Analysis and Conclusions
Performance – Are 3 cores better than 2?

When we first heard about the Phenom triple-core processors, I have to admit I was very skeptical.  How would a 3-core part fit into a product lineup?  Could the pricing be interesting enough to really catch on and give users a potential budget processor that was worth more than a dual-core processor?  And would software really take to three cores better than two as they have with four cores?

As it stands now from the performance outlook, the AMD Phenom X3 series of parts it pretty intriguing.  In most of our tests the performance of the X3 8750 CPU was better than dual-core processors including AMD’s own Athlon X2 6000+ and the Intel X6800 2.93 GHz part.  There were some mixed results though including in our multimedia tests where only one of the three video encoders put the X3 8750 ahead of the X6800 or E6750 from Intel. 

AMD Phenom X3 8750 2.4 GHz Triple-Core Processor Review - Processors 44
Save the processor, save the planet…

Applications that you would expect better threading on such as POV-Ray and CineBench saw linear improvements in the AMD Phenom X3 8750 over dual-core parts.  Our gaming results were also somewhat promising as the Valve benchmarks scaled well as did the World in Conflict title we tested (at least compared to the other AMD processors in the mix). 

Finally, the PCMark Vantage results also see a moderate gain in performance with the Phenom X3.  It really is a better showing than I expected for this processor.

If we throw my overclocking results into the mix though, the Phenom X3 8750 has the POTENTIAL to be a great budget-minded enthusiast product.  This was the first Phenom processor I have gotten over 2.6 GHz and at nearly 3.0 GHz stable the processor was significantly faster than stock and would rival much more expensive parts.  Have overclockers found a new darling?

The Value Argument

No one, not even AMD, is trying to tell you that the Phenom X3 is going be the best processor for ANY task; but what it might be is a better value for a given task than other solutions from Intel.  The Phenom X3 8450 starts at $145 while the 8750 model I benchmarked will go for just under $200.  This price segment has recently been attacked by Intel with the new Wolfdale dual-core processors (like the E8400) and even the Q9300, though it is closer to $300 than $200. 

Another part of that value comes in the platform you can get with an AMD processor that you can’t with Intel’s own chipsets.  The AMD 780G chipset is still our favorite option for integrated graphics solutions and if you are building a second system or one for family I really think the motherboard offers more than adequate performance for everyday use and general gaming.  The same can NOT be said for Intel’s IGP solutions though NVIDIA’s options for Intel processors are decent as well. 

I have to note here though that I have yet to fully test Intel’s new E7200 and Q9300 processors that were released this month – expect an updated summary processor review using those parts very soon.   It may change the landscape a bit in terms of our favorite budget CPU.

Pricing and Availability

The AMD Phenom X3 processors were available at the end of last week as some vendors decided to start selling them early. had both the X3 8750 and X3 8650 available over the weekend.  As of this writing, the items were “deactivated” indicating that it was an accident and the site has pulled the products until the official launch today.

AMD Phenom X3 8750 2.4 GHz Triple-Core Processor Review - Processors 45

Current pricing is as follows according to popular online e-tailers:
Just to throw some heat on the fire, keep in mind that you can get the 2.2 GHz quad-core Phenom X4 9550, also a B3 stepping part, for $199.  So is it better to have the extra core of the X4 or the extra 200 MHz of the X3 part?  That depends on your usage model, if you use more multi-threaded applications or single threaded; if you are a HEAVY multitasker then the move to four cores might make more sense but if you are a gamer the triple-core part should fit the bill nicely. 

Final Thoughts

AMD’s new triple-core Phenom X3 8×50-series of processors isn’t a slam dunk in performance or value compared to existing AMD parts but they do add a new twist to the constantly raging budget computer battle.  The X3 line can add some performance to a sub-$200 processor purchase while at the same time saving AMD from losing revenue on lost parts by salvaging some quad-core failures at the fab; and we all know they need that.  If you are on the hunt for a low-cost computer then you should evaluate your own usage habits and decide how you value 200 MHz in clock speed compared to an extra core of processing and make the leap from there.  If you are comfortable with overclocking as well then the X3 8750 might offer you even more value for your buck with some simple BIOS adjustments.  For now, I am pleasantly surprised at how well the Phenom X3 8750 is presented even as I acknowledge that it isn’t a product that will find its way into everyone’s heart.

Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on AMD Phenom CPUs and anything else you might need:

« PreviousNext »