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AMD Triple Core Athlon Looks Good!

written by: Debasis Das•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 11/30/2009

Recently there was some buzz in the technical media about AMD releasing a sub-$90 triple core processor as an extension to its Athlon II range. This would literally mean getting triple-core performance for the price of a dual-core. Intrigued, I decided to find out more.

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    The announcement came in the second half of October. AMD was releasing a new line of AMD Athlon II processors. These would be triple-core and called the AMD Athlon II X3, to fit snugly between the dual-core X2 and 4-core X4. The actual release of the new processor took place on October 22, 2009 so as to coincide with the release of Windows 7. The buzz was true, there were two triple-core variants, the 435 priced in the higher $80s and the 425 which is priced in the mid-$70s. The difference between the two variants is that the 425 runs at 2.2-GHz and the 435 runs at 2.9-GHz. Essentially, this means that there’s a triple-core variant that will beat the price of Intel's similarly clocked dual cores.

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    The Good

    Obviously, a third core allows for some additional flexibility and parallelism as far as running programs is concerned. Heavy, long-term programs (such as the Anti-Virus, Disk Defragmenter – granted, which not many people use these days, or say a heavy download) can be tied to one core, still leaving you with dual-core performance. Who wouldn’t want that convenience? In a sense, it is also a compromise. There are probably desktop users out there who need better than dual-core performance, yet find 4-core may be a little too much. For them, this is the solution.

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    The Bad

    The first thing that jumps out at you is the rated 95W power consumption. This is ok for the Desktop market, but still considering these days of “green” living, it may mean that you would want to shut the computer off every now and then as a favor to your fellow citizens and posterity.

    Although 3-cores are distinctly better than 2, and will make the system feel considerably breezier, due to the relatively low clock frequency (by today’s standards), it will probably be relegated to an entry-level market, not really suited to power users or those that need great performance on graphics/video-editing packages, or heavy duty gaming. They are better off going for a 4-core option. (But one should remember that with the Phenoms there was news floating around on the Web that the triple-core variants could be unlocked to make them 4-core; Ilya Gavrichenkov over at X-bit has managed to do this with the 2.9-GHz 435 variant.)

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    Ilya Gavrichenkov also reports on the experiences with over-clocking.He managed to over-clock to 3.7-GHz with the 435 variant, a more than 25% improvement.

    Not that it’s performance is bad in stock form. It easily outperforms any dual-core variants, and the performance improvement is well-worth the extra money. As mentioned before, it tends to slow down with video-editing, and has a fairly high power consumption. Apart from that, it can tend to slow down with other media editing applications (consider the Corel Suite or Adobe CS4 line-up). Thus, for more professional users, they might be better off getting the X4 (which is also available in a low power variant, by the way).

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    Although not for the power user or those doing professional media editing, the AMD Athlon II X3 triple core processors certainly are an excellent choice for a number of other users who rely on their computer to do document processing (Office Suite and a bit more), email, watching streaming media and movies, decent gaming needs and so on. It is also timed to perfection in that Windows 7 will offer performance enhancements of its own, and the combination of the X3 and Windows 7 is sure to mean a serious run-for-money for dual-core processors, especially Intel’s entry level solutions