AMD's New CPU Portfolio And The New Phenom II X2 555
Intel finally has quad-threaded processors to compete with in the sub-$200 space that AMD has dominated for so long: the Clarkdale-based Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs. Notice we said quad-threaded. These are still dual-core parts with Hyper-Threading, yielding four logical cores. With its launch earlier in January, the company now offers a handful of viable value options for the LGA 1156 platform, with attractive scalability to higher-end Core i5 and Core i7 models.
AMD isn't taking this frontal assault on its turf sitting down, of course, and its retaliation strategy employs a sizable mix of clock speed bumps and reduced prices. The already-attractive price/performance ratio of the sub-$200 CPU market will most definitely take a turn for the better, and you, the enthusiast, win again.
In the midst of all of this new model chaos, we couldn't help but notice the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition. At an aggressive 3.2 GHz, this is the fastest dual-core CPU that AMD has ever made, and the best part is that it boasts the same $100 price tag as its predecessor, the 550. Intel's counterpoint, the new Clarkdale-based Pentium G6950, is about $5 cheaper and has a slower clock rate of 2.8 GHz, but it does have the advantage of an efficient 32nm process and reportedly-unholy overclocking headroom.
So we couldn't help but wonder: which of these two entry-level offerings is the better bet? How does stock performance compare to a more expensive option, like the quad-core Core i5-750? And could either of these processors offer budget-busting performance if we overclock them, despite their dual-core "limits?"
We certainly slammed headfirst into a few surprises along the way (not all of them pleasant), and we didn't walk away innocent of a mistake or two. But before we dig into the dual-core battle, let's spend a little time looking at AMD's new processor portfolio.