AMD Athlon II X4 620 Processor Review

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Computer costs are rapidly dropping, especially with the introduction of the inexpensive netbooks into the consumer market. This drop in pricing across the board has lead to the need for the major chip manufacturers to begin producing CPUs with a low price point but with good performance. Intel answered the call by releasing their new line of 1156 Core i5 processors with exceptional performance to price comparisons. These processors, however, still have price points at $200 or more making them still mainstream chips, rather than entry level or budget quad cores.

AMD has long led the charge in the mainstream and budget CPU markets, and with the call for true Multicore performance at around the $100 price point, AMD would not stand by idly without developing a processor to fulfill this need and do it without sacrificing performance. Until now, this price point has been filled with several capable dual core processors from both the Athlon and Phenom families, but until now they were limited to that. They were limited to dual core CPUs.

 

The AMD Athlon II X4 620 is the first quad core Athlon to meet this price point of $100. The AMD Athlon II X4 620 features true quad core design on the AM3 socket to allow full use of the DDR3 memory technology. AMD has recently extended the Athlon family into the AM3 socket technology with the dual core 250, and it seemed only a matter of time before an AM3 Athlon II quad core was possible. This is now a reality that will make a push in the entry level and budget minded systems with the ability to build a quad core based system that can achieve levels of budget pricing unheard of until now.

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Technology and Efficiency" class="system-pagebreak" title="Technology and Efficiency" />

Technology and Efficiency

Technologies

The Progression of the Athlon II

The Phenom die structure allowed for L3 cache to be integrated into the CPU die for quicker data processing performance. This gave a performance boost over the Athlon chips but came with the higher cost of producing the larger chip die to accommodate the L3 cache. This gave the better performance, but the higher costs associated with it, as well. The Athlon die was updated to the newer AM3 socket with the same architecture as the Phenom IIs to allow for this family to grow with the newer memory technology earlier this year with the release of the Athlon II 250. This update came at an important time in the progression to DDR3 memory, as the prices on RAM are coming down.

620die

Now that the Athlon II has been born with the introduction of the 250, the family is seeing a first for the AMD line of processors. The introduction of the Athlon II 620 brings with it the first Athlon II quad core that features the price point of a $100 processor, but with a true quad core design. The Athlon II family has held the economical standing for AMD by featuring low costs in die production by not including the L3 cache, giving the edge in the lower mainstream and budget markets to the powerful yet economic AMD Athlon family.

The AMD 785G Chipset

The new AMD 785G chipset features several upgrades to the 780G chipset. First can be found in the core technology of the discrete graphics core of the newer RV620. This newer graphics core is home to the new HD4200 integrated graphics, which take advantage of the DirectX 10.1 and accelerated transcoding, giving an edge over the older 780G chipset. The abilities of playing the newer games at lower resolutions is a plus over the older technology, but the main advancement to grab attention is the high definition video capabilities of this chip for utilization in HTPC or home media computers.

The New AMD Mainstream System for Windows 7

AMD has aimed to grab hold of the lower end of the mainstream market with the introduction of the quad core Athlon II and the 785G chipset. This pair is being set to be the optimized combination for the entry into the mainstream computer market for the new version of Windows, Microsoft’s Windows 7. The price point for this combination will be in the $200 range for the board and processor. This should provide the lower mainstream market with a very interesting solution to the need for inexpensive system choices, while allowing them to still take advantage of having a quad core processor for optimal performance.

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Efficiency

AMD has begun to design all of their newer processors to work in a highly efficient fashion with low wattage usage being of high concern. The max TDP of the new Athlon II X4 quad cores is 95 W, with less being what they run at during normal use. To test the new Athlon II energy efficient CPUs, I will run the system at idle and under load with the OCCT stress testing program and measure the energy used by the system with a kill-a-watt wattage tester.

Motherboard

MSI 785GM-E65

Processor

AMD Athlon II X4 620

Memory

4GB Patriot Extreme Perf DDR3-1600

HDD

Western Digital Caviar 160GB SATA

PSU

Antec 750 Bronze Certified

Operating System

Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Review Philosophy" class="system-pagebreak" title="Review Philosophy" />

Review Philosophy

 

The introduction of the Athlon II X4 620 quad core processor has brought about some debate among those in the mainstream computer market. This quad core is being introduced at the price point of $100 and has the mainstream market and brought a new contender for inexpensive system builds. Until now, the main choices in this price point were among the Phenom II X2 dual core 550 and Athlon II X2 dual core under $100, and more closely compared to the current 620 is the Phenom II X3 720 tri core which features L3 cache.

