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Appeared on: Tuesday, December 05, 2006
AMD Athlon 64 X2


1. Introduction

The Athlon 64 X2 is the first dual-core desktop CPU manufactured by AMD. It is essentially a processor consisting of two Athlon 64 cores joined together on one die with some additional control logic. The cores share one dual-channel memory controller, are based on the E-stepping model of Athlon 64 and, depending on the model, have either 512 or 1024 Kb of L2-Cache per core. The X2 is capable of decoding SSE3 instructions, so it can run and benefit from software optimizations that were previously only supported by Intel chips. This enhancement is not unique to the X2, and is also available in the recently released Venice and San Diego single core Athlon 64's.

For the end-user this means a significant increase in response and performance when running multiple applications simultaneously. The AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core processor outperforms the highest-performing AMD Athlon™ 64 4000+ single-core processor on multi-tasking benchmarks by up to 30%, according to the official press release. AMD officially started shipping the Athlon 64 X2 at Computex, on 1 June 2005.

In the middle of June 2006, AMD stated that they will no longer make any non-FX Athlon 64 or Athlon 64 X2 models with 1MB L2 caches. This was reported by Hardocp website. This means that only a small number of the Socket AM2 is being produced. Probably you will see at your local store only the 512KB L2 cache models: 3800+, 4200+, 4600+, and 5000+.

- AMD Athlon 64 X2 Features

Better Multi-Tasking Means Increased Office Productivity
Productivity in today’s workplace requires smooth, efficient and seamless multi-tasking. The AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core processor delivers TRUE multi-tasking, allowing users to switch from one program to another without pausing for the computer to catch up and reducing annoying processing pauses. The end result is an increase in office productivity performance of 22% on average.

Setting the Pace in Digital Media
Digital media software demands simultaneous processing of data streams, the perfect use for the incredible multi-tasking power of the AMD64 dual-core technology. Dual-core technology is like having two processors working together, each one taking care of different applications, so power-users actually experience greater performance when multiple applications are running. Digital media enthusiasts can usher in the next generation of digital media software for amazing high-definition video and photo editing, content creation, and audio mixing. With the AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core processor, your PC will perform up to 80% faster than a single-core AMD Athlon™ 64 4000+ processor on the latest power-hungry digital media software applications.

Smooth and Efficient Upgrades
Additionally, the elegant design of the AMD64 architecture allowed for the planning of dual-core processors from the ground up, which means that the AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core processor is designed to fit in the same 939-pin infrastructure as single-core processors. All that is required is a BIOS update, saving our partners the costs of redesigns and obsolete inventory.

All the Proven Benefits of AMD64 Technology
Enhanced Virus Protection with Windows® XP Service Pack 2
Enhanced Virus Protection is a feature of AMD64 technology. Enhanced Virus Protection feature in AMD64 processors, in conjunction with certain operating systems help to prevent the spread of certain viruses, like MSBlaster and Slammer, significantly reducing the cost and down-time associated with similar viruses and improving the protection of computers and personal information against certain PC viruses1.

AMD Athlon 64 Processor Architecture Performance
HyperTransport™ technology can increase overall system performance by removing I/O bottlenecks, increasing system bandwidth, and reducing system latency. A fully integrated DDR memory controller helps speed access to memory by offering the processor a direct connection to the main memory. As a result, end users can enjoy quicker application loading and extraordinary application performance.

Ready for the 64-bit future
Like all the processors in the AMD Athlon 64 family, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core processor is designed for people who want to stay at the forefront of technology and for those who depend on their PCs to keep them connected, informed, and entertained. Systems based on AMD Athlon 64 processors are able to deliver leading-edge performance for demanding productivity and entertainment software today and in the future.


2. AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 Processor Family

Below you can see the whole family of AMD Athlon 64 X2 AM2 processors:

Model Number

Frequency

L2 Cache
Packaging
Thermal Design Power
5200+
2.6 GHz
1MB + 1MB
socket AM2
89W
5000+
2.6 GHz
512KB + 512KB
socket AM2
89W
4800+
2.4 GHz
1MB + 1MB
socket AM2
89W, 65W
4600+
2.4 GHz
512KB + 512KB
socket AM2
89W, 65W
4400+
2.2 GHz
1MB + 1MB
socket AM2
89W, 65W
4200+
2.2 GHz
512KB + 512KB
socket AM2
89W, 65W
4000+
2.0 GHz
1MB + 1MB
socket AM2
89W, 65W
3800+
2.0 GHz
512KB + 512KB
socket AM2
89W, 65W, 35W

The family has both 1MB and 512KB L2 cache, while several series are offered with two thermal design powers (89W, 65W). Full specs are very interesting:

AMD64 Technology
Yes
Simultaneous 32- & 64-bit computing
Yes
L1 Cache (Instruction + Data) per core
128KB (64KB + 64KB)
L2 Cache per core
512KB or 1MB
One 16x16 link @ 2000 MHz bidirectional
HyperTransport Iechnology I/O Bandwidth
8 GB/s
Integrated DDR Memory Controller
Yes
Memory Controller Width
128-bit
Type of Memory Supported
PC2 6400(DDR2-800), PC2 5300(DDR2-667), PC2 4200(DDR2-533), and PC2 3200(DDR2-400) unbuffered memory (socket AM2)
Memory Bandwidth
up to 12.8 GB/s (socket AM2)
Total Processor-to-system Bandwidth (HyperTransport plus memory bandwidth)
up to 20.8 GB/s (socket AM2)
Process Technology
90 nanometer, SOI (silicon-on-insulator) Technology
Packaging
socket AM2 (940-pin) organic micro PGA
Thermal Design Power
110W, 89W, 65W, or 35W
Die Size
147 to 218 mm2
Number of Transistors
154 to 227 million (socket AM2) (depending on cache size)
Manufacturing Sites
Fab 30 and Fab 36 in Dresden , Germany

Compared with an Intel D9xx series, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor has wider chipset support:

 
AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core Processor
Intel Pentium D Dual-Core Processor
Infrastructure
socket AM2
LGA775
Process Technology
90 nanometer, SOI (silicon on insulator)
65 or 90 nanometer
Number of Transistors
154 to 227 million
230 million
64-bit Instruction Set Support
Yes, AMD64 Technology
Yes, EM64T
Enhanced Virus Protection
Yes
Yes
System Bus Technology
HyperTransport™ technology up to 2000MHz, full duplex
Front Side Bus up to 800 MHz, Half duplex
Integrated Memory Controller
128-bit + 16-bit ECC unbuffered PC2 6400(DDR2-800), PC2 5300(DDR2-667), PC2 4200(DDR2-533), PC2 3200(DDR2-400)
No, Discrete logic device on motherboard
Total Processor-to-System Bandwidth

HyperTransport technology: up to 8.0 GB/s

Memory bandwidth: up to 12.8 GB/s

Total: up to 20.8 GB/s

 

 

Total: up to 6.4 GB/s

3D & Multimedia instructions
3DNow!™ technology, SSE, SSE2, SSE3
SSE, SSE2, SSE3
Chipset support
NVIDIA: Nforce4 Series chipsets

ATI: Radeon Xpress 200 Series chipsets

VIA: K8 Series chipsets

SiS: 75x Series chipsets or greater

Intel: 945/955 Series only

NVIDIA: Nforce4 Series chipsets

Total Designed Power (TDP)
35W, 65W or 89W
95W or 130W

Let’s now see in depth, a comparison between 4600+ with 89W and 65W TDP:

Processor
AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core
Model
4600+
Ordering P/N (Tray)
Ordering P/N (PIB)
ADA4600CUBOX
ADO4600CUBOX
Operating Mode
32/64
Stepping
F2
Frequency
2400Mhz
HT Speed
2000
Voltage
1.30V/1.35V
1.20V/1.25V
Max Temp
55-70°C
72°C
Thermal Design Power
89W
65W
L1 Cache
128KB x2
L2 Cache
512KB x2
CMOS Technology
90nm SOI
Socket
Socket AM2

Their only difference is the required voltage and max temperature. For our review we used an ADA4600CUBOX (89W):


3. Installation

There isn't much to tell here, be careful when installing the CPU! After connecting all necessary power cables, you can power up your system.

