AMD Athlon II X4 620 Quad Core Processor Review

ajmatson - 2009-05-20 19:08:48 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: September 16, 2009
Price: $99

Introduction:

Anyone who has been following the processor boom since the Consumer Electronics Show last year has seen the obscene number of new processor models that have hit the shelves since then, giving consumers more choices than ever on what they can pick for their needs. Intel and AMD both have released a wide array of designs from dual cores to quad cores and even AMD with its radical triple core design. One processor name that stands out amongst them all is the Athlon series. A little history for you, the first Athlon series processor that AMD debuted was back in June 23, 1999 with the Slot A model, next came the the Socket A models in 2000 that used the Pin-Grid Array design and brought speeds past the 1GHz range and into the 2GHz areas. After some time AMD brought to the table the 64-bit processor with the Athlon64 models in September 2003. These models not only brought 64-bit computing and the break above the 4GB memory limit with 64-bit opperating systems but also AMD's first dual core processor, the Athlon 64 X2 in May 2005. Fast forward to today and we have seen the Athlon series break out with the Athlon II X2 series designed for the mid range consumer who wants a bit of power to play with. Now with the success of the Athlon and Phenom series AMD is releasing the new AMD Athlon II X4 series, which are the first quad core Athlon processors to bear the proud name.

The Athlon II X4 series, like the Athlon II X2 series we looked at in June, is a Socket AM3 processor that supports both AM3 and AM2+ motherboards with DDR2 and DDR3 memory. The Athlon II X4 also only has L1 and L2 cache per core, unlike the Phenom II X4 series that has a shared L3 cache. At launch there will be two models of the Athlon II X4 series, the 620 and the 640; however, today we are going to be looking at the Athlon II X4 620 processor, which is clocked at 2.6GHz and is designed to bring cost efficient quad core processing to the mainstream market.

 

Closer Look:

Since the processor is so new we received the testing unit in a tray type packaging so there is nothing too spectacular to show for the package. However, the processor resembles the design that we have seen for some time now with AMD's processors. On the bottom of the CPU you have the PGA packaging that has 938 pins. This particular model, the Athlon II X4 620, is clocked at 2.6GHz and has a total L1 cache of 512KB (64K of instruction and 64K of data cache per core) and an L2 cache of 2MB (512KB of data cache per core). The Athlon II X4 series uses an integrated 128-bit wide memory controller with speeds up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management. It also supports unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz) for total flexability depending on the motherboard model you choose. Using DDR3 memory, the Athlon II X4 can have a total processor to system bandwidth of up to 37.3GB/s. The Athlon II X4 620 is designed using a 45nm manufacturing process on a die size of 169mm2 and has approximatly 300 million transistors. The maximum TDP of the processor is 95 watts with a voltage range of 0.925v to 1.425v and a maximum operating temperature of 71C degrees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Now that we have seen what this baby looks like, let's plug it in and fire it up.

Specifications:

 

Model Number:
Athlon II X4 620
Clock Frequency:

2.6GHz

Max TDP:
95 watts
Cache Size:
L1 Cache: 64K instruction and 64K data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)
L2 Cache: 512KB per core (2MB total L2 per processor)
Process Technology:
45-nanometer SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
HyperTransport Technology Links:
One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)
Memory:
Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller with speeds: Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
Types of Memory:
support unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)
Die Size:
45nm = 169mm2
Transistors
45nm = ~300 million
Packaging:
Socket AM3 - 938-pin organic micro Pin Grid Array (micro-PGA) (Backwards compatable with AM2+ 940-pin)

 

 

 

Features: 

 

Testing:

To test how this quad core processor performs I am going to be running a series of scientific and video benchmarks designed to push it to the limits and score it based on the way it performs. To compare the Athlon II X4 620's performance I am going to put it up against some of the current quad cores that are available to show you where it sits amongst the competition. To prevent any variables from interfering with the scores, all hardware will be run at stock speeds, voltages, and latencies unless otherwise stated such as for the overclocking tests.

