Conclusion: AMD For Efficiency, Intel For Performance
Even though processor pricing for AMD's entry-level and mainstream models has reached record lows, AMD hasn't hesitated to release additional low-power products at extremely affordable price points. The new Athlon X2 BE-2350 at 2.1 GHz costs less than $100, and thus is cheaper than the closest Intel competitor, the Pentium Dual Core (based on Core 2 technology). From a cost and an energy efficiency standpoint, the 45 W Athlon X2 BE clearly is the best choice today, as you can see from the energy consumption test runs.
The Pentium Dual Core E2160, though, is usually equally fast or slightly faster in many benchmarks. This comes at the cost of slightly higher idle and load power requirements. Our long-term SYSmark 2004 runs prove that the Athlon X2 BE-2350 system required 14% less energy than the Pentium Dual Core E2160 after 60 minutes, and the difference was still 10% after a 90-minute run.
Our tests also showed that the BE-2350 is not a relabeled Athlon 64 X2 4000+, which also has 2x 512 kB L2 cache and 2.1 GHz clock speed. Although the idle power requirements are equal, the regular Athlon 64 X2 consumes 18% more energy under load. The results also underscore the fact that AMD processors have a lower idle power requirements than Intel's CPUs, and that the power requirements under load can be higher.
We also must consider the platform. Motherboards with AMD's 690 chipset typically are slightly cheaper than Intel chipset motherboards based on the G965 or Q965. Many AMD 690 boards also come with HDMI interfaces, which are desirable for home theater PCs. The Intel solutions, particularly those based on the Q965, in exchange offer nice system management options (vPro), which might also be useful.
Finally, there are the results of our overclocking tests: the AMD Athlon X2 BE-2350 2.1 GHz could be overclocked by 19% to 2.5 GHz, while Intel's Pentium Dual Core still was reliable at a core clock speed of 2.88 GHz, 55% over the 1.8 GHz default speed. Users looking for a $100 CPU to build a cheap overclocking solution must go for the Intel product; those who care for efficiency will prefer the AMD Athlon X2 BE-2350.