For our review we used an Asus M2N32WS Pro motherboard with 0601 Bios:


4. Tests

All Intel CPUs were tested on the following system:

While the AMD Athlon 4600+ testbed comprised:

We used a variety of test software, from benchmarks to games:


5. Everest Ultimate Edition and SiSoft Sandra

Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has build-in several tests for memory and CPU/FPU.

The AMD memory architecture offers excellent performance. Of course, the lower memory timings of CL4 for the AMD X2 4600+ help a lot:

In the CPU/FPU tests, the Core2Duo chipsets are much faster than the AMD X2 4600+:

Looking at the overall difference in performance, it can be concluded that the  Intel XE6800 is around 48.68% faster than the AMD X2 4600+, while the Intel E6600 outperforms by 28.02% the AMD X2 4600+. Overclocking the AMD X2 4600+ will probably narrow the difference. Let’s now move on to the Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1 results

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.

With Sisoft Sandra 2007 SP1, the XE6800 is quite impressive, outperforming the AMD X2 4600+.

The AMD X2 4600+ is only faster in the RAM Bandwidth tests, as was expected. In the other tests, Intel's Core2Duo processors lead the race.


6. PCMARK05 and 3DMARK05

Click for homepage!PCMark®05 is everything you need to reliably and easily measure the performance of your PC and determine its strengths and weaknesses. With PCMark05, you will be able to select the optimal upgrades for your existing PC, or choose the right new PC that fits your specific needs. This easy-to-use product gives you the same tools and knowledge that virtually every professional tester in the industry uses. The benchmark suite offers three available score, memory, CPU and total.

In the PC Mark 05 tests, the Intel XE6800 is once again impressive. But also in the CPU tests, it was found to be 52.12% faster than the AMD X2 4600+, while the Intel E6600 was 24.67% faster. The Total Score for the AMD X2 4600+ gets a boost, thanks to its memory performance.

Click for homepage!3DMark®06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.

At 3D Mark 06, Intel XE6800 was 39.66% faster than AMD X2 4600+ at CPU test, while Intel E6600 "only" 15.00%. The overall score of all processors doesn't show significant differences, since the benchmark is highly dependable at the used VGA card.


7. Science Mark 2.0 and Nreo Digital

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, SM2 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. Science Mark 2.0 is comprised of 7 benchmarks, each of which measures a different aspect of real world system performance.

Pov-Ray s a high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The source code is available for those wanting to do their own ports. We used Pov-Ray 3.7beta15 for all tests, since it supports Dual Core CPUs. We used the build-in benchmark as suggested from developers.

Two different benchmarks are displayed with different results. In Pov-Ray, the Intel XE6800 is 88.26% faster than the AMD X2 4600+, while the Intel E6600 is 52.73% faster. Looking at the ScienceMark results, AMD's memory architecture helps it achieve a high score of 1368.93. The Intel XE6800 is only 20.25% and the Intel E6600 only 3.18% faster.

- Nero Digital

Nero Digital is one of the most well known Digital formats, offering both ASP and AVC encoding.

For our tests, we used the latest version of Nero Recode v2.3.1.8 as packaged with Nero Reloaded v7.5.0.1. As a source, we used a VOB file of 5mins duration. We encoded in two modes for each processor (ASP, AVC) with exactly the same preferences (same bit rate and dual pass). The encoding time displayed below, is what Nero Recode reported. Obviously, the lower the time taken, the better. All results are displayed in seconds.

Video encoding is a demanding task and Intel's XE6800, as was expected, offers the highest possible performance. With the AVC profile, it is 30.65% faster than the AMD 4600+, while the Intel E6600 is only 11.72% faster in the same test. With the ASP profile, performance differences are similar (30.87% for the XE6800, 15.65% for the E6600).


8. CINEBENCH and SuperPI

CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.

Especially a system’s CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers could subsequently be compared, regardless of the operating system. All tests were done with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of each subtest is displayed in the following chart.

