AMD Athlon II X3: Affordable Compromise

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Athlon II X3 Processors: An Affordable Compromise

July 12, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
AMD Athlon II AM3 Processors
X3 440
X3 435
X3 415e
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$70
US$75
US$102

The triple core processors from AMD have humble origins, being recycled quad cores with a single non-functioning or faulty core (if the supply is low, fully functioning cores may be simply disabled to satisfy demand). Packaging and selling these chips as X3s makes perfect financial sense, but the original Phenom X3s met little success being hampered by the low clock speeds and high power consumption that plagued all first generation Phenoms. In addition, they weren't very cost effective with pricing much closer to AMD's X4s rather than X2s.

Fast forward to today and it's a completely different story. Phenom II addressed many of the issues of its predecessor and Athlon II, the low cost offshoot of Phenom II, has brought budget multi-core processors to the masses. You can now find quad cores for as little as US$100 and triple cores for only US$70. In this roundup we will be focusing on the Athlon II X3 435 (2.9 GHz) and 440 (3.0 GHz), which can be found for as low as US$70 and US$75 respectively online. With such aggressive pricing, the Athlon II X3 seems on paper at least, to be an easy choice for a budget desktop processor. We have also thrown a pair of energy efficient chip in the mix, the 45W Athlon II X3 415e, and the older 65W Phenom II X3 705e, both of which run at a very modest 2.5 GHz.

AM3 Dual/Triple Core Processors
Model
Clock Speed
Cache
(L2+L3)
TDP
Street Price†
Athlon II X2 245
2.9 GHz
2MB
65W
$59
Athlon II X2 250
3.0 GHz
2MB
65W
$62
Athlon II X2 255
3.1 GHz
2MB
65W
$70
Athlon II X2 260
3.2 GHz
2MB
65W
$75
Phenom II X2 550
3.1 GHz
1+6MB
80W
$90
Phenom II X2 555
3.2 GHz
1+6MB
80W
$99
Athlon II X3 415e
2.5 GHz
1.5MB
45W
$102*
Athlon II X3 435
2.9 GHz
1.5MB
95W
$70
Athlon II X3 440
3.0 GHz
1.5MB
95W
$75
Athlon II X3 445
3.1 GHz
1.5MB
95W
$90
Phenom II X3 705e
2.5 GHz
1.5+6MB
65W
$140
Phenom II X3 710
2.6 GHz
1.5+6MB
95W
$120
Phenom II X3 720
2.8 GHz
1.5+6MB
95W
$130
according to PriceGrabber.com
*retail 1000-unit tray price
Tested processors are in bold.

The X3s will be pitted against the dual core Athlon II X2 250/255 and Phenom II X2 555, and the Phenom II X4 630 to see how well they compare to a budget quad core CPU.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Platform:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPU-Z to monitor CPU frequency and voltage.
  • SpeedFan to monitor CPU temperatures.
  • Real Temp to monitor CPU temperatures.
  • CPUBurn processor stress software.
  • Prime95 processor stress software.
  • Media Player Classic - Home Cinema to play x264/MKV video using DXVA.
  • Eset NOD32 as an anti-virus benchmark.
  • WinRAR as an archiving benchmark.
  • iTunes an audio encoding benchmark.
  • TMPGEnc Xpress as a video encoding benchmark.
  • HandBrake as a video encoding benchmark
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2 as an image manipulation benchmark.
  • PCMark05 as a general system benchmark.
  • Seasonic Power Angel AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption of the system.
  • Digital Multimeters used to measure the current and voltage across the AUX12V connector
  • Custom-built, four-channel variable DC power supply, used to power and regulate the CPU fan.

Timed Benchmark Test Details

  • NOD32: In-depth virus scan of a folder containing 32 files of varying size with many RAR and ZIP archives.
  • WinRAR: Archive creation with a folder containing 68 files of varying size (less than 50MB).
  • iTunes: Conversion of an MP3 file to AAC.
  • TMPGEnc: Encoding a XVID AVI file with VC-1.
  • HandBrake: Encoding a XVID AVI file with H.264.
  • Photoshop: Image manipulation using a variety of filters, a derivation of Driver Heaven's Photoshop Benchmark V3 (test image resized to 4500x3499).

Our first test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress CPUs we use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces higher system power consumption. For video playback we use a x264-encoded 1080p clip played with Media Player Classic - Home Cinema.


1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a hapless robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.

Secondly, we run a series of benchmarks, most of which are timed tests of real-world applications. During the first 10~15 seconds, AC system power is measured at the wall (and later converted to DC) and current/voltage measurements are taken at the AUX12V connector to determine how much power is drawn by the CPU and VRM circuitry alone.

Certain services and features like Superfetch and System Restore are disabled to prevent them from affecting our results. Aero glass is left enabled if supported. We also make note if energy saving features like Cool'n'Quiet and SpeedStep do not function properly.

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:

Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
21.2
41.6
60.2
81.9
104.7
124.1
145.2
AC Input (W)
32.0
58.0
78.0
102.0
128.0
150.0
175.0
Efficiency
66.3%
71.7%
77.1%
80.3%
81.8%
82.8%
83.0%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input based on this data. We won't go through the math; it's easy enough to figure out for yourself if you really want to.



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