Power Consumption and Deciphering the Results
In our Intel 840 XE Review, we saw that the new dual core Smithfield processor from Intel showed some rather large power increases over the current line up of Intel CPUs. That wasn’t the case with the X2 4400+ processor, surprisingly:
The X2 4400+ actually uses LESS power than the single core FX-55 processor. The numbers from the 3700+ single core are actually running on a faster, FX-55 processor down clocked to 3700+ speeds, thus the power increase over the 4000+ at the bottom of the graph. Of course, the 4400+ is running on the 90nm, Rev E core and the FX-55 is on the 130nm core, but the power consumption is still a marvel to see. At full load, the X2 4400+ uses 60% less power than the Intel 840 XE processor.
Again with this second look at dual core processors, I feel the need to look at performance from three different viewpoints: that of single threaded performance, multithreaded performance and multitasking performance. In the single threaded, single tasking benchmarks, including games, we saw the Athlon 64 X2 4400+ thrive in all the same places we have seen the Athlon 64 line do so for the past two years. Clocked at 2.2 GHz, a full 400 MHz slower than the top Athlon 64 FX processor available, there weren’t any cases where the X2 4400+ blew away the AMD line up in these types of benchmarks, but it also was never as far off as we saw the Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 processor. A 2.2 GHz Athlon 64 core processor, dual or single core, is going to perform quite well at nearly all tasks, especially gaming where the K8 architecture has thrived for some time.
Multithreaded applications did see a big boost from the single core Athlon 64 3700+ numbers to those of the X2 4400+. Adding a second core to a product line up that previously didn’t have it, and also didn’t have HyperThreading capability, is going to improve performance quite well on these benchmarks. In our CineBench, KribiBench and ScienceMark 2.0 tests that were multithread capable, we saw performance gains up to 50%+ in some cases, proving that dual core processors and thread level performance is going to be very important to PC enthusiasts in the very near future. While the 4400+ didn’t beat the Intel 840 XE dual core processor in every test, it nearly did, and this CPU isn’t even the flagship X2 processor from AMD’s arsenal.
Finally our last category is the multitasking performance of the X2 4400+. Multiple applications run at the same time, either in the background or foreground, take up CPU cycles. With a dual core processor, you have theoretically twice as many cycles to use than the clock speed indicates. Assuming you are using an OS that can handle multiple threads and processors (like Windows XP Pro) then having more applications open and working will have less of an affect on your overall system performance with a dual core processor compared to a single core processor. This is a lot more complicated than just operating systems if you include the complexities of different CPU architectures between AMD and Intel, different memory controllers and different clock speeds and IPCs. There really is no clear cut mathematical formula for finding the fastest, optimal processor solution. Otherwise, why would you need me?
The X2 4400+ did increase the system performance in all cases over its single core equivalent and in cases of heavy multitasking, the performance gains were very dramatic. The X2 with its two concurrent threads still couldn’t topple the Intel 840 XE processor with its four concurrent thread support (with dual core, each support HyperThreading), but the 4400+ got pretty close. With a 200 MHz increase in clock speed like the 4800+ has, that we did not review, it is entirely possible that this perfomance difference between Intel and AMD is made up for, but we’ll have to wait to pass judgements once we get that particular part.
The X2 4400+ processor, being from the Rev E line from AMD, gets all of the same feature upgrades that the Venice and San Diego cores got including SSE3 instruction support and an enhanced memory controller for better memory compatibility. One of the best features of the X2 line tends to be the power conservation techniques that AMD has implemented that allow the two cores in the processor to run at top speed on such low power. The fact that AMD didn’t have to increase the voltage or heatsink requirements for adding a second core is impressive, and so is the fact that the 4400+ used LESS power than the FX-55 CPU.
If AMD has a flaw in their dual core plans, it lies here. With the cheapest Athlon 64 X2 part being released this year at a price of $531, it falls above what most would call the mainstream price levels. Most of our enthusiast community are also budget conscious and don’t spend that much on CPUs the majority of the time. Intel has the right idea in this case releasing Pentium D processors across the entire price spectrum from top to bottom. Maybe the community will make a switch though and shell out the extra money for the AMD X2 line knowing that they are getting both excellent single core performance, great gaming performance as well as good multithreaded and multitasking performance. If not, AMD may end up losing some customers to Intel or those customers may just sit on their wallets for the time being.
And to counter that price issue, is the fact that anyone with a Socket 939 motherboard SHOULD be able to upgrade to a dual core processor without a need to change out their motherboard. That alone will save users anywhere from $100-200 depending on their board options. So maybe that price difference between Intel and AMD isn’t as bad as we might think?
AMD has thought this dual core processor evolution through and you can tell by the elegant implementation that they have released in the Athlon 64 X2 processor. The 4400+ model that we reviewed here today is more than capable of holding its own against the best Intel has to offer and there are still two performance levels faster than this model expected to be released next month.
The Athlon 64 X2 4400+ looks like it’s going to be the sweet spot in dual core processors for the initial wave from both Intel and AMD, for enthusiasts that want both a quality gaming rig as well as the ability to multitask efficiently and run some occassional multithreaded media applications that support multiprocessing. For that, I can see no reason why AMD shouldn’t get an outstanding award for this product.
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