In this test, the XE6800 and E6600 were faster than the X2 4600+ by 20.59% and 10.05% respectively. Looking at the RAW CPU tests, the XE6800 is 35.00% and E6600 11.00% faster than the AMD X2 4600+.

SuperPI has become a utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo. This record-breaking program was ported to personal computer environment such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.

The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For all CPUs we tested up to 8M calculations and summed them for a total score.

Intel's XE6800 is probably the fastest, currently sold CPU, and SuperPI is a good example that shows its performance. It is 48.94% faster than the AMD X2 4600+, and  39.54% than the Intel E600.

 


9. F.E.A.R. and Prey

The story begins as an unidentified paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound. The government responds by sending in Special Forces, but loses contact as an eerie signal interrupts radio communications. When the interference subsides moments later, the team has been literally torn apart. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: Eliminate the intruders at any cost. Determine the origin of the signal. And contain this crisis before it spirals out of control.

The game offers up to 1280x960 resolution, which was used for all tests. We maxed all details for CPU and VGA card, except AA/AF and Soft Shadows, which is enabled as shown to each graph. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test: :

F.E.A.R performance was very good with all tested CPUs. The AMD X2 4600+ reached the Intel XE6800’s performance, being only 1FPS slower.

- Prey

Prey tells the story of Tommy, a Cherokee garage mechanic stuck on a reservation going nowhere. His life changes when an otherworldly crisis forces him to awaken spiritual powers from his long-forgotten birthright. Abducted along with his people to a menacing mother ship orbiting Earth, he sets out to save himself and his girlfriend and eventually his planet.

Prey is serious, dark story, based on authentic Cherokee mythology. Themes of sacrifice, love and responsibility are explored and the story dives into emotional territory not yet explored by similar games. Prey is based on Quake 3 engine and for sure will keep you awake many nights...

For all tests, we used hocbench that offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in Guru3D time demo and all results are posted below:

Prey is based on the Quake4 engine, making it very CPU dependent. The Intel XE6800 was 4FPS faster than the AMD X2 4600+.


10. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory and Half Life 2

- Splinter Cell Chaos Theory

A Japanese Information Defense Force is formed to help face modern threats. Deemed a violation of international law and of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, Korea and China become outraged.

Secretly, the head of the IDF begins launching information-warfare attacks against Japan and blaming the attacks on North Korea. When the U.S. intervenes, as they are obligated to under Article 9 of the Japanese Post-War Constitution, the U.S. is attacked as well, forcing North Korea to escalate the situation with a pre-emptive invasion of South Korea.

As war erupts on the Korean Peninsula, Sam Fisher must thwart the alliance between the Japanese Admiral, a neurotic computer hacker, and the head of an international paramilitary company in order to prevent the rekindling of a massive world war in the Pacific.

The graphics engine supports Pixel Shader 3 and HDR along with other new effects. We used hocbench which offers all benchmarking options through a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" time demo and all results are posted below:

The performance differences are very slight between all four processors..

- Half Life 2 Episode 1

The world of Half-Life 2 has amazed everyone with its great story, graphics and Valve's great support. Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first in a series of new adventures created by Valve that extend the Half-Life 2 single player experience. It details the aftermath of Half Life 2 and launches a journey beyond City 17.

Stepping into the hazard suit of Dr. Gordon Freeman, you face the immediate repercussions of your actions in City 17 and the Citadel. Rejoin Alyx Vance and her robot, Dog, to once again aid the human resistance in their desperate battle against the totalitarian alien menace of the Combine.

Episode One exposes Alyx's combat skills and knowledge of City 17. Battle side-by-side with her through Valve's first episodic game, a four-to-six hour adventure of greater density and detail than non-episodic releases.

We recorded a time demo and used the console to set the graphics card with different visual quality settings. For all tests, we set the resolution at 1280x1024 and with HDR shadows fully enabled.

Only 1FPS separated the AMD X2 4600+ from Intel's flagship, the Intel XE6800.


