Athlon II Or Phenom II: Does Your CPU Need L3 Cache?

Test Setup And Efficiency Considerations

System Hardware
Performance Benchmarks
Motherboard (Socket AM3)
Gigabyte MA790FXT-UD5P (Rev. 1.0)
Chipset: AMD 790GX, SB750
BIOS: 5c (04/01/2009)
RAM DDR3 (Dual)

2 x 2GB DDR3-1600 (Corsair CM3X2G1600C9DHX)
2 x 1GB DDR3-1600 (Crucial BL12864BA1608.8SFB)

at DDR3-1066 speed
Common Hardware
AMD Phenom II X4 965 (45nm, 3.4 GHz, 4 x 512KB L2 and 6MB L3 Cache, TDP 140W, Rev. C2)
AMD Athlon II X4 620 (45nm, 2.6 GHz, 4 x 512KB L2 Cache, TDP 95W, Rev. C2)
Zotac GeForce GTX 260²
GPU: GeForce GTX 260 (576 MHz)
Graphics RAM: 896MB DDR3 (1998 MHz)
Stream Processors: 216
Shader Clock: 1242 MHz
Hard Drive
Western Digital VelociRaptor, 300GB (WD3000HLFS)
10,000 RPM, SATA/300, 16MB Cache
Blu-Ray Drive
Power Supply
PC Power & Cooling, Silencer 750EPS12V 750W
System Software and Drivers
Operating System
Windows Vista Enterprise Version 6.0 x64
Service Pack 2 (Build 6000)
Drivers and Settings
AMD Chipset Drivers
Catalyst Control Center 9.4
Intel Chipset Drivers
Chipset Installation Utility Ver.
Intel Storage Drivers
Matrix Storage Drivers Ver.
3D-Games Benchmarks and Settings
Far cry 2
Version: 1.0.1
Far Cry 2 Benchmark Tool
Video Mode: 1280x800
Direct3D 9
Overall Quality: Medium
Bloom activated
HDR off
Demo: Ranch Small
Version: 1.0.3
Video Mode: 1280x1024
- 1280x1024
- Aspect Ratio: Auto
- All options: Medium
- View Distance: 30
- Detail Distance: 100
- Vehicle Density: 100
- Shadow Density: 16
- Definition: On
- Vsync: Off
Ingame Benchmark
Left 4 Dead
Video Mode: 1280x800
Game Settings
- Anti Aliasing none
- Filtering Trilinear
- Wait for vertical sync disabled
- Shader Detail Medium
- Effect Detail Medium
- Model/Texture Detail Medium
Demo: THG Demo 1
Audio Benchmarks and Settings
Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min.
Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3
Version 3.98
Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min
convert WAV to MP3 audio format
Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kbps)
Video Benchmarks and Settings
Video: Terminator 2 SE DVD (720x576, 16:9) 5 Minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, 6-channel, English
Advanced Acoustic Engine MP3 Encoder (160 Kbps, 44.1 kHz)
DivX 6.8.5
Version: 6.8.5
== Main Menu ==
== Codec Menu ==
Encoding mode: Insane Quality
Enhanced multithreading
Enabled using SSE4
Quarter-pixel search
== Video Menu ==
Quantization: MPEG-2
XviD 1.2.1
Version: 1.2.1
Other Options / Encoder Menu -
Display encoding status = off
Mainconcept Reference 1.6.1
Version: 1.6.1
MPEG-2 to MPEG-2 (H.264)
MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec
28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2)
MPEG2 (44.1 kHz, 2-channel, 16-bit, 224 Kbps)
Codec: H.264
Mode: PAL (25 FPS)
Profile: Settings for eight threads
Adobe Premiere Pro CS4
Version: 4.0
WMV 1920x1080 (39 sec)
Export: Adobe Media Encoder
== Video ==
H.264 Blu-ray
1440x1080i 25 High Quality
Encoding Passes: one
Bitrate Mode: VBR
Frame: 1440x1080
Frame Rate: 25
== Audio ==
PCM Audio, 48 kHz, Stereo
Encoding Passes: one
Application Benchmarks and Settings
Grisoft AVG Anti Virus 8
Version: 8.5.287
Virus base: 270.12.16/2094
Scan: some compressed ZIP and RAR archives
Winrar 3.9
Version 3.90 x64 BETA 1
Compression = Best
Benchmark: THG-Workload
Winzip 12
Version 12.0 (8252)
WinZIP Commandline Version 3
Compression = Best
Dictionary = 4096KB
Benchmark: THG-Workload
Autodesk 3D Studio Max 2009
Version: 9 x64
Rendering Dragon Image
Resolution: 1920x1280 (frame 1-5)
Adobe Photoshop CS 4 (64-Bit)
Version: 11
Filtering a 16MB TIF (15000x7266)
Radial Blur (Amount: 10; Method: zoom; Quality: good)
Shape Blur (Radius: 46 px; custom shape: Trademark sysmbol)
Median (Radius: 1 px)
Polar Coordinates (Rectangular to Polar)
Adobe Acrobat 9 professional
Version: 9.0.0 (Extended)
== Printing Preferenced Menu ==
Default Settings: Standard
== Adobe PDF Security - Edit Menu ==
Encrypt all documents (128-bit RC4)
Open Password: 123
Permissions Password: 321
Microsoft Powerpoint 2007
Version: 2007 SP2
Powerpoint Document (115 Pages)
Adobe PDF-Printer
Deep Fritz 11
Version: 11
Fritz Chess Benchmark Version 4.2
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark Vantage
Version: 1.02
Options: Performance
Graphics Test 1
Graphics Test 2
CPU Test 1
CPU Test 2
PCMark Vantage
Version: 1.00
PCMark Benchmark
Memory Benchmark
SiSoftware Sandra 2009
Version: 2009 SP3
Processor Arithmetic, Cryptography, Memory Bandwith

Efficiency Considerations

Typically, we would measure idle and peak power consumption and look at the system efficiency by tracking power required to complete a specific workload (typically PCMark Vantage). From this, we could calculate the resulting performance per watt. However, we had to modify several variables which wouldn’t normally appear in real life. We reduced the Phenom’s clock speed and had to disable Cool’n’Quiet so the Phenom II X4 965 would run at a constant 2.6 GHz instead of its 3.4 GHz default. Since the slowest Phenom II X4 starts at 3.0 GHz, hardly anyone would run it at decreased speeds. In addition, we decreased the Phenom II’s memory speed to DDR3-1066 to match AMD’s specification for the Athlon II X4.

Now, there is a measurable power consumption benefit if you opt for a processor without L3 cache. Cache alone accounts for roughly one-third of the processor’s silicon real estate. This becomes clear when you look at the processor’s power ratings. AMD rates the Phenom II at 95W to 140W while the Athlon II X4 is a 95W part. The peak power of our test system equipped with the Phenom II X4 965 at 3.4 GHz hit 226W while the 2.6 GHz Athlon II X4 maxes at 170W.

Idle power tells a similar story. We measured 84W for the Athlon II X4 620 and 85W for the same system running a Phenom II X4 965. In these cases, Cool’n’Quiet was enabled, so processors throttled the voltage and clock speed to as little as 800 MHz. Since most sections of the processors that aren’t in use are largely switched off, idle power doesn’t differ much between our contenders.