 

The performance gains over the dual cores by a similarly built quad core will not provide much information for comparison purposes, so we will focus attention on the Athlon II X4 620 against the Phenom II X3 720. The clock speeds are similar, but the major differences between the two will be found in cache and number of cores between the two. The Athlon II quad core does not feature L3 cache so data transfer rates will be affected under heavy processing loads, but will be offset some by utilizing four cores. The 720 tri core is a Phenom II that features L3 cache for better transfer rates, but suffers the fate of having one less core. The price difference is only $20 between these two, and thus a comparison between these two processors is deemed appropriate. In addition to price point, it will also be interesting to see the performance difference that the L3 cache provides versus having a one core difference in processing power.

Because this system is being built based on the premise of an inexpensive mainstream system, we will be utilizing only the onboard IGP graphics of the HD4200 on the 785G chipset. This will limit our gaming benchmarks accordingly down to 1024 x 768 with no anti aliasing and settings on low.

System 1

Athlon II X4 620

$99

MSI 785GM-E65

$89

Patriot DDR3-1600

$89

System 2

Phenom II 720 BE

$119

MSI 785GM-E65

$89

Patriot DDR3-1600

$89

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Specifications" class="system-pagebreak" title="Specifications" />

Specifications

 

Model Number, Core Frequency & Price

X4 620 / 2.6GHz / $99 (USD)

Model Number, Core Frequency & Price

X4 630 / 2.8GHz / $122 (USD)

Tray OPNs

TRAY OPN# ADX620WFK42GI / ADX630WFK42GI

Processor in a Box OPNs

PIB OPN# ADX620WFGIBOX / ADX630WFGIBOX

L1 Cache Sizes

64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (512KB total L1 per processor)

L2 Cache Sizes

512KB of L2 data cache per core (2MB total L2 per processor)

Memory Controller Type

Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller *

Memory Controller Speed

Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management

Types of Memory Supported

Unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)

HyperTransport 3.0 Specification

One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)

Total Processor-to-System Bandwidth

Up to 37.3GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 21.3 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR3-1333) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]

Up to 33.1GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 17.1 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR2-1066) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]

Packaging

Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA)

Fab location

GLOBALFOUNDARIES Fab 1 module 1 in Dresden, Germany (formerly AMD Fab 36)

Process Technology

45-nanometer DSL SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology

Approximate Die Size

169 mm2

Approximate Transistor count

~300 million

Max Temp

71o Celsius

Nominal Voltage

0.925-1.425V

Max TDP

95 Watts

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Media Encoding (Espresso)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Media Encoding (Espresso)" />

Media Encoding (Espresso)

Espresso is a program by Cyberlink that allows you to take any video file and transcode it to various formats, including Apple iPod, iPhone, YouTube and other popular formats, at the click of a button. Espresso is quite simple to use, you simply open up a browser window to select video files or click and drag them into the Espresso window. After the file is in the program, you select the target format, then a folder and file name for the newly encoded file and click start. Espresso will then begin transcoding the video file to whatever format you chose. The nice part about Espresso is that in the preferences menu, you can enable Espresso to utilize advanced hardware encoding to speed up the process. In order to test the media encoding performance and ability of the Athlon II X4 CPU and the new 785G chipset, I loaded a full length feature film file into Espresso, and then had it transcode it into the format for the Apple iPhone. I accomplished this with hardware acceleration on and then off and compared the elapsed times of the transcoding. With the hardware accerelation turned on, Espresso encoded the file in 13 minutes and 53 seconds. With the hardware acceleration turned off, the time was extended an addition minute to 15 minutes and 5 seconds. This may not seem like a lot, but to transcode from DVD format to iPhone format is not as intensive of a transcoding job as performing the same task with BluRay and HD formats.

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Testing" class="system-pagebreak" title="Testing" />

Testing

 

Benchmarking

To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius. For the gaming benchmarks, only the resolution of 1024 x 768 will be utilized due to the limits of the integrated graphics processor on the MSI motherboard. This system is being tested as an inexpensive system with integrated graphics and will be tested accordingly.

Systems

Test System

  • Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 620, and AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE
  • Motherboard: MSI 780GM-E65 MicroATX
  • Memory: 4GB Patriot Extreme Perf DDR3-1600
  • HDD: Western Digital Caviar 160GB SATA
  • PSU: Antec 750 Bronze Certified Plus
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit

 

 

Benchmarks

System Benchmarks

  • World Bench
  • PCMark Vantage
  • SiSandra (CPU)
  • Everest (Cache and Memory)
  • Cinebench 10 (CPU Rendering)

 

Gaming Benchmarks

  • 3DMark Vantage
  • Brothers in Arms (Hells Highway)
  • Crysis
  • World in Conflict

Optimization Software

  • AMD OverDrive
  • AMD Fusion

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (World Bench)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (World Bench)" />

Benchmarks (World Bench)

 

World Bench is a system benchmark that tests the rendering, DirectX, video encoding, file compression, data entry, and overall performance of your system. World Bench 6 Beta (stable) gives a base score of 100 for a baseline comparison when different systems are chosen. For our tests, these scores will not be valid; all benchmarks are run individually and will reflect times in seconds as given by the program. If you would like more information here is a link. World Bench 6

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (PC Mark Vantage)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (PC Mark Vantage)" />

Benchmarks (PC Mark Vantage)

 

Designed for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark Vantage visit Futuremarks website.

