Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review
By Gabriel Torres on October 20, 2009


Introduction

Today AMD is launching several entry-level 45-nm socket AM3 Athlon II CPUs and we are going to take a look at the new Athlon II X2 240e (2.8 GHz) and Athlon II X3 435 (2.9 GHz) CPUs and compare them to Athlon II X4 (2.6 GHz) but also with their main competitors from Intel.

As you may guess by the name, Athlon II X2 is a dual-core CPU, while Athlon II X3 is a triple-core CPU and Athlon II X4 is a quad-core CPU. The main difference between Athlon II and Phenom II is the presence of an L3 memory cache on Phenom II, making this CPU more expensive and to provide a higher performance. Both Athlon II and Phenom II are socket AM3 CPUs, meaning that they can be installed on socket AM2+ or socket AM3 motherboards, depending on whether you want DDR2 or DDR3 memories on your computer, respectively.

It is very important that you understand that Athlon II CPUs are entry-level processors and thus must be compared to entry-level CPUs from Intel. When Athlon II X4 was released we saw several websites publishing flawed reviews, comparing Athlon II X4 to high-end CPUs like Core i5 and Core i7, which cost at least double, making the comparison completely unfair. Some websites tried to compare Athlon II X4 to the cheapest quad-core CPU from Intel, but this comparison was completely dishonest, since the Intel cheapest quad-core CPU is 50% more expensive than Athlon II X4. Even a comparison between Athlon II X4 and Core 2 Duo is unfair as Core 2 Duo is 20% more expensive. Thus we ended up with tons of reviews around the web with flawed conclusions as they were comparing bananas to apples.

Why are we telling you this? Because we are afraid that the same thing will happen with most reviews for these new CPUs posted around the web: you have to pay close attention to the methodology used and make sure other websites are comparing apples to apples. Unfortunately from our experience we can tell most websites will be comparing these new CPUs to products that are not their competitors.

We have several different ways to select competitors to the reviewed CPUs. The most obvious would be to select a CPU from Intel with the same price tag. The problem with this methodology is that the total price of the two computers would be different, as motherboards for Intel CPUs tend to be more expensive than the ones targeted to AMD processors. Since no one can run a CPU outside a computer, we have to think about the total price of the system, especially on entry-level PCs, where every little bit counts.

This way we decided to compare two systems with a similar price for the CPU + motherboard combo. Athlon II X2 240e is coming with a suggested price of USD 77 and Athlon II X3 435 is coming with a suggested price of USD 87. Since the motherboard we picked (Biostar TA785GE 128 M) costs USD 80, we have a total budget of USD 157 for finding a competitor for Athlon II X2 240e and USD 167 for Athlon II X3 435.

Since we were using a motherboard with integrated graphics, we had to pick a similar product on the Intel side, and we ended up choosing Intel DG45ID motherboard (based on the Intel G45 chipset). Since Intel DG45ID motherboard costs USD 99.99, this left us with a budget of USD 57 for finding a competitor to Athlon II X2 240e and USD 67 for finding a competitor to Athlon II X3 435.

Finding a competitor to Athlon II X3 435 was easy: we bought a Pentium E5200 (2.5 GHz, a.k.a. Pentium Dual-Core), which cost us USD 68. But finding the correct competitor to Athlon II X2 240e was a little bit hard, because there is no Intel CPU on the USD 57 range. The closest CPUs to this budget are Celeron E3200 (2.4 GHz) at USD 53 and Celeron E3300 (2.5 GHz) at USD 64. So we decided to pick Celeron E3200 (2.4 GHz) as a competitor to Athlon II X2 240e, even though it was not a “perfect” match.

In this review we are also going to include Athlon II X4 620 (2.6 GHz) and its main competitor, Pentium E6300 (2.8 GHz).

Now we had systems with comparable costs, since memories, hard drive, etc were the same. But there was still one important detail. For several of the tests – especially gaming – we were going to rely on the motherboard integrated video, meaning that in fact we were going to measure the motherboard video performance, not the CPU performance.

To overcome this issue, we decided to perform two tests with each CPU: first with the on-board video, and then disabling the on-board video and installing a mid-range video card (a GeForce 9600 GT was chosen for this task). This way we could easily simulate the scenario where the user installed these CPUs with a “real” video card, allowing us to compare the performance exclusively from the CPU, not putting the motherboard performance into the equation. It is important to note that under this scenario we were still comparing two systems with practically the same price, when comparing an AMD CPU to its Intel competitor.

This way this will be a very interesting review were we will cover both scenarios: users using on-board video and users using a “real” video card.

Before going to our results, let’s compare the main specs from the CPUs included in this review.

Main Specs

Architecture-wise the main difference between the CPUs from AMD and their Intel counterparts is the presence of an integrated memory controller that supports both DDR2 and DDR3 memories on AMD processors. Memory support on Pentium and Celeron CPUs depends on the chipset. Since Intel G45 chipset only supports DDR2 up to 800 MHz, we used the same DDR2-800 modules with all CPUs, this way the memory modules wouldn’t bias the results.

All CPUs included don’t support the SSE4 instruction set. AMD CPUs have AMD’s own implementation of SSE4 called “SSE4a,” which has only four instructions and is not the same thing as SSE4 (which has a total of 54 instructions, 47 on SSE4.1 and seven on SSE4.2).

In the table below there is a column called “external bus.” For the AMD CPUs this means the speed of the HyperTransport bus, which on the reviewed CPUs works at 2,000 MHz, which translates in a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 8,000 MB/s (2,000 MHz x 16 bits x 2 data per clock cycle / 8). On Intel CPUs the external bus is called front side bus (FSB) and depending on the CPU can work at 200 MHz or at 266.6 MHz transferring four 64-bit data per clock cycle. Because of that, this bus is also referred as “800 MHz” (4x 200 MHz) or “1,066 MHz” (4x 266.6 MHz). This is equivalent of a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 6,400 MB/s (200 MHz x 64 bits x 4 data per clock cycle / 8) or 8,533 MB/s (266.6 MHz x 64 bits x 4 data per clock cycle / 8), respectively.

You may have noticed the letter “e” on the new Athlon II X2 CPU. This letter indicates that this CPU is a low-wattage model, dissipating only 45 W.

CPU

Cores

Internal Clock

External Bus

Core

Tech.

TDP

Socket

SSE4

Price

Athlon II X2 240e

2

2.8 GHz

8 GB/s

Regor

45 nm

45 W

AM3

SSE4a

USD 77

Athlon II X3 435

3

2.9 GHz

8 GB/s

Rana

45 nm

95 W

AM3

SSE4a

USD 87

Athlon II X4 620

4

2.6 GHz

8 GB/s

Propus

45 nm

95 W

AM3

SSE4a

USD 100

Celeron E3200

2

2.4 GHz

6.4 GB/s

Wolfdale

45 nm

65 W

775

No

USD 53

Pentium E5200

2

2.5 GHz

6.4 GB/s

Wolfdale

45 nm

65 W

775

No

USD 68

Pentium E6300

2

2.8 GHz

8.5 GB/s

Wolfdale

45 nm

65 W

775

No

USD 86

TDP stands for Thermal Design Power which advises the user of the maximum amount of heat the CPU can dissipate. The CPU cooler must be capable of dissipating at least this amount of heat.

The prices listed were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review (the prices for Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 are the suggested prices set by AMD, since we got the CPUs before they were launched).

CPU

L1 Cache

L2 Cache

L3 Cache

Athlon II X2 240e

64 KB + 64 KB per core

512 KB per core

No

Athlon II X3 435

64 KB + 64 KB per core

512 KB per core

No

Athlon II X4 620

64 KB + 64 KB per core

512 KB per core

No

Celeron E3200

32 KB + 32 KB per core

1 MB total

No

Pentium E5200

32 KB + 32 KB per core

2 MB total

No

Pentium E6300

32 KB + 32 KB per core

2 MB total

No

Now that you know the contenders, let’s see how they performed.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the CPU being tested and the motherboard, which had to be replaced to match the different CPU sockets.

Hardware Configuration

Operating System Configuration

Driver Versions

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage simulates the use of real-world applications and gives scores for the following categories:

For a detailed description of each one of these tests, please download and read the PCMark Vantage Reviewer’s Guide.

You can see the results for each category below. We are not going to compare the results for the Memories and HDD suites.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

Comparing the results achieved using the on-board video, Athlon II X2 240e achieved a score 9.56% higher than its competitor, Celeron E3200. Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 27.02% higher than its competitor, Pentium E5200. In fact, due to its higher clock, Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 4.00% higher than Athlon II X4 620, achieving a score 20.56% higher than Athlon II X2 240 and 13.45% higher than Pentium E6300.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT the performance difference increased, with Athlon II X2 240e achieving a score 17.90% higher than its competitor, Celeron E3200, and with Athlon II X3 435 achieving a score 30.37% higher than its competitor, Pentium E5200. This CPU achieved a performance 14.79% higher than Athlon II X2 240e and 11.47% higher than Pentium E6300, achieving the same performance level as Athlon II X4 620.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On the TV and Movies benchmark with all systems using their on-board video, Intel CPUs were faster: Celeron E3200 achieved a performance level 3.99% higher than Athlon II X2 240e, and Pentium E5200 achieved a performance level 9.57% higher than Athlon II X3 435.

However this situation reversed when we installed a GeForce 9600 GT, because the performance from Intel CPUs didn’t increase, differently from what happened with the AMD CPUs. Under this scenario Athlon II X2 240e achieved a performance 8.43% higher than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 achieved a performance 28.62% higher than Pentium E5200.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On the Gaming set with the on-board video enabled, Athlon II X2 240e was 25.39% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 28.61% faster than Pentium E5200. It is important to keep in mind that what we are measuring here is mostly the performance of the on-board video (AMD785G vs. Intel G45). The true CPU performance can only be measured with a “real” video card installed.

When we installed our GeForce 9600 GT Athlon II 240e was 15.52% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 24.64% faster than Pentium E5200.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On the Music benchmark with the on-board video enabled Athlon II X2 240e achieved a performance 4.06% higher than Celeron E3200, while Athlon II X3 435 achieved the same performance level as Pentium E5200.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT Athlon II X2 240e achieved a score 16.10% higher than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 3.56% higher than Pentium E5200.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On the Communications tests with on-board video enabled Celeron E3200 achieved a performance 4.42% higher than Athlon II X2 240e, while Athlon II X3 435 achieved a performance level 32.36% higher than Pentium E5200.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT Athlon II X2 240e achieved a score 3.37% higher than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 28.33% higher than Pentium E5200.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

And finally on the Productivity benchmark Athlon II X2 240e achieved a score 37.95% higher than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 19.89% higher than Pentium E5200.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT Athlon II X2 240e achieved a score 12.68% higher than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 27.47% higher than Pentium E5200.

VirtualDub + DivX

With VirtualDub we converted a full-length DVD movie to DivX format and saw how long it took for this conversion to be completed. The DivX codec is capable of recognizing and using not only more than one CPU (i.e., more than one core), but also the SSE4 instruction set (feature not available on the reviewed CPUs).

The movie we chose to convert was Star Trek – The Motion Picture: Director’s Cut. We copied the movie to our hard disk drive with no compression, so the final original file on our HDD was 6.79 GB. After compressing it with DivX, the final file was only 767.40 MB, which is quite remarkable.

The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the better.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On DivX encoding using the on-board video Athlon II X2 240e was 18.34% faster than Celeron E3200. Athlon II X3 435 was 24.61% faster than Pentium E5200, 21.62% faster than Pentium E6300 and 13.72% faster than Athlon II X2 240e. Athlon II X4 620 was 6.19% faster than Athlon II X3 435 and 19.06% faster than Athlon II X2 240e.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT performance increased less than 3% compared to the results taken with the on-board video, so we have to consider that there was no significant performance increase when we installed a “real” video.

Photoshop CS4

The best way to measure performance is by using real programs. The problem, though, is creating a methodology using real software that provides accurate results. For Photoshop CS4, there is a methodology created by the folks at GamingHeaven that is very accurate. Their script applies a series of 15 filters to a sample image, and we wrote down the time taken for each filter to run. At the end, we have the results for each individual filter and we simply added them up to have the total time taken to run the 15 filters from the GamingHeaven batch. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On Photoshop CS4, on the other hand, is Intel’s land. Here Celeron E3200 was 10.16% faster than Athlon II X2 240e and Pentium E5200 was 6.56% faster than Athlon II X3 435.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT performance increased less than 3% compared to the results taken with the on-board video, so we have to consider that there was no significant performance increase when we installed a “real” video.

After Effects CS4

After Effects is a very well-known program for video post-production that is used to add animation and visual effects in videos. To evaluate the performance of each CPU running this program, we ran a workload consisting of 25 compositions that applied several filters and effects to a variety of input file types such as PSD (Photoshop), AI (Illustrator), EPS, and TIF. After each filter was applied, the composition was rendered to an uncompressed AVI file with the same resolution as the input files. The results below are the time each CPU took to finish the whole batch, given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On After Effects CS4 Celeron E3200 was 16.01% faster than Athlon II X2 240e. Athlon II X3 435, on the other hand, was 11.70% faster than Pentium E5200. Athlon II X4 620 was 12.12% faster than Athlon II X3 435 and 38.09% faster than Athlon II X2 240e.

Once again installing a GeForce 9600 GT didn’t make any difference in performance.

WinRAR

We measured the time each CPU took to compress five high-resolution 48-bit uncompressed TIF images, each one with around 70 MB, to RAR format with the popular WinRAR application. The results below are given in seconds, so the lower the number the better.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On file compression using WinRAR Athlon II X2 240e was 5.64% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 5.43% faster than Pentium E5200 using on-board video.

With a GeForce 9600 GT installed, Athlon II X2 240e was 7.71% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 4.60% faster than Pentium E5200.

Cinebench 10

Cinebench 10 is based on the 3D software, Cinema 4d. It is very useful to measure the performance gain given by having more than one CPU installed on the system when rendering heavy 3D images. Rendering is one area in which having more than one CPU helps considerably, because usually, rendering software recognizes several CPUs. (Cinebench, for instance, can use up to 16 CPUs.)

Since we were interested in measuring the rendering performance, we ran the test called “Rendering x CPUs,” which renders a “heavy” sample image using all available CPUs (or cores – either real or virtual, as on CPUs with Hyper-Threading technology, each core is recognized as two cores by the operating system) to speed up the process.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On Cinebench Athlon II X2 240e was 4.83% faster than Celeron E3200, with Athlon II X3 435 being 30.05% faster than Pentium E5200 – we can clearly see the difference of having an extra processing core can make if you run a program able to use it. Athlon II X3 435 was also 17.32% faster than Pentium E6300 and 37.04% faster than Athlon II X2 240e.

Installing a GeForce 9600 GT didn’t make any difference on the results.

3DMark06 Professional

3DMark06 measures Shader 3.0 (i.e., DirectX 9.0c) performance. We ran this software under its default configuration. The results you can see below.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

Using the on-board video the three AMD CPUs achieved similar performance among them. Athlon II X2 240e + AMD785G was 66.90% faster than Celeron E3200 + Intel G45 and Athlon II X3 435 + AMD785G was 51.08% faster than Pentium E5200 + Intel G45 for DirectX 9.0c gaming.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT to measure the performance of the CPU alone, Athlon II X2 240e was 8.18% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 9.84% faster than Pentium E5200.

3DMark Vantage Professional

3DMark Vantage measures Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) gaming performance. First we tried to run this program under the “Entry” profile with the motherboard on-board video enabled. Only AMD785G could run this program; Intel G45 could not run 3DMark Vantage even on the “Entry” profile selected. This is old news in the industry: while officially Intel G45 is labeled as being a DirectX 10 part, in fact it can’t run DirectX 10 games or simulations.

The numbers you see below are the results running the “Performance” profile with the GeForce 9600 GT installed.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

Under the “Performance” profile from 3DMark Vantage with a GeForce 9600 GT installed Athlon II X2 240e was 24.95% faster than Celeron E3200, but all other CPUs achieved the same performance level.

 

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

 

Comparing exclusively the CPU benchmark results from 3DMark Vantage, Athlon II X2 240e achieved a score 6.68% higher than Celeron E3200, while Athlon II X3 435 achieved a score 12.47% higher than Pentium E5200.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Half-Life 2 is a popular franchise and we benchmarked the video cards using Episode Two with the aid of HOC Half-Life 2 Episode Two benchmarking utility using the “HOC Demo 1” provided by this program. We ran the game under 1024x768 with no anti-aliasing and bilinear filtering, i.e., using the lowest image quality possible. The results, given in frames per second, you see below.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

Here Athlon II X2 240e + AMD785G was 138.24% faster than Celeron E3200 + Intel G45 and Athlon II X3 435 + AMD785G was 97.54% faster than Pentium E5200 + Intel G45.

Of course these numbers represent the performance of the motherboard, not the CPU.

When we installed a GeForce 9600 GT Athlon II X2 240e was 37.84% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 15.03% faster than Pentium E5200.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is based on the same engine used by The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and it is a DirectX 9.0c (Shader 3.0) game. To measure performance, we used the FRAPS utility running an outdoor scene at God mode, running through enemy fire, triggering post processing effects, and ending with a big explosion in front of Dupont Circle. First we tried to run this program at 1440x900 with all image quality settings at “low” with the motherboard on-board video enabled. Only AMD785G could run this program; Intel G45 could not run Fallout 3. Then we installed a GeForce 9600 GT and ran this program with image quality set to “high.” The results for this scenario are presented below.

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 CPU Review

On Fallout 3 with a GeForce 9600 GT installed all three CPUs from AMD achieved similar performance. Athlon II X2 240e was 16.34% faster than Celeron E3200 and Athlon II X3 435 was 8.70% faster than Pentium E5200.

Conclusions

Athlon II X2 240e and Athlon II X3 435 are faster than similar-priced CPUs from Intel (with two exceptions, on Photoshop CS4 Intel CPUs were a little bit faster and on After Effects Celeron E3200 was 16% faster than Athlon II X2 240e, but Athlon II X3 435 was 12% faster than Pentium E5200).

Athlon II X3 435 costs only USD 10 more than Athlon II 240e and its extra performance is worth well over USD 10 if you will eventually run programs that benefit from having an additional CPU processing core available, such as 3D modeling and video conversion.

Although on-board video is not the best platform for running games, with AMD785G you can at least run them to see how they look like. With Intel G45 we couldn’t even run 3DMark Vantage and Fallout 3. And on Half-Life 2: Episode Two AMD785G was two times faster than Intel G45. Installing a GeForce 9600 GT to analyze only the CPU performance taking the motherboard out of the equation, these new entry-level CPUs from AMD proved to be faster than their Intel counterparts.

So while AMD may not have the lead on high-end CPUs nowadays with these new releases AMD will certainly be the queen of the price/performance and cost/benefit ratios on the entry-level arena.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Athlon-II-X2-240e-and-Athlon-II-X3-435-CPU-Review/843


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