Value Processors from AMD
Over the past years and a half AMD managed to completely refresh their entire platform, so now all their processors, even including the cheapest ones are based on 45 nm cores and are designed for Socket AM3 platform supporting DDR3 SDRAM. However, at the same time these processors remain backward compatible with the old Socket AM2+ platform, which makes them a great option also for the upgrade of the existing computer systems.
Even though there haven’t been any significant microarchitectural improvements from AMD for quite some time already, so that the company cannot really compete in the upper price segment, it doesn’t really affect the situation in the value CPU market. The company takes the advantage of this situation the best they can, so they are able to offer a vast variety of inexpensive processors. among them are four different AMD CPU families:
Sempron. There are two things that make this AMD processor family remarkable. On the one hand, these are the only current single-core desktop processors, but on the other – these are the cheapest products on AMD’s as well as Intel’s price lists. Contemporary members of this family work at up to 2.8 GHz frequencies and have 1 MB of L2 cache memory, which has proven to be sufficient for typical office and Internet-applications.
Athlon II X2. The most “popular” processors for inexpensive Socket AM3 systems are dual-core Athlon II X2 CPUs. They are selling at very affordable prices are their clock speeds reach as high as 3.2 GHz. Other than that you can regard Athlon II X2 as two Sempron CPUs within the same packaging: each core of these dual-core processors features a 1 MB L2 cache. The added appeal of this processor family is the OEM CPU modifications that appear from time to time. These processors have slightly limited features, but come at a price almost as low as that of Sempron processors.
Athlon II X3. AMD’s unique triple-core Athlon II X3 CPUs appear as a way of utilizing the chips that cannot be used for quad-core processors. Therefore, these processors are especially interesting: on the one hand, their price is very affordable, but on the other, the third core comes in very handy in those applications that can be easily paralleled. Especially, since Athlon II X3 clock frequencies are not that much lower than those of the dual-core CPUs: they go as high as 3.2 GHz. However, they have somewhat smaller cache memory: each core has only 512 KB of individual L2 cache.
Phenom II X2. AMD positions this processor family as dual-core CPUs for enthusiasts with limited financial means. In reality it means that these processors allow changing their clock frequency multiplier and thus offer easy overclocking. Moreover, Phenom II X2 has 6 MB of L3 cache memory shared among all cores. As for the clock speed, it reaches the pretty common 3.3 GHz level, but only the 3.2 GHz processor falls into the sub-$100 price range.
Speaking of inexpensive AMD CPUs, we would like to point out several nice things about them. First of all, it is very appealing that these processors use the same exact infrastructure as the expensive AMD processors. And it means that the value dual-core Socket AM3 processor from AMD can be easily replaced with a more expensive multi-core Phenom II CPU. Moreover, AMD decided to let their low-cost processors keep all of their secondary features as is. For example, even AMD Sempron, not to mention Athlon II X2 or Phenom II X2, support fast DDR3-1600 SDRAM and Virtualization. Another great advantage, is the fact that Socket AM3 processors from AMD are compatible with AMD’s high-performance chipsets. In practical terms it means that there are quite a few mainboards with fast integrated graphics available to the owners of such processors, and integrated graphics development is something AMD is very good at.
Another argument in favor of inexpensive AMD CPUs is their undocumented ability to allow activating additional cores, because some modifications of inexpensive CPUs are built on semiconductor dies with more cores than indicated in the CPU specs. Among processors that may offer you a pleasant surprise like that are Sempron CPUs, which could acquire a second core; Athlon II X3 based on quad-core dies; and Phenom II X2, which may allow you to activate the third or even the fourth core.
The table below lists the specs of all value CPUs from AMD that participated in our today’s test session.