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Appeared on: Monday, May 14, 2007
AMD Athlon X2 3600+


1. Introduction

AMD processors have been popular with many users since they are traditionally cheaper than Intel's. Recently, AMD dropped their prices and the Athlon 64 X2 has become very appealing for users, since you can get a very fast processor at a very low price. With the cheaper AMD Athlon X2 processor now costing around €67, we thought it was an ideal opportunity to get a sample and put it through our various synthetic and real life applications to see what sort of performance you can expect from such a low priced processor. But first, let's meet the AMD Athlon X2 3600+ processor.

- AMD Athlon X2 3600+

AMD announced the "latest" 3600+ X2 series in January 2007. The newly designed "Brisbane", is built using 65nm technology and offers lower power consumption (efficient 65W). It supports MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, Enhanced 3DNow!, NX bit, AMD64 (AMD's x86-64 implementation), Cool'n'Quiet, AMD Virtualization technologies. The built-in L2 cache is 2x512Kb and the real frequency reaches 1900MHz (9.5x200). Below is the full product specifications:

Processor AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual-Core
Model 3600+
Ordering P/N (Tray) ADO3600IAA5DD
Ordering P/N (PIB) ADO3600DDBOX
Operating Mode 32/64
Stepping G1
Frequency 1900Mhz
HT Speed 2000
Voltage 1.25V/1.35V
Max Temp 49-72'C°C
Thermal Power 65W
L1 Cache 128KB x2
L2 Cache 512KB x2
CMOS Technology 65nm SOI
Socket Socket Socket AM2

This processor has very low TPC (thermal power consumption) down to 65W. The 65nm design allows such low TP designs and AMD explains:

"...The new energy efficient AMD desktop processors address both the commercial and consumer markets, from value to performance, with a top-to-bottom offering of AMD energy efficient desktop processors. For the digital home, AMD believes consumers should have a choice of products that address their needs to create and enjoy high-quality video, music, photos or other digital content anywhere, anytime regardless of digital media file format or device form factor. AMD technology enables PC and CE device manufacturers to differentiate their products. AMD64 energy efficient technology for quiet, slim-line digital media solutions supports a variety of hardware form factors and software formats.

Energy efficient AMD desktop processors can help OEMs design small form factor (SFF) PCs that take up less space and are more aesthetic, giving them the opportunity to provide differentiated and competitive solutions for their customers. Building on the leadership momentum in the blade server and general purpose server markets with the AMD Opteron™ processors, energy efficient AMD desktop processors are tailored to reduce power consumption for greater performance-per-watt over AMD’s standard power desktop processors. For consumers and businesses, energy efficient AMD desktop processors can help reduce the noise and heat emitted from systems to extend the longevity of their PCs while offering users a quieter, more pleasant experience in their offices or living rooms
..."

For our tests, we used the AMD Athlon X2 3600+ with 65W energy efficient.


2. Installation

There isn't much to say here, other than be careful when installing the CPU! After connecting all necessary power cables, you can power up your system. For our review, we had the following setup:

We used a variety of software, benchmarks and games:

After installing the CPU, we can get more information using CPU-Z:

And with Everest Ultimate Edition 2007:


3. Everest Ultimate Edition 2006 - 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 several tests for memory and CPU/FPU built-in.

 

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.


4. PCMARK - 3DMARK

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 memory and CPU scores.

 

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.


5. Science Mark - PovRay - Nero 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 built-in benchmark as suggested by the developers.

 

- Nero Digital

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

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 5 mins duration. We encoded for each processor in two modes (ASP, AVC) and exactly the same preferences (Same bitrate and Dual pass). The encoding time displayed below is what Nero Recode reported. The lower the time taken, the better. All results are displayed in seconds.


6. CINEBENCH -SuperPI

CINEBENCH is a 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 can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. All tests were carried out with the latest available build (R9.5), and the sum of each subtest is displayed in the following chart.

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 reached 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 the personal computer environment such as Windows NT or 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 up for a total score.


