The 'New' Athlon II X3
There is really nothing new to talk about when it comes to the X3 flavor of the Athlon II. AMD is simply leveraging the existing quad-core Athlon II die to fit into another market segment by disabling one of the four CPU cores on-board. The triple-core version of the Athlon II die is code-named 'Rana.'
Leveraging the same architechture means that the Athlon II X3 will have similar per-core specifications as the Athlon II X4 with which we're already familiar: 128KB of L1 cache per core, 512KB of L2 cache per core, and none of the shared L3 cache from the premium Phenom II family.
Of course, the new Athlon II X3s retain the same great AM3 upgradeability; they can be used on older AM2+ motherboards as an upgrade option, or on a brand new AM3 motherboard.
While the specifications are old hat, what might pique your interest is the price/performance ratio of the new Athlon II X3 lineup, specifically the new 435 model CPU:
|Athlon II X3 and Phenom II X3 Product Lineup - Standard Models|
|CPU:||Athlon II X3 425||Athlon II X3 435||Phenom II X3 710||Phenom II X3 720Black Edition|
|Clock Speed:||2.7 GHz||2.9 GHz||2.6 GHz||2.8 GHz|
|L1 Cache:||3 x 128KB||3 x 128KB||3 x 128KB||3 x 128KB|
|L2 Cache:||3 x 512KB||3 x 512KB||3 x 512KB||3 x 512KB|
|Hypertransport:||4,000 MHz||4,000 MHz||4,000 MHz||4,000 MHz|
|Price:||$76 (MSRP)||$87 (MSRP)||$100 (Newegg)||$119 (Newegg)|
Here is where things get really interesting. We already know that, at $120, the Phenom II X3 720 BE is one of the best performing CPUs for the money. We also know that the shared L3 cache featured by the Phenom II models is nice to have, but it doesn't always offer a notable clock-for-clock performance increase over the Athlon II family.
Isn't it compelling, then, that the new Athlon II X3 435 has a 100 MHz clock speed advantage over its Phenom II X3 720 predecessor, yet costs only three-quarters of the price? Surely that 100 MHz clock speed advantage will offset a good portion of the L3 cache disadvantage.
We strongly suspect this combination of triple-cores, high clocks, and low price will result in a three-punch knockout (though it's still unclear whether Intel will be the sole recipient, or if there will be collateral damage in AMD's lineup as well). We'll have to wait for the benchmarks to confirm that, but before we do we have a handful of new CPU models from AMD to look at--the new low-power variants designed to fill holes in the company's portfolio.