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Phenom II: Unlocking Cores, Cache, And A Free Lunch

Test System And Benchmarks

We didn’t run our entire benchmark suite for this little project. After all, our main goal in running tests was to verify that what we were seeing in CPUz and Everest was correct.

Test Hardware
ProcessorAMD Phenom II X4 810 (Deneb) 2.6 GHz, 4 MB L3 cache
AMD Phenom II X2 720 Black Edition (Deneb) 2.8 GHz, 6 MB L3 cache
CoolerThermalright Ultra 120 Extreme
MotherboardASRock M3A790GXH/128M (Socket AM3) 790GX/SB750
Hard DriveWestern Digital VelociRaptor WD3000GLFS 300 GB 10,000 RPM SATA 3 Gb/s HDD
Graphics CardZotac GeForce GTX 260 Core 216 896 MB
Power SupplyCooler Master UCP 1100 W
System Software and Drivers
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows Vista Ultimate Edition x64 Service Pack 1
DirectXDirectX 10
Platform DriverCatalyst 9.3
Graphics DriverGeForce 185.63
Benchmark Configuration
Mainconcept Reference 1.6.1MPEG-2 to H.264, 28 second HDTV clip (1920x1080)
TMPGEnc 4.0 XPressDivX 6.8.5, Xvid 1.2.1 Video: Terminator 3 SE DVD (720x576) 5 min. Audio: Dolby Digital, 48000 Hz, 6-channel, English
Lame 3.9864-bit .exe, Audio CD "Terminator II SE," 53 min., .wav to .mp3 @ 160 kbps
WinRAR 3.80Compression = Best, Benchmark: THG Workload

In Mainconcept, an extra 2 MB of cache buys a second off of the encoding job's time. But the addition of a fourth core to the X3 knocks 41 seconds off of the same task. Clearly, in applications able to take advantage of multiple cores, turning an X3 into an X4 yields more performance than getting a slightly higher overclock, for instance.

Again, we see the cache help a little bit. But the 2.8 GHz Phenom II X3 turns in better times for the latest version of Xvid due to its clock speed advantage over the X4 810. In DivX 6.8.5, the fourth core helps AMD's Phenom II X4 810 turn in better times. But a combination of four cores and an extra 200 MHz shows the unlocked X3 720 in the most favorable light.

Clock speed reigns supreme here, and LAME doesn't care about more cache or a fourth core.

WinRAR is the only application that we ran able to demonstrate the gains of an extra 2 MB of L3 cache. Because the app is also threaded, the quad-core X4 810 ends up performing close to the quicker X3 720.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • dirtmountain
    Good article. Now if you can just get your ad clowns from sticking us with those annoying ads.....!
    Reply
  • test them with games... some people care about that :P
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Well, but the point isn't the benchmarks. We already know that most games are going to be limited more by graphics horsepower versus whether a CPU has three or four cores/4MB shared L3 or 6MB shared L3.

    In fact, when it comes to gaming, you're going to be better off looking for the fastest overclock possible with your three good cores or 4MB of known-good cache, really.
    Reply
  • omg you replied to me... i'm so honoured :P

    but yes, i agree... but if you had crossfire gpus, this would make a difference. but then again, i think you'd have the money to buy the real thing (phenom II 920)
    Reply
  • tacoslave
    i like this article toms should do more stuff like this.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    Page 3 "it ran for an hour sans error before we shut it down" - mistake?

    Me wonders if extra v's would help both to the memory, HTT and cores etc, or underclock that extra core if possible....

    On the other hand as all overclockers/modders should be aware THERE'S NO GUARANTEE on what you can get out of your hardware etc.

    Out of interest, is the third core ("Core 2"... LOL) still always the culprit of every X3 (unlockable or not)?

    Now if only there was some super secret on modding my Q6600 into a i7 940.....
    Reply
  • cangelini
    Hey Apache! No error, sans = without.
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    still reads wrong to me?
    Reply
  • Summer Leigh Castle
    Good article but can someone explain how ACC % works? Also, where do we start in terms of ACC % if we're tweaking for stability?
    Reply
  • ravenware
    cangeliniHey Apache! No error, sans = without.
    The only reason I know that is because of Wayne's World2.
    Reply