11. Overclocking

Most users will buy a CPU only if it overclocks well. The AMD Athlon X2 4600+ is not the best solution for overclocking. The 4200+ is probably a better solution for that task. For our overclocking attempts, we set the memory to CL5 (5-5-5-15-2T) and the CPU multiplier to 12x. The highest performance we had with our Asus M2N32WS Pro was with the FSB at 224MHz. Higher FSB settings lead to an unstable system (tested with Prime95). It’s very possible that can you achieve higher FSB speeds with different motherboards. To conclude, the AMD Athlon X2 4600+ reached 2.685GHz (12x224).

Memory runs at 447.5MHz.

Below are the test results after overclocking the CPU. For your reference, stock results for all processors are displayed as well.

The overall performance has improved after overclocking. In several tests, the performance of the AMD Athlon X2 4600+ approaches that of the Intel E6600, since AMD processors offer better memory timings and memory bandwidth. Using other memory modules, that allow CL4 at 1067MHz, may improve performance for Intel processors as well.


12. Conclusion

The Athlon 64 X2 is the first dual-core desktop CPU manufactured by AMD. It is essentially a processor composed of two Athlon 64 cores joined together on one die with some additional control logic. The cores share one dual-channel memory controller, are based on the E-stepping model of Athlon 64 and, depending on the model, have either 512 or 1024 Kb of L2-Cache per core

Most users will ask themselves, which processor or platform should they invest in. Nowadays, the Intel Core2Duo platform has many enthusiasts, offering very good performance and great overclocking abilities. To answer which CPU a user should buy, we could start by checking today's prices for both Intel and AMD processors:

Processor
Retail price (Euro)
AMD Athlon X2 3800+
148
AMD Athlon X2 4200+
180
AMD Athlon X2 4600+
235
AMD Athlon X2 5000+
315
AMD Athlon X2 5200+
420
Intel Core2Duo E6300
195
Intel Core2Duo E6400
240
Intel Core2Duo E6600
325
Intel Core2Duo E6700
545
Intel Core2Duo XE6800
950

Users have many options, depending on how much they intend to spend for a new PC system. For a cheap system, the AMD X2 3800+ is very affordable, combined with a good motherboard and of course DDR2 memory. At the same price as the AMD X2 4600+, we find the Intel Core2Duo E6400, which unfortunately we don't have in our labs for testing so as to provide a complete overview and compare differences. We compare the % CPU raw performance from all tests and weigh it against retail price, in the following table:

% Performance Difference
% Price Difference
Intel Core2Duo XE6800
55.00
304
Intel Core2Duo E6600
29.05
38.30

From our test results, the Intel Core2Duo XE6800 and E6600 are around 55% and 29% faster than an AMD X2 4660 respectively. On the other hand, the Intel XE6800 is 304% more expensive than the AMD X2 4600+. A rather awkward purchase, unless you want to have the absolute fastest (stock speeds) processor. On the other hand, the Intel Core2Duo E6600 is "only" 29.05% faster but 38.30% more expensive. Of course, Intel's E6600 is a favorite among users, for its excellent overclocking abilities. A more fair comparison would be with Intel's E6400 (2MB cache). We estimate it would be less than 10% faster than the X2 4600.

AMD's AM2 socket offers very good memory performance which was confirmed in most of our tests. A direct impact of this was seen in the performance of the tested games. In most cases, the AMD X2 4600+ is very close to the E6600, meaning if gaming is your number one priority, an AMD Athlon processor can cover your needs. Passing over to the overclocking area, the CPU can improve its performance with overclocking, but the AMD X2 4600+ can only be rated as an average performer, since we only managed to get a stable system at 224FSB, with our Asus M2N32 WS Pro motherboard. It’s very possible that with a different motherboard, overclocking could be improved, but in any case, cannot be compared with what the Core2Duo series offer. We have seen reports of the Intel E6600, reaching 3.60GHz with of course specific configurations of motherboard and memory settings.

Concluding our presentation, the AMD Athlon X2 AM2 platform, is a good gaming platform, with admirable overclocking abilities, but after the arrival of Intel's Core2Duo processors, cannot be considered as one of the fastest processors. Perhaps the arrival of the upcoming 4x4 Quad Core AMD processors will change that, but only future can tell.

 



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