Overclocking, Power, and Conclusion
    I am not the world’s greatest overclocker, and while I had access to the Gigabyte boards which have set a couple of records to date with the Phenom II architecture, I was faced with limited time and mediocre cooling for these tests.

    The Phenom II X2 550 was of course the easiest to overclock.  I was able to inch up the multiplier until I hit 3.6 GHz with a small voltage increase (3.5 GHz could be achieved at stock voltage).  This is not too bad considering the chip runs at a stock voltage of 1.29 v or so.  With some more aggressive cooling and voltage manipulation, the chip would have easily made it to at least 3.8 GHz.  That 4 GHz spot on air cooling is still a bit more rare than I would like to see, but perhaps in the coming months we will see more and more Phenom IIs hitting that mark.

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If there was one thing I disliked about most AMD boards is how close the memory is to the CPU socket.  I guess this really cannot be avoided if memory performance is not to be sacrificed.

    The Athlon II X2 250 is a slightly different story.  The HT speed needs to be increased in order to get the processor clockspeed up.  I was able to lower the HT ratio down to 3x, and increased the speed to 235 MHz without issue.  This gave a clockspeed of 3525 MHz for the Athlon II.  Anything over that caused instability.  Even when turning all the other ratios down (memory, northbridge, etc.) I still could not get 3.6 GHz stable without drastically increasing the voltage.  Because this is a newer processor, and it has not been rigorously optimized on GF’s 45 nm process, the stock voltage was 1.35v (well up from the Phenom II’s).

    Neither chips are redefining the overclocking world, but it will be interesting to see what happens when they get into the hands of experts instead of lowly hacks like me.  Still, if I can get these parts to 3.5 GHz and 3.6 GHz, then anyone can.

Power

   The Athlon II and Phenom II are both 45 nm SOI/DSL parts from GLOBAL FOUNDRIES, and their TDP reflects that.  The Athlon II is rated at 65 watts, while the Phenom II is 80 watts.  The E8500 is also a 65 watt product, but it relies on the motherboard chipset to do memory duties.

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    All of the chips fall in the same range.  Power was taken from the wall outlet, so it included the motherboard, video card, hard drive, memory, and optical drive.  All of these products sip power as compared to how powerful they really are.

Conclusion

    It has been a long time in coming, but it is nice to see AMD coming out with some dramatically new dual core offerings.  While the Kuma based Athlon 7750 and 7850 products have tided us over, their 95 watt TDP turned many users off from using them.  The only silver lining with those parts were typically the chipset support they received in both enthusiast circles as well as the integrated market from both NVIDIA and AMD.

    The introduction of these two parts, and their significantly lowered TDP, shows that AMD is still actively addressing the very significant dual core market.  While the Phenom II X2 is the undeniable powerhouse in this release, the Athlon II X2 is a significant entry for AMD.  At 65 watts it competes well against the Core 2 Duo E5x00, E6x00, and E7x00 series of parts from Intel, and its performance is right in line with the competition.  At $87 it is also quite a bit cheaper than its performance counterparts from Intel.

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The 770T (left) as compared to its larger and more expensive brethren, the 790FXT.  A lot of motherboard in a pretty small package.

    The $102 Phenom II X2 550 also offers a lot of value for the money.  It again is faster than the competition at its price point, and it performs well against the E8400 and E8500 parts which are almost double its price.  When combined with a motherboard like the Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3P it becomes a fun and exciting part to work and play with.  It can overclock easily, and the performance it brings is quite competitive with what else is on the market.

    Brisbane had a good run, but it is finally time for the old girl to retire.  In its place are the shiny, new Athlon II and Phenom II parts, and they certainly will not disappoint with what they have to deliver.  These make excellent gaming processors, and they have enough power to handle applications like transcoding/encoding/ripping, which are becoming everyday activities for hundreds of thousands of users.

    The one sad thing for AMD in this release, and with me using the Intel Core 2 Duo E8500, is that they still haven’t caught up with Intel in the performance per MHz metric.  This is further exacerbated by the performance boost that the i7 architecture has received over the Core 2 series.  In the next several months we will see the mainstream desktop i7 derivatives hit the market, but luckily for AMD the lowest processor in this group will be around $189.  By that time hopefully we will see another speed grade of the Phenom II X2 and Athlon II X2, and hopefully with some more overclocking headroom for both.

    Still, it is great to see AMD putting out new products that have been consistently better than the old ones.  By refreshing their dual core options, AMD has the chance to grab a little bit more marketshare from Intel, especially considering that a lot of these dual cores will be paired up with the current 790GX and 780G chipsets from AMD, as well as another entry in the integrated market soon to be announced.


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