AMD Athlon X2 BE-2350 - Attacking the Power Efficiency Angle


Introduction

It's Not Just About the Speed Anymore

As far as the history of computing goes, speed and performance have always been the first thing on anyone's minds. "How fast is it?", "How much fps boost will it give me?", the questions are all the same. However, somewhere along the line in 2005, something happened. The pure performance metric just wasn't working anymore. As technology advanced and performance peaked, power and efficiency became the new buzzwords for the industry in place of clock speeds. Multi core processors promised overall performance improvements through the efficiency of multiple cores working on the same task to get the task done faster. Imagine you and your friend attempting to piece together a jigsaw puzzle. You do the top half and your friend does the bottom. You both effectively only need to complete half the puzzle each and overall, the puzzle is completed much faster.

To that end, both Intel and AMD have successfully introduced and entrenched multi core computing into the consumer space. However, multi core processors are still about performance. Though dual core processors tend to operate at lower frequencies than their single core counterparts, there are now two cores to power up and maintain. You've probably heard the phrase 'performance-per-watt' thrown about so much that your ears are bleeding, but the one factor of computing performance that still dodges real scrutiny is power efficiency, not performance efficiency.

Intel changed the face of the game when they launched their Core 2 Duo processors in 2006 based on a whole new microarchitecture, simply called 'Core'. Intel merged advanced power saving technologies from their notebook architecture into the desktop. With the Core 2 Duo, Intel brought the average TDP (Thermal Design Power) of its entire range down to 65W. This is compared to the 89-125W TDP of AMD's Athlon 64 X2 processors based on the 90nm 'Windsor' design and Intel's own 95-130W furnaces that were the Preslers (Pentium D 9xx series).

Now, it is important to note that AMD did have energy efficient models of their Windsor-based Athlon 64 X2 processors with 65W TDP as well as the special 3800+ SFF edition, which had a TDP of only 35W. However, it was only available in extremely limited quantity, making it more of an urban legend in the retail chains than an actual product with sustainable quantities.

Over the following months of Intel's Core 2 Duo launch, AMD quietly introduced their Brisbane cores, an update to the Athlon 64 X2 family moving from a 90nm manufacturing process to 65nm and standardizing its TDP to 65W as well, bringing Intel and AMD back on the same page again as far as TDP goes. Intel's Core 2 Duo processors were still the better processor overall and AMD resorted to a pricing game. If they couldn't beat Intel in performance, they can beat them in value. When an Athlon 64 X2 5000+ becomes more affordable than a Core 2 Duo E6300, the choices suddenly become blurred.

Now that AMD has the pricing advantage, the next step is to take thermals as well. On June 5th 2007, AMD added two new processors, namely the Athlon X2 BE-2300 and Athlon X2 BE-2350 into their line up with another Athlon X2 BE-2400 scheduled for an August refresh.

AMD Energy Efficient Dual Core Processor Details
Processor Model / Processor Characteristics Clock Speed L2 Cache Max TDP (W)  Price (US$) Availability
Athlon X2 BE-2300 1.90GHz 512KB x 2 45 $86 June 2007
Athlon X2 BE-2350 2.10GHz 512KB x 2 45 $91 June 2007
Athlon X2 BE-2400 2.30GHz 512KB x 2 45 TBA August 2007