 

Testing Setup AMD AM3 CPU's:

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i5/i7 Socket 1156

 

Testing Setup: Intel Core i7 Socket 1366

  

Comparison CPUs:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

To overclock the Athlon II X4 620 processor you need to have a good knowledge of overclocking AMD processors. This particular processor is not a "Black Edition" as we have been accustomed to with the majority of Phenom II series processors so the multiplier is locked at 13x. To overclock this processor you really need to push up the reference clock to get the extra speed. With pushing the reference clock higher the HyperTransport Link and memory go up as well since they use the reference clock with multipliers as well. To overclock the processor I started pushing the reference clock up 5MHz at a time until it became unstable. I hit a wall rather early and after doing some research I found the culprit was the HT Link. The Athlon II X4 620 did not do too well with the HT Link much over 2000MHz so I had to drop the multiplier down to 9x to get the HT Link at 1928MHz, which is a bit under the 2000MHz mark so we were good as the reference clock rose. Finally, I was no longer stable over 241MHz on the reference clock at 1.5 volts. However, the temperature I got while overclocking testing was 38C degrees, which is way under the 71C degree thermal limit. Quite cool I must say. Since the reference clock was at 241MHz the memory speed was bumped up to 1928MHz, which was fine because the set of memory I use for the reviews I have been able to get to 2000MHz so I left the memory multiplier alone and used this for my memory speed. The final overclocked setting are 3.133GHz for the Athlon II X4 620 and 1928MHz for the memory, which is approximately a 20% overclock.

 

 
 

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Office 2007 Excel Number Crunch
  4. POV Ray 3.7
  5. PCMark Vantage Professional
  6. Sandra XII
  7. ScienceMark 2.02
  8. Cinebench 10
  9. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fallout 3 
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB , 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally I will use the built in benchmark as a comparison.

 

ZIP:

 

Lower is Better

 

RAR:

 

Lower is Better

 

In these scientific benchmarks the Athlon II X4 620 trailed behind the more powerful processors.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch:This test takes a 6.2MB MIcrosoft Excel speadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Is Better

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

Higher Is Better

 

PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.

 

Again, the more powerful processors with much more cache took over the Athlon II X4.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

For SiSoft Sandra the Athlon II X4 was close to the Phenom II X4 processor in many of the runs and even beat out some of the Intel processors in several of the tests.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

In Sciencemark the Athlon II X4 came real close to the i5 750 and the i7 920 but fell behind in the remaining tests.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

While not as fast as the Phenom II X4 955, the Athlon II X4 620 did fair better than the i5s and i7s at the highest resolution.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way, there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 kept up with all of the other CPUs in the bunch.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. The building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong. Its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the story line, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 was on par with the Phenom II X4 but a bit slower than the Intel chips.

Testing:

Activision's Call Of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 started off a bit behind but caught up quickly.

Testing:

In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion, you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 was a bit behind in Dead Space.

Testing:

Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks, since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.

Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 was behind the Phenom II X4 but better than the Intel processors as the resolution rose.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters, and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 was faster than the Phenom II X4 but still behind the Intel processors.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Athlon II X4 620 had the lowest score of the bunch here.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 3DMark Vantage the Athlon II X4 620 beat out the Phenom II X4 in three of the four runs but was slower than the Intel chips.

Conclusion:

I have to say, I am very impressed with the new Athlon II X4 series processor. This baby performed very well despite having a low L2 cache, no L3 cache and a low clock speed of 2.6GHz. While it was no match for the Intel i7 series, it did come close when put up against the Intel i5 series in the gaming benchmarks and some of the scientific ones as well. When put up against the Phenom II X4 it came even closer, especially in benchmarks where the system as a whole was benchmarked and not just the CPU by itself. When it comes to overclocking, while it will not break any speed records, it did very well considering the multiplier is locked at 13x. I was able to turn up the reference clock to a nice 241MHz at 1.5 volts and the temperature stayed a cool maximum of 38C degrees under water, which is very cool considering the voltage pumping into it. When not overclocked, the processor never broke 25C degrees with the ambient temperature at a constant 22C degrees. This processor was a pleasure to use and shows great promise for those wanting to run a good and decently powerful system without spending a lot of money. At launch, the Athlon II X4 620 is going to be selling for only $99, which is unheard of for a quad core processor, especially one that performs this well for the price. When paired with the 790X motherboard used for this review, you have a nice setup for a workstation or a gaming computer for under $230. You have to admit, that is a very good start for that nice gaming rig you have been wanting to build but were limited on the funds. If you are needing a good quad core processor for your next build I would without a doubt encourage you to look into the new Athlon II X4 series because it will be money well spent.
 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: