  • 11 Hide
    cyberkuberiah , September 16, 2009 6:34 AM
    but , of course , they have a proposition at 100 dollars for 4 cores , that's nice .
  • 1 Hide
    rand_79 , September 16, 2009 8:10 AM
    I was just thinking that my q6600 at 3.2 is higher than the chart and 22months old...
  • 1 Hide
    SpadeM , September 16, 2009 8:16 AM
    randomizerJust curious, but do you guys use the scanline renderer or mental ray for 3DS Max?


    I second that, plus can you link us to the *.max file (if possible) cause I for one would like to benchmark my system with it to see how it stands.
  • 4 Hide
    DjEaZy , September 16, 2009 9:41 AM
    ... this part is in Latvia already @ a nice pricepoint... a cheap upgrade from x2 to x4 for multitask and windows 7 users...
  • 9 Hide
    drealar , September 16, 2009 9:59 AM
    Reaper32Not worth it. For an extra $100, I can get an i7 which provides a 10fold increase in computational power density.


    Dude you're saying as if we all have more than $200 for a CPU upgrade. What I mean by more than $200 is -> ~$200 for i7, ~$150 more for new socket mobo, and if integrated GPU was previously used, ~$60+ more for new GPU.
    Well, OK, new GPU aside, you still need at LEAST a freaking $350 just to go for quad-core i7.

    It's common sense that $100 upgrade is cheaper than $350 ones. Not to mention the waste of buying current mobo...
    "Should you consider keeping your mature Athlon 64 X2 system a while longer—let’s say until SATA/600 and USB 3.0 become mainstream in mid-2010"
  • 12 Hide
    Andraxxus , September 16, 2009 10:13 AM
    For the user looking for a cheap alternative it's looking good.
  • 13 Hide
    anamaniac , September 16, 2009 10:32 AM
    Budget quad core, yay!

    Would be great for a secondary computer.
    Give it my 4870, and put a 5870 in my new rig. ^_^

    ...
    Quad core for $100, 4870 for $100, 4GB RAM for $40, board for $50, PSU for $25 (I would be cheap here, being a dirt cheap system. No way in hell I'd use a crappy PSU on my i7 though). Use an old mouse/keyboard/monitor/case/HDD/DVDD, and I have everything I need.

    My i7 system: total cost (including shipping/taxes etc.) = $1,700
    i7 920, bloodrage mobo, 1GB 4870, 6GB DDR3, CM V8 HSF, Antec 300, 3x Scythe fans, 22x DVD drive, 1TB HDD, 2 UV cathodes, g5 mouse, game controller, 23" monitor...

    Athlon x4: approximately ~ $350.

    For the same price of the i7 920 cpu alone (assuming you're paying full price, because us Canadians don't have a Frys or Microcenter) I could jerry rig a cheap AMD quad core... awesome.
  • 4 Hide
    enayet_redeemer , September 16, 2009 10:42 AM
    Great article.... I didn't think that Athlon II X4 will do this well in the benchmarks and efficiency. I have a Dragon Platform (Phenom II X4 940, MSI DKA790GX Platinum, XFX Radeon 4850), after this article I am planning to make an R&D system based on Athlon II X4. Thanks Tom's Hardware for this nice article. :-)
  • -4 Hide
    amdfangirl , September 16, 2009 11:00 AM
    Hmm... Athlon II X4 is still a bit pricey for me.

    Better wait until its Sempron incarnation.
  • 1 Hide
    vochtige , September 16, 2009 11:00 AM
    nice to see that my amd phenom 9550 still delivers great performance. i like it (put it that way) at comparison to the newer cpu's.

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