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Conclusion

Athlon II X3 435: AMD's Three-Core, 2.9 GHz, $87 Triple-Threat
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Let's look at all the results, diluted into one simple chart:

Here's where it all comes together. Look at the Athlon II X3 435 versus the Phenom II X3 720. For three-quarters of the price, the Athlon II X3 435 offers identical encoding ability, less than a three percent disadvantage in gaming, and less than a five percent disadvantage in productivity metrics.

Now let's look at performance per dollar for all of these CPUs, based on existing Newegg pricing for the available units and $87 MSRP pricing for the upcoming Athlon II X3 435:

Here is where the Athlon II X3 435 really shines. Yes, the Athlon II X2 250 has a marginally better price/performance ratio, but remember that multitasking will cripple the Athlon II 250, while the Athlon II X3 435 will fare much better with its extra CPU core. In addition, the Athlon II X3 435 beats the Athlon II X2 250 by about ten percent across the board--a significant performance increase. Compare this to the Phenom II X3 720, which costs one-third more to deliver essentially the same performance as the Athlon II X3 435.

Yes, the Phenom II X3 720 has an unlocked CPU multiplier, and that's worth something. But if you have a high multiplier to work with, like the Athlon II X3 435 does, you can achieve overclocking results equally impressive. It takes a little more effort, and in the case of our test sample, it didn't take much effort at all.

In the final analysis, this author can recommend AMD's new Athlon II X3 435 as the best budget CPU for the dollar available at stock clock rates. We haven't properly compared all of these CPUs when overclocked, so we'll leave that judgment for a future review. Regardless, the Athlon II X3 435 is a fantastic buy, and obviously offers reasonable headroom to the overclocking fans out there. We can't help but speculate that the Phenom II X3's days are likely numbered with the Athlon II X3 offering comparable performance for a lower price and on a more affordable die for AMD to manufacture.

Aside from that, AMD has introduced a number of low-power CPU options likely to be quite attractive to the power-conscious contingent, and with a maximum draw of 45W, the Athlon II X4 605e presents the lowest demands of any quad-core consumer-level CPU, potentially idea for home theater PC deployments.

Moving Forward

While AMD is currently able to demonstrate dominance in the sub-$120 CPU market, we have to wonder how long the company has to continue without serious competition from Intel, which has been leaning on derivatives of the older Core 2 architecture thus far. Intel has scheduled the release of its entry-level Core i3 early next year, a processor based on its Nehalem architecture, and it remains to be seen how competitive the Athlon II will be against this new threat.

Having said that, next year is months away (a long time when it comes to PC technology). For now, AMD has an impressive product in the Athlon II X3 435. With low prices, a great deal of selection, and good scalability, these CPUs are sure to score AMD favor with the value crown in the months to come.

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