Athlon II X4 630 & 620: Affordable Quad Cores

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Thermals

Temperatures
Sensor
X4 630
X4 620
Stock
UV*
Stock
UV*
Core
35°C
31°C
34°C
28°C
CPU
41°C
38°C
41°C
38°C
Zerotherm FZ120 with Nexus fan @ 950 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.
*X4 630 undervolted by 0.125V, X4 620 by 0.2375V.

In our open testbed, cooled by a Zerotherm FZ120 heatsink using a Nexus 120 mm fan running at ~950 RPM, the temperatures reported by SpeedFan were fairly low. The heatsink body was also cool to the touch. When stressed with CPUBurn, both processors stabilized at 41°C (CPU sensor) 38°C (motherboard sensor). Undervolting resulted in a 6-7°C decrease for the X4 630, and slightly more for the X4 620. The Nexus fan was practically inaudible from one meter — with a good heatsink keeping the new Athlon II's cool without much noise pollution is a relatively simple matter.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Our timed benchmarks showed evidence that the Athlon II X4 630 and 620 perform slightly slower than Intel's cheapest quad core, the Q8200, in mundane everyday tasks like anti-virus scanning and file archiving. However, there is $20~$40 price difference, so from a value standpoint, they're about the same. On the other hand, the Q8200 fell to both the 630 and 620 in our most demanding test, which involved video encoding. This result was echoed by benchmarks performed by Xbit Labs and Anandtech which showed that video encoding and rendering applications heavily favors AMD. If video is your bag, but you're hurting for cash, a X4 630 or 620 may be just what the doctor ordered.

These new processors also complicate AMD's lineup, with the big loser being the Phenom II X3 series. The X4 630 is virtually the same price as the X3 720, but it has an extra core and is more energy efficient. Pinned between the X4 640 and 630 as well as the higher-clocked Phenom II X2's, there's really no place for the X3 720 anywhere in AMD's lineup, not unless price-cuts are initiated across the board.

Power consumption has been improved compared to the Phenom II's, but they're still a step behind Intel in this regard. The difference when idle and under light load is small though and as that's how most systems operate during the majority of their lifetime, it's almost a non-issue. If you prefer to run your system with as little power as possible, undervolting is an option. Our 630 and 620 samples undervolted well, resulting in a 8% and 11% improvements in overall energy efficiency respectively during our timed benchmarks. Whether at stock settings or undervolted, neither chips were difficult to cool quietly.

Removing the L3 cache from their Phenom II's has resulted in better energy efficiency and lower manufacturing costs which have been passed onto the consumer. Best of all, AMD did not sacrifice much in the way of performance. The Athlon II X4 630 and 620 represent the beginning of a new front in the age-old processor war. They perform well enough to compete with Intel's cheapest quad core CPU, but with a lower price-tag. With the X4 630 and 620 going for $120 and $100 respectively, it seems that they want to put an AMD quad core processor in every desktop. If Intel wants a piece of the action, they'll have to lower themselves to AMD's level.

If you have an existing compatible AM2+/AM3 motherboard with a single/dual core processor, or an original Phenom, the X4 630 and 620's are attractive upgrade options. For a new system, there are a couple of issues to consider besides the price and performance of the CPU. The first being upgradeability — AM3 is AMD's latest socket, while LGA775, the only socket for which Intel has sub-$200 processors, is all but a lame duck. Intel has shifted focus to LGA1156 and they are of course pushing their LGA775 user base to upgrade, which can be a pricey transition given the higher cost of their motherboard chipsets. AMD motherboards on the other hand continue to deliver more features at lower cost, and most of them include a superior integrated graphics solution, such as the HD 4200 incorporated in the 785G chipset.

Our thanks to AMD and for Athlon II X4 samples used in this review.

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Articles of Related Interest
AMD's 785G Chipset Boards: 780G Evolved
Intel Q9550S: A Greener Quad Core?
AMD Phenom II X2 550 BE & Athlon II X2 250
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition for AM3
Phenom II: AMD pulls closer
Intel Core i7: Nehalem Launched

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