AMD Phenom II 720 and 810 AM3 Review

ajmatson - 2009-01-24 13:40:40 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ajmatson   
Reviewed on: February 8, 2009
Price: $145 for X3 720, $175 for X4 810

Introduction:

Recently during CES 2009 OCC brought you a first look at the new Phenom II series processors from AMD, the Phenom II X4 940. The Phenom II 940 was a very solid performing processor with high clock speeds, however it was an AM2+ only CPU and could only run with now aging DDR2 memory. AMD is now bringing the newer and faster speeds of DDR3 memory to the AMD platform with the new AM3 processors. These newer processors are also backwards compatible with AM2+ boards running DDR2 memory so you have the flexibility to upgrade when you choose. Just as in the first generation Phenom line there were quad core and triple core processors, the Phenom II AM3 line will have the same. Today we are going to take a look at two of the AMD Phenom II processors, the X3 720, which is one of the Phenom II triple core processors, and the X4 810, a quad core processor, both of which support both types of sockets and memory. The Phenom II X3 720 is clocked at 2.8GHz and features a total of 6MB L3 cache and 1.5MB L2 cache (512KB each core), it is also a Black Edition processor so the multiplier is unlocked for better and higher overclocks. The Phenom II X4 810 is clocked at 2.6GHz with 4MB total L3 cache and 2MB L2 cache (512KB each core).

When it comes to memory support, the AM3 Phenom II line will support up to DDR2 1066MHz and DDR3 1333MHz using a 128-bit wide memory controller on the CPU. The AM3 processors will also be running HyperTransport 3.0 and will have a maximum processor bandwidth of 33.1GB/s. The package was changed to a 938-pin array instead of the 940-pin of the AM2+ socket, however the AM3 processors will be able to run in an AM2+ board with no issues. The manufacturing process will remain 45nm with 758 million transistors and the maximum TDP for the AM3 processors will be 95 watts.

 

Closer Look:

Since this is an engineering sample processor, it came shipped to us directly from AMD in a safe antistatic box. It did not include the stock heatsink as the retail version does, but it includes the CPU just as an OEM processor purchase would. At first look the Phenom II X3 720 looks just like the original Phenom series. The only differences are the logo where it says Phenom II and that there are only 938 pins on the socket instead of 940 for the AM2+. If you look closely on the printing you can see the model numbers embedded in the code string.

 

 

 

 

Now that we have seen this beauty let's move to the testing to see how she performs.

Specifications:

 

Model Number:
X3 720 & X4 810
Clock Frequency:

X3 720 = 2.8GHz
X4 810 = 2.6GHz

Max TDP:
95w
Cache Size:
L1 Cache (Instruction + Data)
L2 Cache: 512KB per core
L3 Cache: X3 720 = 6MB Shared L3
              X4 810 = 4MB Shared L3
Process Technology:
45-nanometer SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
HyperTransport Technology Links:
One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 3600MT/s full duplex; or up to 16.0GB/s I/O Bandwidth
Memory:
Integrated DDR2 memory controller-up to 17.1GB/sec dual channel memory bandwidth
Types of Memory:
Support for unregistered DIMMs up to PC2 8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3 (DDR3-1333MHz)
Die Size:
45nm = 258mm 
Transistors
45nm = 758million
Packaging:
Socket AM3 - 938-pin organic micro Pin Grid Array (micro-PGA) (Backwards compatable with AM2+ 940-pin)

 

 

 

Features: 

 

Testing:

Since there are no AM3 boards currently available and the Socket AM3 processors are backwards compatible with AM2+ 790GX based boards with a BIOS update, we will be running the testing using an AM2+ board with DDR2 memory. Once DDR3 based AM3 boards are available we will revisit the testing for this processor on the new platform and update the scores here. To test the AMD Phenom II X3 720 and the X4 810, they will be put through a series of scientific and video benchmarks designed to push the processor to the maximum. They will then be compared to other processors on the market to give you a nice understanding of where it sits among the competition. As a note, due to limited time constraints and hardware availability the video benchmarks will be limited to a select batch of processors instead of the full line. All hardware, unless otherwise noted, will be run at stock speeds, timings, and voltages to prevent any variables from interfering with the scores.

 

Testing Setup AMD CPU's:

 

Testing Setup I7 CPU's:

 

Testing Setup Core2 CPU's:

 

Comparison CPUs:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Since this is a Black Edition processor you have a lot more flexibility when overclocking to get the highest stable speeds possible. To start off, I raised the voltage and the multiplier 1x at a time until I could no longer stably boot into Windows. Once I hit the wall I backed down the multi by .5x until I was able to boot and run tests stably. Then I started raising the the bus speed while increasing the voltage even more to compensate. Once the system again became unstable I backed off on the bus speed until I could pass tests with no errors. At the end of the process the result was 3.727GHz, which equated to 213MHz with a multiplier of 17.5 at 1.520 volts. Since the stock is 2.8GHz, this is almost a 1GHz overclock, or about a 33% overclock.

