Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4850e
- Energy efficient, can run almost silently, should work in any AM2 and AM2+ based motherboards
- Adequate performance for Web browsing, photo editing and multitasking, but will be slow if used to render video
Its performance isn't stellar, but it doesn't consume much power and it runs almost silently. This makes the 4850e desirable for a media centre, or any PC where noise and heat issues need to be tackled.
The push for more CPU cores is all well and good for users who can't get enough power to render their videos, but many of us don't need that much grunt in our PCs, especially for simple tasks such as loading music onto an MP3 player, browsing the Web, watching a movie or editing a photo. And with the environment firmly on the agenda, AMD is offering new, low-power versions of its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 range of CPUs, which are also perfect for budget PCs.
The Athlon 64 X2 4850e has almost identical features to the Athlon X2 BE range of CPUs: it's based on the AM2 socket, built using 65nm (nanometer) technology and has a thermal design point (TDP) of 45W — this is the amount of heat that its cooling device must dissipate and a lower number is better. As a comparison, Intel's similar Core 2 Duo CPUs, which run at 2.66GHz, have a TDP of 65W, which makes the 4850e much more energy efficient at a similar clock frequency of 2.5GHz.
Indeed, the 4850e runs at 2.5GHz, but it has less cache — 512KB per core — than a Core 2 Duo. Nevertheless, this gives it plenty of zip for everyday applications, so much so that you won't notice any sluggishness unless you try to edit a video, update your MP3 player while browsing YouTube simultaneously. Additionally, the 4850e has a built-in DDR2 memory controller and a HyperTransport 1.0 interface, which is used to ferry data between the CPU and the chipset.
All previous, current and new-model AM2 or AM2+ based motherboards should run the 4850e without any problems, and because of its low power dynamics, it's a useful CPU for a slimline or media centre PC. We ran it in a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard, using a standard AMD cooler. The CPU fan, which was managed by the motherboard's BIOS, didn't spin fast at all, which made the CPU run very quietly. In fact, if the 4850e is run in a machine with passively-cooled integrated graphics and a quiet hard drive, it will practically be a silent PC.
A TDP of 45W, while low, and less than Intel's Core 2 Duo CPUs, is not low enough for the 4850e to be run without a fan — at least not if using AMD's standard cooler. We ran it through benchmarks while using AMD's standard heat sink, but without the fan plugged in to dissipate the heat the CPU over-heated after about 10min.
As for its performance, the 4850e, installed in the aforementioned Gigabyte motherboard with 2GB RAM and running an ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip, scored 78 in our WorldBench 6 test, which is a decent result, but it indicates that this CPU won't be fast when working on taxing tasks such as video rendering. This was also shown in the Blender 3D rendering test, where the CPU took 1minute 26seconds, using both its cores, to render a 3-D project, which is a few seconds slower than a similarly clocked Core 2 Duo.
Realistically if you want to render videos, then a higher-powered CPU should be on your wishlist — the 4850e isn't aimed at that market, it's designed for basic home and work PCs. In our iTunes test, where we encode 53min worth of .WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files, it recorded a time of 1min 31sec, which is a slightly sluggish result, but you won't have any problems ripping CDs.
While its performance isn't very fast, the 4850e has energy efficiency on its side. At press time AMD were unable to supply the RRP but if it's priced similarly to the Athlon X2 BE range, then the 4850e will probably sport a retail price of less than $150. Coupled with a low-cost, graphics inclusive motherboard, such as the GA-MA78GM-S2H, you can build yourself a decent work PC or media centre for a very low price, without having to sacrifice connectivity features.
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