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AMD Athlon II X4 620 and X4 630 Quad-core Processors Review - Redefining Budget Machines

Author: Josh Walrath
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged:

Pushing the 785G

    AMD is quite proud of its 785G integrated chipset, and considering how well it performs and at what price it can be had it, they should be.  AMD has basically sacrificed all margins on their chipsets to help sell more CPUs, and in doing so has made the price/performance ratio quite appealing for these products.  These are not exactly cut price parts though, as their featureset and performance in video and 3D graphics put it a step above the rest.

The faster X4 630 was fabricated a full 4 weeks after the X4 620.  This might actually be relevant later on...

    One area where AMD is really hoping to garner interest is in the OpenCL and Stream enabled applications.  When running these applications on a 785G platform, even quad core parts will benefit from the extra performance that GPGPU will bring.  We have seen applications such as transcoding video applications improve performance by 75% when run on the GPU/CPU as compared to a CPU alone.  Getting nearly double the performance for free is something we all can be interested in.  This is an area where Intel has a lot of catching up to do, as their current batch of integrated parts cannot even think about doing GPGPU.  This will change once Larrabee based technologies trickle down to the chipset level, but it will not be for some time.

    Offering a combination like the Athlon II X4 and 785G should help AMD gain some marketshare.  Again, the benefits of the 785G integrated solutions vs. that of Intel’s are legion, and the addition of GPGPU functionality should give it some real legs.  As more and more applications embrace parallel computing, the value of the platform should increase as well.

No Unlock for You

    There will not be a Black Edition Athlon II X4 that I am aware of.  Those products are currently relegated to the full Phenom II lineup.  This is somewhat unfortunate in my opinion, as the lack of a L3 cache could in fact allow the processor to really step up in the MHz department.  While current Phenom IIs are stuck around 4 GHz air cooled, such a design without L3 cache should be able to go a bit higher.

Micro-ATX is the new black.  Actually, it is quite impressive what they are jamming into micro-ATX form factors these days.

    Unfortunately for overclockers, the Athlon II X4 has to be overclocked the old fashioned way.  Dropping down the HT ratio and taking the base clock to 250 MHz should give an overclock of 3.5 GHz.  Most Athlon II X4s should be able to achieve that with some extra voltage.  Getting the Athlon II X4 to 4 GHz and above will be a tall order for even the most seasoned overclocker.

The SKUs

    The Athlon II X4 will be offered initially at two speeds.  The X4 620 is a 2.6 GHz part with a 95 watt TDP.  The X4 630 is running at 2.8 GHz and is also a 95 watt TDP processor.  The X4 620 will be offered at $99 MSRP, while the X4 630 will be sold at $122.

The Gigabyte board (on the right) is a bit more busy and action packed than the rather vanilla board from Intel.  Happily, most other manufacturers have spiced up their particular G41 boards.

    The Athlon II X4 is not exactly a disruptive part, but the pricing certainly is.  Consider that Intel’s Q8200 is around $27 more expensive on average than the X4 630, plus the joy that is Intel Integrated Graphics, and we can see that AMD may have a fairly impressive part on their hands.

The Test

    I was unable to acquire a Core 2 Q8200 for this review, so I decided to take the money track instead.  Since this is the area that AMD has decided to compete in, it certainly makes sense.  The only other modern Intel processor I have is the Core 2 E8500, which retails around $189.  I thought it would be interesting to throw extra cores at this dual core beast, and when combined with their respective integrated graphics part, how would they come out?

So what does another $30 for a nicer motherboard get you?  A few more SATA ports, extra USB, and a generous helping of heatsinks.

    I am using Windows 7 for the first time in a review with this one, so the results may be a bit odd overall as we are adjusting to the new OS and how it handles many applications.  Both Intel and AMD have solid drivers out for this OS with their integrated graphics.  With the new OS I am also in the process of revamping the benchmark list, and I ran out of time experimenting with some new apps, so the list here is pretty limited.  Also with solely depending on integrated graphics, gaming is taking a back seat.  I hope to address this in a follow-up review with standalone graphics, and we can see how the Athlon II X4 630 competes with the E8500.

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