The Phenom X3 line, then, has all the same features as the Phenom x4s, including the same amounts of on-die cache memory and 1.8GHz HyperTransport link. They're also made using the same 65nm Silicon-On-Insulator manufacturing process and, because AMD doesn't want to reveal the exact number of transistors that each part of the processor uses, the transistor count is still officially given as 'approximately 450 million' but this includes the transistors used in the disabled core.
Three processors have so far been launched and they differ only by their clock speed - so there's no multiplier unlocked Black Editions, for instance. First is the 8450, which runs at 2.1GHz using a fixed 10.5x multiplier, next up is the 8650 running at 2.3GHz with a 11.5x multiplier, and finally the 8750 that we're looking at today, which ticks over at 2.4GHz by using a 12x multiplier. They all conform to the same 95W TDP, so should run happily on any AM2 motherboard (which isn't the case with the faster X4 CPUs, which have a TDP of 125W).
The interesting, and slightly worrying bit for AMD, is where these processors currently fit in terms of price. At the time of writing, the X3 range starts at £95.75, and goes all the way up to £125.73. When you consider that a quad-core Phenom X4 9550 costs £123.36, and even an Intel Q6600 costs around £133.89, these prices simply aren't competitive. They're not far off, and dropping prices across the range by £15-£20 will make all the difference, but right now the X3s are fighting a losing battle. Still before we write them off completely, let's have a look at how they perform.
For testing we've compared to a couple of Intel's dual-core CPUs, namely, the E4300 and E6700. As it happens, neither of these are actually available to buy new today. However, they are roughly equivalent to the E4500 and E6750 that currently retail for £74.72 and £111.50 respectively. We've also thrown in results for one of AMDs mid-range dual-core's, the Athlon X2 5200+, which can be found for £64.26. At the other end of the scale we've also included the Phenom X4 8750 and Intel's Q6600, which are both quad-core CPUs retailing for £150.39 and £133.89, respectively. Finally, we've gone all out and included the fastest consumer CPU you can currently buy, the Intel QX9770, which is running at a stock speed of 3.2GHz and retails for an eye-watering £898.76.
As always we tried to create as even a playing field as possible so the only limiting factor for each setup is the CPU itself. Both test systems used western Digital Raptor 150GB hard drives and nVidia 8800 GTS 640 graphics cards. However, we used DDR2 memory with the AMD CPUs, while the Intel chips were accompanied by DDR3 and of course the two motherboards for each platform were also different.
* nVidia 8800 GTS 640MB
* 150GB Western Digital Raptor
* Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit
Intel Specific Components:
* 2GB Corsair TWIN3X2048-1333C9 DDR3
* Asus P5E3
AMD Specific Components:
* 2GB Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-8500C5DF DDR2
* MSI K9A2 Platinum
Testing started with our usual quartet of Photoshop batch processing, VirtualDub video encoding, WinRAR file compression, and LAME mp3 encoding and we also ran the single core test in Cinebench. These tests are all single-threaded versions of the programs so they are only using one core at a time, which gives a good idea of raw clock-for clock performance of the CPUs.
Next we tested the multithreaded versions of WinRAR and LAME and also ran the multi-core test in Cinebench to see how effectively the CPUs distribute the computing load across multiple cores. Finally, we did a spot of game testing using Counter-Strike: Source, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, and Crysis. Each test was repeated until a consistent score was achieved so the results we're showing are truly representative of the performance our systems gave under our tests.