AMD’s move into entry–level, quad-core processors without L3 cache was inevitable. The Athlon II X2 was the first 45nm product to take advantage of the Phenom II architecture at lower price points. Athlon II X3 and X4 now complete the low–end portfolio, allowing AMD to monetize virtually every processor die manufactured—as long as it has at least two or more working cores. Traditionally, AMD is careful with clock speeds when introducing new processors. The company ships mainstream clock speeds first and will follow up with faster models. AMD probably needs to pile up a certain amount of eligible dies before shipping such “new” products.
As expected, the Athlon II X4 620 at 2.6 GHz is far from being a high-performance part. Traditional applications without optimizations for multi-core architectures (Far Cry, Left 4 Dead, WinZip, PDF creation) run well, but not particularly quickly due to the limited clock speed. Consequently, a Core 2 Duo at high clock speeds remains a better (albeit more expensive) choice. Strongly threaded applications, however, do amazingly well on this new entry-level AMD chip. There are several benchmarks in which the new Athlon II X4 massively outperforms its dual-core competition (GTA IV, Fritz 11, 3ds Max, Adobe Premiere, MainConcept, synthetic benchmarks).
Matching Core 2 Quad Q8200 at Lower Cost
The main competitor for the Athlon II X4 is Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q8000-series. In most benchmarks, the AMD processor gets close to the Q8200, but it can only beat it in a few of them (DivX, MainConcept, Adobe Premiere). However, AMD’s price point once again is lower than Intel’s, and the fact that an average mainstream AMD motherboard is still cheaper than an Intel equivalent leans the needle toward AMD. From a bang-per-buck perspective, the X4 620 is a smart move that brings quad-core performance into the low-end.
A New Upgrade Option
Finally, we want to point at the fact that the new processors, be it the Athlon II X3 or X4, are perfectly able to run on old Socket AM2 platforms. 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—then buying an Athlon II X4 as a replacement for an older Athlon 64 X2 seems like a perfect option. Just be sure to check your motherboard manufacturer’s Web site for BIOS updates before purchasing.