65 nm? Pah! Time for something different!

It has been several years since AMD released a true desktop dual core processor, and finally they have delivered with the Athlon II X2 250. They have also released a Phenom II based X2 that could be the new darling of budget enthusiasts everywhere. We explore the performance of these new parts, as well as try our hand at overclocking to see where we go. While they might not be world beater’s, they certainly give AMD a fighting chance in the dual core market.
AMD's New X2s: Redeeming AMD's Dual Core Market - Processors 33  AMD's New X2s: Redeeming AMD's Dual Core Market - Processors 34

    Ah Brisbane, how you have held up through the years.  The initial release of AMD’s brand spanking new 65 nm Athlon dual core products a few years back was less than a bang.  In fact, it was more of a fizzle.  The new 65 nm dual core products from AMD failed to impress.  Not only were their clock speeds far lower than the latest 90 nm Windsor based dual cores, but performance was down by a small amount due to some extra latency built into the L2 caches (which was an attempt to make the L2 cache sizes more flexible, allowing multiple MB if a future product required it).

AMD's New X2s: Redeeming AMD's Dual Core Market - Processors 35

    The Brisbane core eventually was brought into line, and replaced the 90 nm products wholesale by last year.  The last Brisbane released was clocked at a respectable 3.1 GHz, and it even showed up in a pair of Black Edition processors at 2.6 GHz and 2.8 GHz.  These were marginal performers in the face of the Core 2 products at both 65 nm and 45 nm, but they enabled AMD to produce CPUs inexpensively enough to make a minimal amount of margin to survive in what really is the bread and butter slice of the marketplace.

    AMD also released a pair of Black Edition dual core Phenoms that are based on the 65 nm B3 revision quad cores.  These of course have two cores disabled on the product, and they were clocked a bit more aggressively at 2.7 GHz and the recently released 2.8 GHz.  These did perform much more in line with what we are seeing with Intel’s Core 2 Duo series of chips, but the 95 watt TDP of these parts was unpalatable to a goodly portion of users.  While these chips were relatively inexpensive, the 45 nm based Core 2 parts from Intel with TDPs of 45 watts and 65 watts were better parts overall (though often more expensive).

AMD's New X2s: Redeeming AMD's Dual Core Market - Processors 36

A slightly closer look reveals the “born on date” for both of these products.  The Athlon II here was produced in the 13th week of 2009, while the Phenom II was the 14th week of 2009.

    Dual core land was an unhappy place for AMD, which is ironic since they had some of first dual core processors on the market with the X2 series.  During the past few years AMD has focused their dual core development on the mobile market, and the X2s have made a nice niche for themselves.  But desktop users were left with slower Brisbane dual cores as well as power hungry Phenom B3 cores.  AMD competed on price in this section, and they have survived.  A good portion of that success can probably be attributed to their superior integrated graphics support in motherboards as compared to the Intel products.

    If there was one other piece of this developing puzzle to mention, it would be AMD’s 45 nm process (or rather, GLOBAL FOUNDRIES’ 45 nm process).  With previous node transitions, the first products off the lines for AMD were often not all that spectacular.  Think products like Thoroughbred A Athlon XP, or the Winchester core for the Athlon 64.  While they worked as advertised, they did not clock up that much higher than previous process node based processors.  It usually was not until much later that AMD had sorted out any process and design issues, and then released products that would surpass the previous versions in overall clockspeed and performance.  So has AMD’s 45 nm node followed in this manner?

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