AMD Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250 Processors Reviewajmatson - June 1, 2009
Price: $87 - $102
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Lately, the processor market has been the biggest we have ever seen. The competing manufacturers have new CPUs releasing all of the time, aimed at everyone from the hardcore speed enthusiast to the budget minded user. Since not everyone has the cash to drop on the high-end processors, let alone the hardware to support them, there's still a huge market for strong dual core processors. To compete in this market, AMD has used the AMD Athlon X2 line for some time; however, they now bring new secret weapons to the table, aimed and taking charge. There are two new dual core processors that are moving in for the kill, both designed with new technology for today's PC enthusiast.
First, based off of the ever popular Phenom II series, we now get a chance to see the new dual core, dubbed the AMD Phenom II X2. The AMD Phenom II X2 series is a fast dual core solution for those who want speed and dependability without having to break the bank to get it. The specific model we are going to be looking at is the Phenom II X2 550 BE. This model is clocked at 3.1GHz (200x15.5), and can handle a maximum core voltage of 1.425v for pure speed. The second processor is the AMD Athlon II X2 250, which is a 45nm processor with a few secrets of its own. On the Athlon II, there is no L3 cache as in the Phenom II dual core; however, the L2 cache on the Athlon II X2 250 is doubled for a total of 1MB L2 per core, a grand total L2 cache of 2MB. This CPU is clocked at 3.0GHz (200x15), and can handle a maximum 1.425v as well, with a TDP ceiling of 65 watts.
The kicker about these processors, you ask? What makes them so different than other AMD dual cores? Well, how many of the current AMD dual core processors can run DDR3? Yes, I said DDR3 - finally, for the AMD dual core sector. The Phenom II X2 550 and the Athlon II X2 250 both support AM2+ and AM3 boards for DDR2 and DDR3 memory. No longer are you stuck using the slower DDR2 standard for your computers that have dual core processors. Do I have you salivating yet? I know I am, so how about we take a closer look at the CPUs and see how well they run with this new memory spec.
Since these are review samples the Phenom II X2 550 and Athlon II X2 250 arrived to us in an anti-static sample box. The retail versions will have the regular retail packaging, as well as the heatsink, for your new processor. The only way to distinguish the processors is by the stamps on the CPU heat spreader, with the 550 being the Phenom II, and the 250 being the Athlon II.
The Phenom II X2 550 BE and Athlon II X2 250 look at first like any other current AMD CPUs; the differences are all on the inside. The Phenom II X2 processor is a dual core, based on the Phenom II series processors; it is manufactured using a 45 nanometer process and clocked at 3.1GHz. This CPU is an AM3 socket processor and supports both memory standards up to 1066MHz for DDR2, and 1333MHz for DDR3. There are 758 million transistors, with a HyperTransport 3.0 bus and a maximum bandwidth of 3.6GB/s, full duplex. For the Phenom II X2 550, the cache is broken down into 1MB L2 (512kb per core) and 6MB shared L3, for a total of 7MB cache. This specific processor is a Black Edition processor, which also allows for more refined options to tweak your overclocks - allowing you to get the most speed out of your shiny new CPU.
The Athlon II X2 250 is clocked at 3.0GHz and is also manufactured using a 45nm process; however, some of its insides are different. As I mentioned above, AMD chose to not include an L3 cache in the design of the Athlon II, but instead to double the amount of L2 cache - giving each core a full 1MB. The Athlon II also runs a HyperTransport 3.0 bus, with a maximum bandwidth of 4.0GB/s, full duplex. Like the Phenom II X2, the Athlon II X2 supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memory with a maximum total system bandwidth of 33.1GB/s when using DDR3 memory.
Now we are ready to strap these CPUs in and see how they perform.