Low-Power Face-Off: AMD's Athlon X2 Vs. Intel's Core 2 Duo


AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 5400+ Black Edition isn’t a good choice anymore, except for upgrade users or those with low budgets. Its power consumption is too high across the board, and its performance can hardly match a Core 2 Duo E7200 processor. Things looks better for the low power 45 W Athlon X2 5050e, though, which reached the second lowest system idle power level behind the mentioned Core 2 Duo processor. Peak power for this 2.6 GHz part is also at an acceptable level, and can directly be compared to a Core 2 Duo E8500. If you can live with only average performance—which is definitely not an issue for entry-level systems or office PCs—the Athlon X2 5050e is still an option, especially looking at the more powerful integrated graphics platforms available from AMD and Nvidia. Apart from this, the times of the Athlon 64 clearly are over.

Are Quad-Core Versus Dual-Core Power Comparisons Acceptable?

We also included Intel low-power quad-core processors, which basically aren’t comparable to the AMD dual-cores, as they are many times more expensive and cater to a very different segment of the market. We still decided to include their results, as the thermal envelopes and the actual power consumption in 3DMark or PCMark Vantage are sometimes similar to that of the AMD dual-cores. Since Intel dominates anyway, the real question is: what performance and efficiency do you get in the low power CPU segment, regardless of cost? In fact, it’s important to know that there are quad-core processors that have the same power consumption level as these AMD dual-cores.

Insufficient Innovation

Clearly, it’s time for something new, but this also applies to Intel.

Despite having had more efficient products than its competitor, there has been little innovation in this segment, with the exception of Core i7, which is fast and efficient, but not a power saver. The recent launch of the s-series quad core is a good step, and a good example that Intel could serve the low power market segment much better than today.

AMD isn’t sleeping either, of course. Its Phenom II processors have proven that they can take on Core 2 Quad CPUs in many benchmarks, and we’re eagerly waiting for power optimized versions. There already are low power 65 W versions of the original Phenom, which we will look at soon and follow-up on this article.