Quick Lab Report: AMD Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250

Our lab managed to get hold of two very interesting dual-core solutions from AMD manufactured with 45nm process. These processors will be positioned as primary competitors to Intel Core 2 Duo and looks like they have very good chance to succeed. Take a look at the first benchmark results and see for yourselves.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
05/20/2009 | 11:13 PM

Detailed Review: AMD Phenom II X2 550 and AMD Athlon II X2 250 Processors Review


The next Computex tradeshow is just around the corner and we are getting ready for numerous launches of new hot products. As we all know, Intel is going to please compute enthusiasts with the official launch of their new high-speed Core i7-975 Extreme Edition CPU on one of the first days of the show. AMD is also expected to make a few announcements; however, they won’t be targeting the high-end segment, but will launch new mainstream solutions instead.  As we have already reported in our news, AMD will be releasing new dual-core CPUs based on the cores made with the latest 45nm process. In other words, the Deneb core that has received a lot of great feedback will arrive in a new incarnation giving birth to new highly promising processor families known as Callisto and Regor.

Unfortunately, despite the significance of this launch, there is too little info about these extremely interesting AMD processors available at this time in the Web. We decided to fill in this gap and reveal some preliminary info about the new 45nm AMD processors with two computational cores. Especially, since we expect them to become real sales hits right at launch. Due to more than affordable price of only around $100, these CPUs will finally become the long awaited worthy rivals to Intel Core 2 Duo. So far, only triple-core AMD Phenom II X3 could be considered an alternative to the undefeated Intel champion.

Actually, this short report was possible only due to the fact that we managed to get hold of two top models in the new processor families: Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250. You can see their key specifications from the CPU-Z screenshots below:

The major difference between Phenom II X2 and Athlon II X2 is evidently in the configuration of their cache-memory system. Phenom II X2 has a 6MB L3 cache typical of most Phenom II processors. Athlon II X2 has no L3 cache, but instead – what a surprise! - boasts twice as large L2 cache.

By the way, despite the tricky physical structure of the L2 cache memory in Athlon II X2 processors, it has the same associativity as the Phenom II X2 L2 cache.

Phenom II X2 550

Athlon II X2 250

The complete specifications of Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250 are summed up in the table below:

The new dual-core AMD processors should definitely raise the performance bar compared with the previous generation Athlon X2. The new Stars (K10) microarchitecture, higher clock frequencies, larger cache-memory as well as support of faster DDR3 SDRAM made sure of that.

We are going to post the detailed performance analysis for the new AMD Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250 processors on the day of the official launch, and in the meanwhile we would like to share with you some preliminary benchmark results that will give you some idea of the newcomers’ performance compared with a popular dual-core Intel solution.

As we can see, the competition gets pretty intense. While dual-core CPUs on 65nm cores could only compete against Intel Pentium solutions, the new Athlon II X2 and Phenom II X2 attempt much more than that.

Winding up our first encounter with the new 45nm dual-core CPUs from AMD, we attempted to overclock them, because the new cores have definitely brought the company solutions back into the overclocking-friendly camp. All tests were performed in a system featuring Gigabyte GA-MA790FXT-UD5P mainboards and Scythe Mugen CPU cooler. This is what our complete system looked like:

Athlon II X2 250 overclocked to 3.9GHz with the Vcore increased by 0.175V above the nominal and remained absolutely stable throughout the tests.

In this case we increased the integrated North Bridge frequency up to 2.6GHz and its voltage – by 0.1V.

This is a very good result, showing that dual-core AMD processors on 45nm cores will overclock way better than their triple- and quad-core fellows. The results of our Phenom II X2 550 overclocking experiments confirm this assumption as well. This processor remained stable at 3.98GHz frequency with the core voltage increased by 0.15V.

The North Bridge built into this CPU overclocked to 2.43GHz. Note that Phenom II X2 550 belongs to the Black Edition series that is why we could also tweak its multiplier alongside with the clock generator frequency.

Anyway, Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250 processors promise to be extremely interesting solutions. Stay tuned for an extensive review on our site that will be coming out shortly.