AMD Athlon 64 X2

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AMD Athlon 64 X2
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2

Pros

  • Affordable

Cons

  • Outperformed by Core 2 Duo

Bottom Line

AMD's original dual core powerhouse is now outperformed by the more recently released Intel Core 2 Duo. Nevertheless this CPU is still pretty good value and there are plenty of speeds to choose from. Well-featured motherboards for the Athlon 64 X2 can be found at good prices, too. Get one of these CPUs if you want an affordable PC for gaming, heavy multitasking, MP3 encoding and video editing.

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When AMD brought out its dual-core version of the Athlon 64 in June 2005, it dominated Intel's equivalent offerings of the time, the dual-core Pentium D and the single-core Pentium 4 CPUs . To this day, the Athlon 64 X2 uses the same K8 microarchitecture it did then (it has been tweaked slightly over time to improve the way it handles certain memory configurations) and the same manufacturing process.

Most Athlon 64 X2 CPUs on the market are made using a 90 nanometre process. This is the same process as the company's single-core CPUs, but due to the way AMD's dual-core design and manufacturing method works, the dual-core models do not consume more power than the original single-core Athlon 64 CPUs. In fact, even though most Athlon 64 X2 parts are still manufactured using the 90 nanometre process, some models have a power rating of 65W (89W is the norm). Once AMD moves to a 65 nanometre manufacturing process, this power reduction will be available across its entire range of CPUs. Indeed, AMD has only recently started producing CPUs using a 65 nanometre technique that results in smaller transistors, reduced power consumption and higher frequencies. Nevertheless, the current 90 nanometre Athlon 64 X2 CPUs are good performers.

The models in the current Athlon 64 X2 range are the 5200+, 5000+, 4800+ (available in both 65 and 90 nanometre versions), 4600+, 4400+, 4200+, 4000+ and 3800+ (which are currently 90 nanometre versions). This is a comprehensive range which is to be bolstered further once the 5400+, 5600+, 5800+ and 6000+ models arrive. Currently, multiple versions of certain models are available, too. The 5000+, 4800+, 4600+, 4400+ and the 4000+ are all available in two different power ratings: 89W or 65W. The 3800+, in addition to being available in 89W or 65W, is also available in 35W. The 4800+ is available in two freqiencies: 2.4GHz or 2.5GHz. The 4400+ is available in two frequencies: 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz. The 4000+ is available in two freqiencies: 2.1GHz or 2.2GHz.

In this round of testing we looked at the 4600+ (89W version) and the 5200+. Each core in the 4600+ runs at 2.4GHz and has 512KB of cache. By analysing the results, we can see the benefits that the extra core brings to the fore. Software that can utilise both cores (Sorenson Squeeze and Cucusoft iPod Video Converter Suite) will run almost twice as fast and even software that can only use one core (such as Cdex) still benefits slightly over a single-core 3800+ CPU, which also runs at 2.4GHz. While the dual core Athlon 64 X2 is fast, compared to Intel's Core 2 Duo E6400 (which is the closest match in terms of clock speed in this round of testing), it was a little sluggish across the board.

The 89W 5200+ runs at a clock speed of 2.6GHz and has 1MB of cache per core. It put up a strong showing in the video encoding and MP3 encoding tests, but was not as strong as the Core 2 Duo models in the video encoding tests. Compared to the 4600+, the 5200+ provided less than a three percent improvement in performance in our Cucusoft encoding test, but was more than ten percent faster in our Sorenson test. Price-wise, the 5200+ is around 50 percent more expensive than the 4600+, but as new models are introduced, such as the 5400+, 5600+, 5800+ and 6000+, the 5200+ is sure to become more affordable. Despite the sluggish results compared to the Core 2 Duo CPUs, the AM2 platform is a reliable one and there are plenty of well-featured AM2-based motherboards available at good prices. If you regularly multitask and encode video the Athlon 64 X2 4600+ is a good choice.

Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (89W) Price: $370

Athlon 64 X2 5200+ Price: $560

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