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

Test Setup And Efficiency Considerations

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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
CPU AMD IAMD Phenom II X4 965 (45nm, 3.4 GHz, 4 x 512KB L2 and 6MB L3 Cache, TDP 140W, Rev. C2)
CPU AMD IIAMD Athlon II X4 620 (45nm, 2.6 GHz, 4 x 512KB L2 Cache, TDP 95W, Rev. C2)
GraphicsZotac GeForce GTX 260² GPU: GeForce GTX 260 (576 MHz) Graphics RAM: 896MB DDR3 (1998 MHz) Stream Processors: 216 Shader Clock: 1242 MHz
Hard DriveWestern Digital VelociRaptor, 300GB (WD3000HLFS) 10,000 RPM, SATA/300, 16MB Cache
Blu-Ray DriveLG GGW-H20L, SATA/150
Power SupplyPC Power & Cooling, Silencer 750EPS12V 750W
System Software and Drivers
Operating SystemWindows Vista Enterprise Version 6.0 x64 Service Pack 2 (Build 6000)
Drivers and Settings
AMD Chipset DriversCatalyst Control Center 9.4
Intel Chipset DriversChipset Installation Utility Ver.
Intel Storage DriversMatrix Storage Drivers Ver.
3D-Games Benchmarks and Settings
Far cry 2Version: 1.0.1 Far Cry 2 Benchmark Tool Video Mode: 1280x800 Direct3D 9 Overall Quality: Medium Bloom activated HDR off Demo: Ranch Small
GTA IVVersion: 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 DeadVersion: 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
iTunesVersion: Audio CD ("Terminator II" SE), 53 min. Convert to AAC audio format
Lame MP3Version 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
TMPEG 4.6Version: 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 6.8.5Version: 6.8.5 == Main Menu == default == Codec Menu == Encoding mode: Insane Quality Enhanced multithreading Enabled using SSE4 Quarter-pixel search == Video Menu == Quantization: MPEG-2
XviD 1.2.1Version: 1.2.1 Other Options / Encoder Menu - Display encoding status = off
Mainconcept Reference 1.6.1Version: 1.6.1 MPEG-2 to MPEG-2 (H.264) MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2) Audio: 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 CS4Version: 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 8Version: 8.5.287 Virus base: 270.12.16/2094 Benchmark Scan: some compressed ZIP and RAR archives
Winrar 3.9Version 3.90 x64 BETA 1 Compression = Best Benchmark: THG-Workload
Winzip 12Version 12.0 (8252) WinZIP Commandline Version 3 Compression = Best Dictionary = 4096KB Benchmark: THG-Workload
Autodesk 3D Studio Max 2009Version: 9 x64 Rendering Dragon Image Resolution: 1920x1280 (frame 1-5)
Adobe Photoshop CS 4 (64-Bit)Version: 11 Filtering a 16MB TIF (15000x7266) Filters: 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 professionalVersion: 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 2007Version: 2007 SP2 PPT to PDF Powerpoint Document (115 Pages) Adobe PDF-Printer
Deep Fritz 11Version: 11 Fritz Chess Benchmark Version 4.2
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark VantageVersion: 1.02Options: Performance Graphics Test 1 Graphics Test 2 CPU Test 1 CPU Test 2
PCMark VantageVersion: 1.00 PCMark Benchmark Memory Benchmark
SiSoftware Sandra 2009Version: 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.