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AMD Athlon 64 X2 Kuma Black Edition - Incredible Power for a Great Value

written by: Jesma•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/4/2009
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When you're shopping for a new CPU, the older Athlon 64 X2 tag might not seem all that eye-catching next to the Phenom x4 or core i7 offerings, but this particular little monster is definitely worth looking at if you are on any kind of a budget.

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    Overview

    Recently I finally decided to give in and perform some upgrades on my gaming computer. I didn't have much money to spend, and I knew that, at the very least, I wanted a new CPU and motherboard. The problem I faced was, of course, if I wanted the latest of anything it was going to put me well over my budget. Instead of steering towards the newest quad core bazillion GHz who-will-ever-use-this-much-power CPU, I examined my needs. Since I use the computer primarily for gaming, and 98% of games currently released and that will be released for at least the next year, can only recognize and use two cores, a four-core CPU not only meant extra money, it also meant waste. Instead, I looked at the dual-core offerings and discovered a 2.7GHz dual-core Black Edition CPU that can be overclocked as high as 3.4GHz per core for under $70.

    The other beautiful thing about the Kuma Black Edition is the fact that it is made for the AM2+ socket. Along those lines, I bought a higher end AM2+ motherboard with a view to inexpensively upgrading the CPU yet again once I have more money. As it stands, though, this CPU has proved to be such an incredible performer that any upgrade is well over a year away.

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    Performance Improvement

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    Prior to purchasing this CPU, I had been running with an Athlon 64 X2 @ 2GHz for around four years, and for the most part it suited my needs. In upgrading to the Kuma Black Edition and overclocking it up to 3GHz I gained an incredible performance increase. I immediately noticed all wait times (whether it was loading the operating system, a program, running scans, etc) were cut down by around 20%. Additionally, the whole system was shockingly more responsive, especially while running games. While the CPU upgrade didn't directly result in any sort of frames per second (FPS) boost in most games I play, I did notice that it handled multiple applications a lot more smoothly. I put it to the test by downloading and installing three programs simultaneously: AdAware, SpyBot, and AVG Antivirus (hey, I needed to update them anyhow), after which I ran scans on all three simultaneously - something I had frequently done with my old CPU. Whereas before during something like this I always saw CPU usage maxed out and the computer was pretty much useless for doing anything else on, the Kuma Black Edition handled the task with no sweat, never jumping far above 60% CPU usage, and managing to accomplish the task in far less time than I was accustomed to. Cool!

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    Overclock-ability

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    There is a distinct advantage to buying a "slower" CPU with unlocked multipliers, like the Kuma Black Edition. While it clocks in at a standard 2.7GHz, I have achieved successful overlocks of up to 3.4GHz per core and maintained them for an extended amount of time. Imagine if that was a 3.4GHz CPU at stock settings - it would have cost so much more! Overclocking was extremely easy, using a combination of simple BIOS settings and the very cool AMD OverDrive overclocking utility included with my motherboard (which can also be downloaded). While the 3.4GHz overclock spiked my temperatures a little past "comfort zone" (high 50's, Celsius) I reigned them in to a comfortable 35 Celsius running at 3.1GHz, under full load. Of course, I am also running liquid cooling so that might explain part of it.

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    Value per Dollar

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    The 2.7GHz Kuma Black Edition CPU isn't the fastest out there - not even close. But it does offer a truly staggering value-per-dollar. When I picked this CPU up for $73 and free shipping (woo-hoo!) I thought I was getting an incredible deal. Since then, the price has dropped to $67, then $65 from the same retailer. I have even seen it on other websites for as low as $55. For a solid, high performing CPU up for most challenges you can throw at it, that is a Black Edition with unlocked multipliers for massive overclocking potential, that runs in the newer AM2+ socket and only sets you back $50-60 (that's like, cheaper than dinner and a movie!) so how could you go wrong?