7. F.E.A.R - 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 for AA/AF and Soft Shadows, which are enabled as indicated in each graph. Below are the results after using the built-in benchmark test:

 

- 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 with GUI. We used the build-in Guru3D timedemo and all results are posted below:


8. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory - Half Life

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 with a GUI. We used the built-in "Guru3D 2" timedemo and all results are posted below:

 

- 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 timedemo and used the console to run each card with different visual quality settings. For all tests, we set the resolution at 1280x1024 and HDR shadows fully enabled.


9. Overclocking

Most users buy a CPU only if it overclocks well. The AMD Athlon X2 3600+ has all that is required to offer superb overclocking performance. Of course, you will need to have a good motherboard in order to achieve high FSB speeds and of course memory performance. For our tests, we replaced the default AMD fan with the AC Freezer 64 Pro to get maximum results. The next step was to trial and error test the setup, to see how high we could push our CPU. Remember to reduce HyperTransport Multiplier from 5X to 3X, while maximum core voltage should be around 1.35V. The CPU multiplier can be set up to 9.5X in 0.5 increments.

With the Asus M2N32 WS Pro, we couldn't get a stable Vcore value at 1.35V, so we left the Vcore setting at auto. Next, we tried AI Booster and gradually increased the FSB. At the same time, we kept the memory divider low (at 400MHz) to avoid any problems with overclocking memory. In order to get a totally stable system, we used Orthos stability software and we managed to get a ceiling of 2.75GHz.

Compared with the stock 1.90GHz, we got an extra 0.85GHz overclocking. The temperatures at full load reached 55°C, with AC Freezer64 Pro fan. With the AMD stock fan, we were reaching 62°C. There have been reports from other users that with a different motherboard, frequencies could reach even up to 3.10GHz, that's a 1.2GHz overclocking gain! Of course, this is rather unrealistic for most users, so we estimate there is a ceiling at around 2.6~2.7GHz using AMD's stock fan. What was not very encouraging, was the fact that after increasing the memory divider (533MHz), the system was not very stable, but this may have been a problem with the Asus M2N32 WS Pro motherboard. Below are several test results after overclocking the AMD Athlon X2 3600+. In most cases, the performance reached that of the AMD Athlon X2 4600+, and even surpassed it.


10. Conclusion

The Athlon 64 X2 3600+ is the lowest priced AMD processor you can buy today. Its new 65nm design offers low power consumption and its main use is for entry level users who want a very affordable but at the same time, highly overclockable CPU. The AMD Athlon X2 3600+ covers both needs. With a retail price of €67, you cannot really go wrong.

In our tests, the X2 3600+ was around 22~25% slower than the X2 4600+, depending on the benchmark and specific application. Where we didn't have great differences was in the gaming area. You cannot get more FPS by simply buying a faster CPU. The X2 3600+ is fast enough to give more or less the same performance as a X2 4600+. To answer which CPU a user should buy, we can check today's prices for both Intel and AMD processors:

Processor
Retail price (in €)
AMD Athlon X2 3600+
67
AMD Athlon X2 3800+
75
AMD Athlon X2 4200+
95
AMD Athlon X2 4600+
110
AMD Athlon X2 5000+
180
AMD Athlon X2 6000+
220
Intel Core2Duo E6300
160
Intel Core2Duo E6400
180
Intel Core2Duo E6600
215
Intel Core2Duo E6700
300
Intel Core2Duo XE6800
950
Intel Core2Duo QX6700
980

As we can see, there is no competition for the low priced AMD Athlon X2 processors. In order to get a C2D processor, you need at least €160 (for the E6300). While this purchase is certainly more future proof and highly overclockable, it's also almost three times more expensive. We can clearly see where the AMD Athlon X2 3600+ target market is, entry level users who wish to build a SFF PC or simply a gaming ring with a "good" VGA card. Prices for AMD motherboards are also cheaper than Intel's C2D, but this is mostly of importance if you plan to overclock. With a pair of low priced memory modules, you can build a fast new PC that has specific capabilities and gaming performance. So it all comes down to budget, what you can afford. We were certainly satisfied with our buy, we haven't spent so little money in the past when buying a CPU :-).



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