CPU: AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition
By: Sam Finch
This year, you were a gift-giving pro. You listened carefully when your friends and family dropped hints about their most wanted gifts. You even sacrificed your PC upgrade budget to ensure that everyone got what they wanted. ’Tis better to give than receive, right?
That’s all well and good, but what happens when the friends and family don’t hold up their end of the bargain? Because, without fail, "I’d sure like to spruce up my computer!" scores you little more than a webcam or $15 wireless mouse. Great. Like anything, if you want something done right, do it yourself.
But your current cash on hand? Yeah, about that. You need a high-octane powerhouse on a biodiesel budget. Roll up your sleeves (how else are you going to donate that plasma?) and get your ramen on for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In a week or two, you’ll have the capital to invest in a processor with a surprise inside—the AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition.
On the surface, the 3.2 GHz 555 BE is respectable enough in its own right. In the era of Intel's six-core Gulftown and AMD's own hexa-core Thuban, it’s all too easy to sneer at anything less than a quartet of execution cores. But this dual-core processor’s 3.2 GHz clock rate makes it a decent enough option for gaming and lightly-threaded apps. And as an entry-level Socket AM3 processor, the 555 BE will drop into an 890FX motherboard (like this year’s budget motherboard recommendation, Gigabyte’s 890FXA-UD5), giving you the advantage of using DDR3 memory, plus other current-gen board-specific bonuses.
The 555’s Black Edition pedigree doesn’t need much introduction at this point, but it’s nevertheless worth mentioning that you get a lot of overclocking flexibility on a sub-$90 processor. Attach a halfway-decent cooler and pump up the frequency—you should be set until Bulldozer arrives next year.
Now, about that surprise: compare the 555 BE's Callisto die to AMD's quad-core Deneb-based CPUs. The two are remarkably close. So close, in fact, that the 555 BE is little more than a Phenom II X4 with two cores disabled. The vast majority of AMD enthusiast motherboards (including the 890FXA-UD5) include BIOS-level core unlocking capabilities, so connect the dots. You’re potentially getting a Phenom II X4 955 for less than one hundred bucks.
Yes, potentially. While the ideal scenario is buying a Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition that began life as a perfectly good Phenom II X4, it is possible that one (or both) dormant cores on your particular 555 BE were disabled because of poor yields. But even if you don’t wind up with a quad-core Phenom II to show for your efforts, you still have a capable dual-core chip with plenty of headroom to spare. We simply couldn't pass up the value of this chip for our 2010 gift guide, and we hope you agree.
Current page: CPU: AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black EditionNext Page Motherboard: Gigabyte 890FXA-UD5
Stay on the Cutting Edge
Join the experts who read Tom's Hardware for the inside track on enthusiast PC tech news — and have for over 25 years. We'll send breaking news and in-depth reviews of CPUs, GPUs, AI, maker hardware and more straight to your inbox.
I'm only reading this article to look at the chicksReply
^ Keep reading!Reply
Wait until SB and BD.Reply
Radeon 6870 girl ... someone forgot to photoshop her ^^Reply
Gift Guide Part 1, for Deep Pockets :)
LuckyDucky7Alternative title:Gift Guide Part 1, for Deep PocketsReply
Phenom II for under $100? You must have those pockets that are sewn shut at the top, for decoration! =)
girls > computer parts that we already know aboutReply
Nice review, but I'd have liked to see advice for different budgets. For example, you could recommend a budget, mid range and high end product. For example, I'm currently in the market for a discrete sound card, but don't such an expensive one. On the other hand, I wouldn't be satisfied with a Phenom II X2. It's still a great article, mind you, but it'd have been nice to see some love for every end of the market.Reply
ntrRadeon 6870 girl ... someone forgot to photoshop her ^^No, it's the taint that a Diamond product radiates. They're #2 on my personal "Do not buy" list, right after Belkin.Reply