AMD Phenom II X2 550/Athlon II X2 250 Performance Preview
The race to profitability has AMD gunning all-out to switch from their larger 65-nm manufacturing process to their newest 45-nm process as quickly as possible. AMD kicked off the 45-nm era at beginning of the year with their Phenom II X4 920 and 940 processors. Pitched as an upgrade option for Phenom and Athlon X2 users, we found the 940 to be a worthy competitor to Intelís Core 2 Q9400. Joining those CPUs in February were new triple and quad-core processors based around AMDís AM3 platform and DDR3 memory. Here we concluded that the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition was AMDís best bang for the buck processor yet. Finally in April AMD delivered their most powerful processor ever, the Phenom II X4 955. Sporting a 3.2GHz clock speed, the Phenom II X4 955 delivers performance rivaling Intelís high-end Penryn-based Core 2 Quad CPUs with 12MB of L2 cache, but at a lower price.
Now AMD is looking to shore up the bottom of their CPU lineup, introducing 45-nm parts with sub-$100 price tags. Launching today is AMDís first Athlon II CPU, the Athlon II X2 250, and AMDís first dual-core Phenom II part, the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition.
The Athlon II X2 250 is AMDís first in a wave of soon to be released Athlon II parts that are designed to take the value/mainstream mantle from todayís current Athlon X2 CPUs, many of which are increasingly based on AMDís K10 Kuma core. Considering their Phenom roots, adapting these CPUs for the mainstream and value segment isnít a very good way to build profits for AMD. The new Athlon II CPUs are purpose built, native 45-nm designs. This helps to keep die size nice and small for maximum profits for AMD.
The Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition is AMDís latest processor for their high-end Dragon platform targeted towards enthusiasts. Think of it as the gamerís choice from AMD when it comes to dual-core processing. As a Black Edition, the chip sports an unlocked clock multiplier for maximum flexibility when OCíing, and thanks to its Agena-based roots, the chip is based on the exact same core used in more expensive quad and triple-core Phenom II processors, only AMD activates two cores. AMD even equips the processor with the full 6MB of L3 cache found on their flagship Phenom II X4 955. Priced at $102, the chip undercuts many of Intelís popular dual-core Core 2 offerings by tens of dollars too.
If they keep up this pace, the 45-nm transition will be AMDís fastest process ramp in the companyís history by our estimation.
Of course, the 45-nm process isnít just good news for AMDís bottom line. Besides sporting a smaller die and reduced power consumption, enthusiasts love the new process because AMDís baked in improvements designed to improve the CPUís frequency headroom. Weíve found that these chips scale further than anything AMDís ever produced. In other words, AMDís newest 45-nm chips overclock like mad.
With just two cores, theoretically AMDís latest processors should scale even further. Intelís dual-core processors scale dramatically higher than their quad-core processors. Does the same hold true for AMD? Letís find out!