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (SiSandra)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (SiSandra)" />

Benchmarks (SiSandra)

 

One of our favorites, Sandra from SiSoftware is a system benchmark that individually tests all components of your system. For our benchmarking purpose, we will use the processor section, which includes Processor Arithmetic, Multicore Efficiency, and Multimedia. All scores will be listed as given by benchmark, higher will be better unless otherwise stated. SiSandra

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (Everest)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (Everest)" />

Benchmarks (Everest)

 

Everest is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. Everest will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, L2 cache, and L3 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Lavalys is the producer of this software.

 

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Benchmarks (Cinebench R10)

 

Created by Maxon, Cinebench R10 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and multiple CPU performance.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (3D Mark)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (3D Mark)" />

Benchmarks (3D Mark)

3DMark Vantage is a gaming benchmark used to test the DirectX performance of your graphics card. There are four tests plus a custom setting that can be run: Entry (1024x768), Performance (1280x1024), which is the default setting, High (1680x1050), and Extreme (1920x1200). In each resolution, a total score, a CPU, and GPU are generated. Futuremark

 

Max resolutions used for gaming benchmarks will be 1024x768. Remember, we are upgrading our system and are working within a budget. Average users are still working with 19 to 22 inch wide screen monitors which will not exceed 1680x1050.

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (Left 4 Dead)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (Left 4 Dead)" />

Benchmarks (Left 4 Dead)

 

Left 4 Dead is an FPS where four uninfected people are left in a city where everyone else has turned into zombies. The action in this game is intense - zombies come at you from all angles. You can play Left 4 Dead via Stream and can choose whether to play your own campaign or play with others.

 

Settings:

  • AA: None
  • Ansi: None

Comparison

 

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Benchmarks (World at War)

 

Call of Duty: World at War is a World War II First Person Shooter which begins in the Japanese theater of the war. This is the first in the Call of Duty series to use the Pacific Theater.

 

Settings:

  • AA: None
  • Ansi: None

 

Comparison

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (World in Conflict)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (World in Conflict)" />

Benchmarks (World in Conflict)

 

Do you have what it takes to conquer your opponent? World in Conflict is a DX10 game where, if you don't defeat your opponent, you don't gain. This is an all out, winner-take-all, modern war scenario.

 

Settings

  • AA: None
  • Graphics: Low

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Overclocking" class="system-pagebreak" title="Overclocking" />

Overclocking

Overclocking (AMD Overdrive)

AMD Overdrive 3.0 is a software overclocking utility that allows you to overclock and tweak some BIOS options from a Windows interface. There are two options to choose from in AMD Overdrive, Novice and Expert. If you are unfamiliar with overclocking, there is also an auto tune option in AMD Overdrive, which will find an acceptable stable overclock for your system. In expert mode you have many options, which include raising your multiplier (for unlocked processors), raising HT, voltage for CPU, Memory and more. If you would like further information on AMD Overdrive, please see www.amd.com

In the past, overclocking a processor was something reserved for Enthusiasts who had the knowledge that gave them the ability to overclock. With AMD Overdrive, even a novice can enter a realm once only reserved for the elite. The slider system for adjusting the core voltages, hyper transport, and multipliers make adjustments easy to operate. The specs are shown as you increase your settings and click apply, giving you a real time view of your improvements. In the novice mode, there is simply one slider for overall performance gain that allows for anyone new to the overclocking world to make adjustments without having to play with all the individual settings.

 

Overclocking the Athlon II X4 620 processor was a slightly tricky affair. The core voltages, as well as the other voltages, were locked in the BIOS for this processor, making the stability under increased clock speeds very hard to maintain. I managed to reach a final clock speed of 2.95 GHz, up from the stock 2.6 GHz. This 350MHz overclock is rather mild when compared to other processors, but when considering what this processor is priced at and its intended market, a 350MHz increase is not bad. Stability at this overclock was decent and OCCT was run successfully for 1 hour with no errors or overheating.

 

 

 

World Bench

 

PCMark Vantage

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Overclocking (continued)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Overclocking (continued)" />

Overclocking (continued)

SiSandra

 

 

Everest

 

Cinebench

 

 

 

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Overclocking (continued)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Overclocking (continued)" />

Overclocking (continued)

3DMark Vantage

 

Left 4 Dead

 

Call of Duty: World at War

 

World in Conflict

 

<hrdata-mce-alt="Putting It All Together" class="system-pagebreak" title="Putting It All Together" />

Putting It All Together

AMD has made a critical play in trying to gain the lower mainstream market by introducing the Athlon II X4 620 and 630 quad core processors. This move puts these chips in the $100 price point and in direct contention with the Phenom II X3 720. The tri core offering from AMD has been a solid performer and an excellent overclocker, so the question on a lot of people’s minds is will these new quad cores overshadow the tri core CPUs that have been a budget/mainstream system builder's main CPU of choice. After benchmarking and overclocking the quad core for this review and comparing the stock clock results with that of the 720, there may be some people who end up surprised.

The tri core 720 suffered some definite losses when compared with the 620 in benchmarking, especially with SiSandra and PC Mark Vantage. The arithmetic and multimedia scores in Sandra were significantly higher on the Athlon II X4 than on the tri core, with victories held by the new quad core in all the Sandra tests and all but two of the tests within PC Mark. During real world testing in World Bench, however, the quad core just couldn’t produce faster times during the simulated programs, showing off the ability of higher efficiency in productivity due to the L3 cache on the tri core. This was also evident during the communications and productivity tests within PC Mark. The gaming benchmarks showed slight favorites on both sides of the spectrum depending on the benchmark, but really were not the main focus of attention.

What does this all mean? Do we have a clear winner on which processor should be the ultimate choice? I would have to say that it’s a draw and would like to explain why. Many people will say that the quad core beat the tri core in many of the benchmarks, meaning that it is a better processor and that the L3 cache doesn’t make a difference. I would tend to agree with this assumption, if not for two main points. The first is that when you examine the true tests of real world performance, the quad core, with its one more processing core, was not able to perform faster than the tri core with the L3 cache except for during the rendering and Microsoft Office tests. To me, this does not prove that the quad core is necessarily better than the tri core, just built for a more specific purpose. The second reason is in overclocking performance between the two chips. The tri core can overclock better and pull out more performance in doing so than the Athlon II X4 620, which makes the tri core a solid contender still among those looking for performance gains and overclocking. All of this is very interesting, but I digress from the point of all of this.

The Athlon II X4 quad cores are viable CPUs that were built for a significant purpose, to perform high level multimedia for HTPC and home computers and to perform well at their price point. There is no denying this when you look through the various benchmarks results and you see clearly what this processor is all about. The Sandra, Cinebench, 3D Mark and PC Mark results all show that this processor produces outstanding results for the price and will easily win its way into the hearts of the mainstream computer user. For many, the expense of a quad core made them unattainable for HTPC and inexpensive home computers, until now. The Athlon II quad cores are here to bridge that gap and to do it with excellent performance, to boot.

<hrdata-mce-alt="Conclusion" class="system-pagebreak" title="Conclusion" />

Conclusion

Price Point

Price: $99

Class: Mainstream

The AMD Athlon II X4 620 fits into the lower end of the mainstream processor class. The price point here puts it in direct competition with the X3 720.

Performance

AMD has always focused on the performance to price ratio and the new Athlon X4 620 is no different. The introduction of this processor as an inexpensive quad core has left room for speculation on how well it will fair in performance when looking at how much it will sell for. The performance is no longer a concern as the benchmarks clearly demonstrated. The 620 performed, without question, as well as anyone could hope, posting results that beat the 720 in many different categories, especially in core performance in Sandra, multimedia in Cinebench, and overall performances throughout PC Mark. Little more can be asked of a quad core CPU entering the mainstream market with a price of $100.

Reviewer's Opinion

Until now, the $100 price range has been dominated by the dual core Phenom II and the tri core Phenom II, with good performance from both. Any system built around either of these two chips would easily meet the performance needs expected of them for their price, and that was that. The introduction of the Athlon II X4 620 signaled a change in philosophy for this price point; you can have a quad core and still be on a budget. The Athlon II X4 620 comes out of the gate with excellent performance and the ability to take full advantage of the growing variety of quad core capable programs entering the market. This is a great thing for those who don’t have the money for the Phenom II quad cores, but still want the level of performance associated with quad core CPUs.

HTPC and the rendering and encoding of video and multimedia files has become a large part of what people expect their computers to be able to do. Much of this comes with a boost when utilizing the higher performance of the quad core architecture. This has brought about the designing of the quad core Athlon II to not only fulfill this performance need, but to attain the unheard of prices that were reserved for dual cores. When looking at the big picture of all of this, I must step back and admire AMD for having the guts to create this quad core and manage to have it perform like anyone could possibly have hoped it would.

 

Pros:

  • Quad Core performance
  • Price
  • Optimized for upcoming Windows 7
  • Reverse Compatibility
  • DDR2 and DDR3 Memory support

Cons:

  • NONE!!

 

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