First, the PhenomsBy Frank Ohlhorst | Print
AMD rolls out multiple new processors that spell multiple opportunities for system builders.
The launch of the new Phenom processors stirred up a lot of controversy, especially around the X3, the first tri-core CPU to hit the market. Initially the X3 Phenom was not well received, with many reviewers panning the CPU. It just seems that those industry pundits could not figure what the purpose of three cores would be in a world dominated by dual and quadruple cores? Maybe it was the fact that people do not like odd numbers? Or was there another issue at work here?
Some say that the X3 Phenom CPU is just a way for AMD to recoup some of the manufacturing costs associated with the X4 (quad core) Phenom CPUs. Basically, if the company has a bad run of X4s (a dead core on the CPU), instead of those X4s going into the recycle bin, they are reborn as X3 Phenoms. That seems to rub some people the wrong way, selling a damaged X4 as a perfectly good X3! But, in reality, does it matter?
Basically, AMD is offering system builders three cores for the price of two, with the business-class Phenom X3 8600B (2.3GHz, 95W, 1.5MB total dedicated L2 cache, 2MB L3 cache, 3600MHz HyperTransport bus, socket AM2+) going for $175 and the Phenom 8750 (2.4GHz, 95W, 1.5MB total dedicated L2 cache, 2MB L3 cache, 3600MHz HyperTransport bus, socket AM2+) going for $195. With either processor, that translates to increased performance, without a cost penalty.
If system builders can look beyond the perceived failings of the X3, they can clearly see that they have the ability to offer 3 of something (the X3) for the price of 2 of something (Intel’s Dual Core CPUs) and everyone loves a bargain!
To see where the X3 could fit in a system builder’s line up, we built a test system using popular components from some well known vendors, such as Asus, Antec, Corsair and a few others. Before diving into the tests of the X3 Phenom CPU, we needed to build a baseline system. The goal here3 was to test a previous generation processor against the X3 (and X4) Phenoms and only change out the processors to see what the performance differences would be.
Our test system consisted of an Asus M2N32-SLI motherboard ($199.00), 1Gbyte of DDR2 Corsair memory ($25), an ATI Radeon HD 3600 Video Card ($109.00), a Seagate ST3500641AS-RK 500Gbyte Sata Hard Disk drive($109), Samsung 20X DVD-R SH-S202J optical drive ($25) and an Antec Sonata Plus 550 case with 550 Watt power supply ($199.00). The cost of the components added up to $666 without the CPU. Most system builders should be able to select either more economical or more performance based components, depending upon their target budgets.
Our goal was to come in under $1000 to build a performance orientated, but economical system for business use. We first tested our system with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5000+ CPU ($99) running at 2600Mhz, our OS of choice was Windows Vista Business Edition. Using PassMark Performance Test V6.1, we garnered a PassMark rating of 567.5. A good indicator of CPU performance is offered by PassMark’s CPU String Sorting Score, here the Athlon 64 X2 5000+ scored a 2635.7.
Swapping in the $175 Phenom X3 8600B returned some interesting results. Right off the bat, we noticed that the 2.3Ghz clock speed did not make the CPU fall short in the performance testing, we saw an overall Passmark score of 568.8, and the CPU String Sorting Score came in at 2824.6. With the X3 Phenom in place, power consumption at idle increased to 129 Watts, yet decreased under load to 196 Watts peak. More interestingly, the Windows Vista Performance Information tool rated the system a 5.6 overall and scored the Processor a 5.6 also.
Simply put, the X3 Phenom at 2.3Ghz will outperform a 2.6Ghz Dual Core Athlon, at a price penalty of around $75. Although, as indicated by the benchmarking, the performance increase was not significant, one important element still needs to be considered – how the X3 Phenom is to be used. The extra core offered by the X3 Phenom could be assigned OS and application processes using the processor affinity setting found in Windows Vista. If the environment is fine tuned using methods like that, real world performance increases could be realized, that are not easily demonstrated via bench marking.