Feature Articles

Q3 2006 CPU Performance Charts

Q3 2006 CPU Performance Charts

Intel Pentium D 900 Series & AMD Athlon 64 X2 Series

Intel Pentium D 900 Series

The Intel Pentium D was the first ever dual-core consumer processor, but the debut 800 series (Smithfield core) was lackluster at best that left us unimpressed. Fortunately, this year's January entry of the Pentium D 900 series (Presler core) faired better in all aspects such as performance, thermals and power, but AMD's Athlon 64 X2 series was still the more lucrative option as judged in our past reviews that trumped the Pentium D on all aspects (until Intel's Core 2 came about). The Pentium D 900 series started out with the models 920, 930, 940, 950 and later in the year, the 960. However, they lacked Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST) that was present in the earlier Pentium D 800 series, which was puzzling to say the least when Intel actually needed it badly. Thankfully, the newer batches of Pentium D 900 series remedy this shortcoming with EIST support and feature a new 95 watts maximum TDP rating. Although a little late in our opinion, Intel seems to have made some refinements to the Presler resulting in a newer core stepping that's used in the more recent processors. These carry new sSpec numbers to denote their differentiation from the earlier models and you can double check which version you have currently or which models to look out for in your next acquisition from http://processorfinder.intel.com/ .

Intel Pentium D 900 Series Processor Details
Processor Model / Processor Characteristics Clock Speed L2 Cache Intel VT Front Side Bus (MHz) Max TDP (W) Estimated Price (US$)
Pentium Extreme Edition 965 3.73GHz 2MB x 2 Yes 1066 130 $999
Pentium D 960 3.6GHz 2MB x 2 Yes 800 95 $340
Pentium D 950 3.4GHz 2MB x 2 Yes 800 95 $215
Pentium D 945 3.4GHz 2MB x 2 - 800 95 $162
Pentium D 940 3.2GHz 2MB x 2 Yes 800 95 $183
Pentium D 930 3.0GHz 2MB x 2 Yes 800 95 $157
Pentium D 925 3.0GHz 2MB x 2 - 800 95 $147
Pentium D 920 2.8GHz 2MB x 2 Yes 800 95 $145
Pentium D 915 2.8GHz 2MB x 2 - 800 95 $135

Also about the same time when Intel introduced these revised cores, they dropped Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) support from some of the models. As the Pentium D 900 series was heading towards the mass mainstream adoption, it allowed them to reposition some of their models more competitively. Many of us don't yet actually require this function, so Intel passed on the savings, which was a smart move. New processor model numbers were tagged to differentiate them from the original models and that's where things could get a little confusing. For example, the model 930 is a 3GHz part with VT. The new version without VT is tagged as 925, but there's also a 920 model, which is a 2.8GHz part with VT. So if one isn't careful of these small nuances, you might end up with something you hadn't planned for. From a clock-to-clock point of view, the model 945 equates to 950, 925 equates to 930 and the 915 equates to 920.

Generally, if you scan the prices above, you'll find that the newer models without VT are more attractively priced. The Pentium D 945 is especially attractive as it's practically the same as the 950 model without VT, yet it's more affordable than the 940 and even the 930 model (from a price to performance point of view). In our article, we reflect the performance of the Pentium D 900 series using the newer models without VT where possible since those are what most retailers stock currently.

AMD Athlon 64 FX / X2 Series (Socket AM2)

AMD's dual-core processors were known to be the performance leaders during the days when Intel only had the Pentium D series at its helm. In fact AMD's dual-core processors were priced above that of Intel's stable of processors, not so much because of their leadership, but because they couldn't meet the demand, which worked to their advantage anyway. However, July's incoming of Intel's Core 2 series has since knocked their lead and eroded profits, no thanks to massive price cuts across the board, product lineup reshuffling and AMD still unable to meet demand for Socket AM2 processors. While in some regions you are able to purchase the entire Athlon 64 X2 series, there are other places where only the low to mid-end scale are available, but not the high-end (at least not to the satisfying levels required by demand). Thus that leaves these customers no choice but to pursue the Intel route for more performance. AMD's upcoming fab 38 plant should increase production significantly, but it would be at least mid-2007 before it ships revenue churning parts. In the meantime, their fab 36 should be in the fine-tuning phase with regards to rolling over to 65nm die production, which AMD targets for the end of the year. Here's what they've got to offer meanwhile:-

AMD Athlon 64 X2 Series (Socket AM2) Processor Details
Processor Model / Processor Characteristics Clock Speed L2 Cache Max TDP (W) Price
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 2.8GHz 1MB x 2 125 US$827
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ 2.6GHz 1MB x 2 89 US$403
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 2.6GHz 512KB x 2 89 US$301
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+
(Energy Efficient)
2.4GHz 512KB x 2 65 US$276
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+ 2.4GHz 512KB x 2 89 US$240
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+
(Energy Efficient)
2.2GHz 512KB x 2 65 US$215
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ 2.2GHz 512KB x 2 89 US$187
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+
(Energy Efficient)
2.0GHz 512KB x 2 65 US$176
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2.0GHz 512KB x 2 89 US$152

Recently, AMD began offering 65-watt TDP versions of their normal Athlon 64 X2 series that are usually rated for 89-watt TDP. These are known as Energy Efficient (EE) models and are available in 4600+, 4200+ and 3800+ models. Since AMD doesn't have the full-scale quantity to shift their lineup completely to the new EE models, both the normal and EE models are sold side by side in retail, with the Energy Efficient ones going for a premium. The Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is also offered in a third variant with a low 35-watt TDP and is known as the Energy Efficient Small Form Factor version. As you can guess by the trend, it's even more expensive than the EE part as only the best quality dies are able to operate at that frequency with very low voltage input to be qualified at such ratings. Expect to see more 'energy saving' models later this year.