 

 

Overclocked settings:

Since the Phenom II X4 810 is not a Black Edition processor the multiplier is locked and cannot go above a pre-set maximum. With this brick wall you have to take a different approach when overclocking processors like this one. First off, I always set my voltage to the maximum specified operating voltage for the processor, which for the Phenom II is 1.5 volts. Then I take my HyperTransport link and drop it down a bit so as I raise my CPU speed it will stay around the stock settings. I then raised the CPU speed 5MHz at a time and re-adjust the HT link multiplier as needed. Once I could no longer boot stable I backed off a few MHz at a time until I could boot and remain stable again. For the AMD Phenom II X4 810 I was able to achieve 3.315GHz, which was 255MHz x 13.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis - Warhead
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Fall out 3 
  7. Left For Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing regimen 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 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

In Apophysis the Phenom X3 720 ran better than the X4 810 AM3 counterpart and almost as good as the Q9450 and the E8400 processors. In WinRAR the AM3 CPUs were the slowest of the bunch.

Testing:

Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

    

Higher is Better

 

 

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 board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 


For Specview the AM3 processors trailed the rest of the processors except in PROE where it did finally take over the Q9450 and the X4 810 was one of the top performers. In PCMark Vantage they were slower than the X4 940, however the X3 720 performed better than the Intel Q9450.

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 areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

You can see the new memory controller take over with the AM3 CPU over the AM2+ processors and even with the Intel Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quads memory controller. However, the overall system performance lacked behind the other setups with the exception of the Q9450 where they were almost even.

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

 

For Sciencemark the X3 720 beat out the Phenom 9850, the i7 920 and the C2D 8400 processors while the X4 810 was a bit slower. In CineBench single thread the AM3 CPUs came in next to last. However, in the multi-threaded tests the X3 beat out the quad core Q9450. In the HDTune tests the AM3 processors trailed behind.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

"Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially 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 50km2 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:

 

 

 

 

 

The AM3 processors ran dead even, taking over the Intel processors as the resolution grew.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This benchmark really put the hardware to work; the Phenom II 720 and 810 gave the other processors a run for their money. Overall, it was close and tied with the other processors at the highest resolution.

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 Daddys". 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 AM3 processors just could not keep up with the Intel counterparts, staying slightly behind the whole time.

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 scores were pretty even across the board, with the X3 slightly faster than the new X4.

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 scores were all so close, the margins are negligible.

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 AM3 processors were close to their AM2+ counterpart and in between the Core i7 and the Q9450.

Testing:

Left For 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the resolution grew the numbers evened off between the CPUs with the exception of the Q9450 where the AM3 processors took over.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here the AM3 processors were the lowest in the scores with the X3 a bit higher than the X4 with an additional core.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The X3 started off higher than the new X4 however, midway through the quad core took the lead. The AM3 chips still fell behind the Intel comparison though.

Conclusion:

With the new line of Phenom II processors anticipation and expectations are growing. The previously reviewed Phenom II 940 was a beast of a processor, though it only supports DDR2 memory, so there is not any room for expansion into the faster DDR3 market. The new AM3 processors tackle this situation and allow you to run the best of both worlds with DDR2 and DDR3 when the AM3 motherboards are released. When it came down to numbers I was surprised at how well a Triple Core processor was able to jump on the heels of some of the Quad Core processors and sometimes even taking the lead in the video benchmarks. Quite honestly, I did not expect this type of performance from a CPU with fewer cores. Overclocking the Phenom II X3 720 is quite easy since it is a Black Edition processor with an unlocked multiplier. I had little trouble getting an almost 1GHz overclock with a combination of the multiplier and the bus speed. Overclocking the Phenom II X4 810 took a little more work since the multiplier is locked though I still achieved a respectable overclock on it. Since there are no AM3 motherboards currently on the market on which I could test DDR3, the scores here are reflective of ageing technology and we will visit them again once the AM3 boards are out with the faster memory for a comparison of the other side of the CPU.

For head to head performance between the AM3 processors and the AM2+ cousin, I was not impressed. The X3 720, which has a higher clock speed, beat the X4 810 with an additional core in almost every benchmark test. I would like to have seen the X4 810 with higher clocks since we just saw an impressive chip with the Phenom II X4 940 that had clock speeds of 3.0GHz and scores that beat both the X3 720 and the X4 810. I am hoping when paired with an AM3 motherboard and DDR3 memory that the scores increase and are more impressive.

When it comes to price versus performance, the score differences, especially with the game benchmarks, the AMD AM3 processors take the win here. The Phenom II X3 720 will be releasing at around $145 per 1KU and the Phenom II X4 810 will be about $175 per 1KU. That is well below the new Core i7 920, which is running around $300 at the moment. Considering the AM3 processors are designed to run in AM2+ motherboards such as the 790GX chipset, which average $140, that gives you the ability to purchase a CPU and motherboard for about what the Intel Core I7 920 CPU alone will cost. With the ability to upgrade to DDR3 on the new AM3 motherboards coming our way, you have a nice future proof path that will keep current costs down with DDR2 based hardware while giving you respectable performance.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: