Overclocking AMD's Phenom II X3 720 BE

May 11, 2009 | 11:03

Tags: #720 #be #bios #black #budget #core #edition #enthusiast #guide #ii #motherboard #overclocking #performance #phenom #triple #x3

Companies: #amd #asus #msi

Power Consumption

When we test power consumption we consider it as a whole platform, so whether the CPU includes a memory controller or it's separate in the northbridge, this doesn't make a difference to what we measure at the wall and how much electricity is paid for. For this test we had disabled power saving devices in order to help maintain the high overclock, since disabling

Power Consumption (Idle)

Power at wall socket.

  • AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition (3x2.8GHz)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 (2x4.xxGHz)
  • AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition (3x3.7GHz)
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (4x3.5GHz)
  • 95
  • 128
  • 136
  • 144
0
25
50
75
100
125
150
Watts (lower is better)

There's a very uniform 8W between everything - the 45nm E7500, the 45nm 720 Black Edition and the 65nm Q6600. Overall, there's not a large difference between them when idling.

Power Consumption (Load)

Power at wall socket.

  • AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition (3x2.8GHz)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E7500 (2x4.xxGHz)
  • AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition (3x3.7GHz)
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (4x3.5GHz)
  • 161
  • 210
  • 228
  • 253
0
50
100
150
200
250
Watts (lower is better)

Under load the Q6600 yields a 25W increased power draw compared to the 720 Black Edition, which is then only 18W more power hungry than the E7500. It's actually quite surprising - we thought the Q6600 being the only 65nm CPU, and with 8MB of cache, would be far higher, and conversely, the E7500 with only 3MB of cache, a single die manufactured on Intel's 45nm High-K manufacturing process would again be much lower. While AMD could have been slammed for producing hot chips and not having 45nm High-K in its manufacturing arsenal, it seems that it doesn't really need it.

Conclusions

For starters, in total CPU overclock, the AMD still lags behind Intel. The Q6600 at 2.4GHz managed an extra 1.1GHz, whereas the E7500 at 2.93GHz overclocked an extra 1.27GHz. In contrast, we could only get an extra 900MHz from the 720 Black Edition. That's still 3.7GHz though, and it still has a large L3 cache and oodles more memory bandwidth in its elegant integrated memory controller design compared to the Core 2 CPUs (a fact which Intel conceded to with Core i7).

That said, the results are mixed. If you already own a Q6600, it wouldn't be an upgrade to go AMD triple core processor for a bit of extra MHz and DDR3. If you're wanting to upgrade from a fast dual core, the AMD 720 Black Edition shows a slight advantage in some of the latest games and multi-tasking compared to even the Intel quad core, but when it comes to very CPU intensive tasks like video encoding and rendering, the fourth core obviously stretches a lead. What AMD offers is evidently a pretty good balance between the two in terms of price performance - sometimes higher, sometimes lower.

The AMD setup does have its advantages though: the AM3 socket is brand new, DDR3 prices will continue to fall and eventually someone will make an AM3 motherboard for £100 that's a fantastic overclocker like the MSI. The CPU is the right price, it's just everything else has yet to follow. The Intel parts are propped up by years of LGA775 and FSB overclocking development, not to mention exceedingly cheap 4GB of DDR2, and as Intel's next generation Lynnfield/P55 approach, investing in a P45/LGA775 CPU is getting less and less attractive.

With that in mind, AMD has delivered some much needed competition, and if green is your colour, then for performance value, tri-core makes sense and the Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition is a great choice when paired with the right hardware.
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