Many people ask me the same question, why someone buy an AMD processor. The truth is that AMD's recent price drop made several powerful models look good again, compared to Intel's Core2 Duo line. After extensively checking with the specs and online prices, a friend of mine bought an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ at the retail price of 115 euro. There is no real competitor at this price range and if the embedded 2x1MB L2 cache works as we imagine it'll probably be a serious contender to the much higher rated Intel CPUs. But first let's see what this dual-core Athlon has to offer.
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+ is not a newly introduced processor. In fact it has been in the market for a long time but due to its high price it wasn't affordable for a large number of users. The Windsor core design that this processor is based has a die size of 90nm and consumes 89 watts. AMD's line goes up to 3.20GHz (6400+) with the same characteristics. The well known Athlon X2 features are present here: MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, Enhanced 3DNow!, NX bit, AMD64 (AMD's x86-64 implementation), Cool'n'Quiet, AMD Virtualization technologies. The most noticeable features are the build-in L2 cache (2MB total) and the frequency of 2800MHz (14x200Mhz). The maximum Vcore is around 1.35V according to the full specifications:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core
|Operating Mode 32 Bit
|Operating Mode 64 Bit
|Core Speed (Mhz)
|Max Temps (C)
|L1 Cache Size (KB)
|L2 Cache Size (KB)
For our tests, we used a retail AMD Athlon 64 X2 5600+.
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
- Motherboard: Asus M2N32 WS Pro Bios 1601 (Nvidia 590SLI)
- Case: Thermaltake Soprano
- VGA: MSI 7600GT Silent (stock clocks)
- Power Supply: OCZ GameXStream GXS600 SLI-Ready
- Memory: 2x1GB Crucial PC2-8000 (400MHz@ 4-4-4-8-2T-2.25V)
- HDD: WD 800JB 7200RPM
- Monitor: Viewsonic 19" LCD VP930b (1280x1024 resolution)
- Operating system: Windows XP SP2 with all latest updates installed
- Drivers: Nvidia Forceware v163.71
We used a variety of benchmarking software to measure the performance of each processor:
- Sisoft Sandra XII
- Everest Lavasys Ultimate Edition 2007
- SuperPI Mod v1.5XS
- PC Mark05 v1.2.0
- 3D Mark06 v1.2.0
- ScienceMark 2
- POV 3.70 beta15
- CineBench R9.5
- CineBench R10
- SysMark 2007 Preview
- WorldBench 6 Beta 2
- x264 Benchmark
- Lost Planet DX9 Demo
After installing the CPU we can get more information using CPU-Z
and of course Everest Ultimate Edition 2007:
3. EVEREST Ultimate Edition
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.
AMD processors are well known to have superb memory performance, since the memory controller is embedded in the processor. The test results are very good for AMD X2 5600+, it almost reached 9MB/sec. That performance should give the 5600+ a good boost for future real life application tests.
At the CPU/FPU tests, we noticed two strange things. First of all at the CPU AES and CPU Zlib tests, the 5600+ came first, while at CPU Queen came second overpassing even the Intel E6300. Again at the FPU tests we can see some good performance from the 5600+.
4. SiSoftware Sandra
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.
Again the memory performance was very good for the 5600+...
The CPU tests are dominated from the E6600 as expected. Passing to the Java, .NET tests, we can see that in several sub-tests the 5600+ performed very well and reached the first place.
5. PCMark05, 3DMark06
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. Below you can see all three available scores, memory, CPU and total.
At both Memory/CPU scores, the Intel E6600 gets the first place. However we can definitely say that the 5600+ is a good performer.
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.
3D Mar06 tests both CPU/RAM and of course VGA card. At both tests, the 5600+ got the first place.
6. Science Mark 2.0, Pov-Ray, x264 Benchmark
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 is 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. he 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.
At ScienceMark, that mostly uses memory bandwidth, the 5600+ gets the first place, while at Pov-Ray, the E6600 comes first.
- x264 Benchmark
x264 Benchmark unleashes the next generation of Video Encoding benchmarks with support for x264 codec that is considered to be one of the most demanding for Video applications. Simply put, this test measures how fast your machine can encode a short, DVD quality MPEG-2 video clip into a high-quality x264 video clip. The author believes that "...it's ideal for a benchmark because the application (x264.exe) reports fairly accurate compression results (in frames per second) for each pass of the video encoding process, and it uses multi-core processors very efficiently..."
The benchmark procedure is very simple. You just run a batch file that encodes the same file five times. There are two kinds of results, for first pass and second. We summed and took the average, which we post in the results below.
Superb performance from AMD's 5600+ with 76.16 and 18.58FPS performance when encoding x264.
7. MAXON CINEBENCH
MAXON CINEBENCHs based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such and Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based). The resulting values among different operating systems are 100% comparable and therefore very useful with regard to purchasing decision-making.
All tests were done with the R9.5 and R10 build and each result is presented in the different graphs. Note, that all displayed index scores are the summary of CPU index scores.
In CineBench R9.5, the 5600+ got the first place, while at R10 the second, following very close the Intel E6600.
SuperPI has become an 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 environments such as Windows NT and Windows 95 and called Super PI.
The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For all boards, we tested up to 8M calculations and summed them for a total score.
It seems that all SuperPI scores are dominated from Intel processors...
9. SYSmark 2007, WorldBench 6
BAPCo's SYSmark 2007 Preview builds upon its predecessors and is the next generation of benchmark utilities that utilize real life applications like: Adobe After Effects 7, Adobe Illustrator CS2, Adobe Photoshop CS2, AutoDesk 3ds Max 8, Macromedia Flash 8, Microsoft Excel 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Project 2003, Microsoft Windows Media™ Encoder 9 series, Sony Vegas 7, SketchUp 5 and WinZip 10.0.
SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications. All results are directly comparable between various configurations and operating systems. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications. All results are directly comparable between various configurations and operating systems.
As SysMark 2007 Preview benchmark, the E6600 got the first place with 129 points, the 5600+ finished second with 111 points.
PC World has developed a new benchmark for testing PC system performance, WorldBench has reached six (6) number and now is compatible with Windows Vista. Much like as SysMark, it uses various real life applications (Adobe Photoshop CS2, Autodesk 3ds max 8.0 SP-3, Firefox 2, Microsoft Office 2003 with SP-1, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9.0, Nero 7 Ultra Edition, Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator 1.5 and WinZip Computing WinZip 10.0) and with pre-defined usage patterns calculates a total score that can be used to evaluate a system's performance.
The highest score at WorldBench 6 beta2 comes from E6600 with 97 index score. The 5600+ finished second with 89 total score.
10. Lost Planet: Extreme Condition
- Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (DirectX9)
The game's plot focuses on the amnesiac character Wayne Holden, his father, Gale Holden, and the past and future of the planet E.D.N. III. After a particularly vicious battle against a large Akrid known only as "Green Eye", Gale is supposedly killed, and Wayne lost on the icy planes of E.D.N. III . The planet of E.D.N III is perpetually cold and snowy, originally inhabited by a species of aliens known as Akrid, who forced humanity to abandon E.D.N. III by strength of numbers and surprise, which can be found in many and varied forms.
They all share one trait; Thermal Energy, or T.Eng., as it's called in the game. This powerful energy source, found only in Akrid bodies, made humankind determined to fight them after having to retreat from this new menace. They created the Vital Suit, or VS, technology, essentially heated mechs with mounted weapons and powered by T.Eng.
In order to benchmark a graphics card, we used the Demo version that includes a "Performance Test" function. We used the default demo visual settings for all test. There are two test results from two different animated courses that are reported as "Snow" and "Cave":
Let's now see the performance of the tested processors:
The 5600+ has very good gaming performance. All the CPUs are close and that's because all the "hard work" is done by the graphics card. Intel's CPUs are only faster by 2-3 fps! :-)
Its not a big secret that users shouldn't expect much in the overclocking area from such a high speed processor. For this test, we replaced AMD's stock cooler with Artic Cooling's Freezer 64 Pro to get maximum results. The next step was to test and trial how high we could push our CPU. Remember to reduce the HyperTransport Multiplier from 5X to 3X. The maximum core voltage should be around 1.35V (in any case we left the 'Auto' setting). By using ASUS AiBooster we easily reached 3.10GHz, that's approximately 10% more, so there isn't much to gain from. We tried to further push the processor's speed and at 3.2GHz the system started to freeze. It's possible that with a different motherboard/cooling combination someone could get better (or worse) results.
12. Final thoughts
The Athlon 64 X2 5600+ is one of the lowest priced (in the $100-150 price range) AMD processor you can buy today. Its retail price of € 115, makes it a very interesting choice, considering what Intel offers at this price range. There are not much to discuss here, we have thrown tons of tests that showed a mixed bag image. The memory performance is better at AMD processors than Intel's and that's a fact.
The embedded memory controller, the 2x1MB L2 cache and the 2.80GHz helps this processor to perform superb in several tasks and of course rank high in benchmarks. Depending the task, it's even possible to see the Athlon 5600+ to complete the task faster than even an Intel E6600 processor. There is an area where currently sold AMD processors cannot compete, the overclocking. Unfortunately, the X2 5600+ runs already in high speed so you can only squeeze a few MHz from it. So I wouldn't try to overclock an AMD Athlon X2 5600+ unless its absolute need. Overall we are satisfied from what the Athlon X2 5600+ has to offer in both performance and pricing.