AMD Athlon II X2 250 Processor Review


So surely enough, our Core 2 Duo E8400 3.00GHz processor outpaced the AMD Athlon II X2 250 across the board in a rather landslide victory. There is more to the results than it seems though. Baring in mind that the SuperPi 1M results are considered as a bit of an outline, once excluded the end result is that the Core 2 Duo E8400 was, 12% faster in synthetic benchmarks, 14% in our choice of games and hence was 13% faster overall. Do note that I've been careful to not consider the overclocked performance of our AMD Athlon II processor as we all know very well that it's unfair to compare an overclocked unit to another that's operating at it's reference clock speeds and what's more is that an E8400 can be overclocked as well and it can be safely said that 4.0GHz and over is usually the norm for the 45nm Wolfdale core anyway.
Now here comes value for money. With a £60 difference in price between the Athlon II X2 250 and Core 2 Duo E8400 processors, the Intel processor will offer you approximately 13% more performance on average depending on what applications you use. Does that sound right to you? It certainly doesn't to me and if you're someone who does not care much for overclocking then the extra amount of money spent on the E8400 goes completely unanswered for. To top it off, over the next year we will see the end of LGA775 processor production and LGA1156 will be taking over. Socket AM3 on the other hand is expected to see multiple processor releases and new motherboards right into 2011, although there is no confirmation as to the backwards compatibility of AMD's next architecture which is expected around then. To summarise this side of the argument, the Athlon II is no slouch, it's priced at less than half of the E8400 and is backed with a choice of solid platforms that offer at least some promise for future processor support. End of story? Well, not quite.
What if you are a keen overclocker? Is this still the budget processor for you? The answer to this question is not quite as clear as the previous scenario. Sure, we saw a very healthy 30% clock speed increase with our X2 250 which resulted in very good performance gains but it shouldn't be forgotten that overclocking non black edition processors involves a strong dependance on the quality of the motherboard. Thankfully our Gigabyte MA770T UD3P quite effortlessly made it to a Base HTT Frequency of 260MHz allowing for the overclock that we achieved but your mileage may vary. Then comes the matter of it's lack of Level 3 cache. As we don't have a Phenom II Processor to compare it with, it remains to be seen how much of a difference the lost cache makes but common sense would assume that it wouldn't be useless. Also it is worth mentioning that the Regor core unlike Callisto (Phenom II Dual) and Heka (Phenom II Tri) is a native dual core. The implication of this is that there are no "extra" cores that can be unlocked via SB710/SB750 Southbridge's Advanced Clock Calibration function. Really, the Athlon II doesn't offer anywhere near the level of customisation and tweaking ability that the Phenom II processors offer and for just an extra £18, a Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition is 100MHz faster, sports 6mb Level 3 cache, unlocked processor multipliers and has a reasonably high success rate of unlocking into a fully fledged Quad Core when paired with a motherboard with a SB710/SB750 Southbridge like the Gigabyte MA770T UD3P that we used. I don't mean to put a downer on this product as it truly does perform remarkably well straight out of the box but this is far from the best choice for the overclocker. It is indeed nearly £20 more affordable than the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition but frankly, it's well worth chasing the ice cream van a little less frequently to save up!
So to wrap this review up, here's the final verdict. If you're building a bang per buck system that needs to perform well straight out of the box then this is a fantastic processor, performing within inches of the E8400 and the savings incurred all you to buy a motherboard to actually use it. If the idea is to save even more money, it could well be an option to opt for it's slower brother, the Athlon II X2 240 built upon the same foundations, 200MHz slower but £13 cheaper. If however overclocking is part of the plan, while this processor is no slow coach, there are better choices to be had including the more expensive Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition or if future upgradability is less of a concern, the Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200 and E6300.
All in all, an excellent replacement for the aging AMD Athlon 64 X2 range with an excellent price tag and performance to boot. Good work, AMD.
The Good
- The Price
- The Performance
- Low operating temperatures
- Respectable Overclocking Yield for it's processor type.
The Mediocre
- Not the best choice for the keen overclocker
- Lack of Level 3 Cache
The Bad
Thanks to AMD for sending the Athlon II X2 250 in for review. Discuss this review in our forums.
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Most Recent Comments

29-08-2009, 06:48:44

Much cheaper than the 8400 but still just pipped to the post in benches. Makes me wonder if its FSB related though. Nice clock for a cheap chip though Quote

29-08-2009, 06:49:49

Good review comparison.

I think this Athlon is very good value for the weight it's punching at.Quote

29-08-2009, 07:54:16

Nice review. Great value for money.

Its a CPU like this that I think I'll put in that new Linux box for the parents.Quote

30-08-2009, 08:58:58

Originally Posted by name='tinytomlogan'
Much cheaper than the 8400 but still just pipped to the post in benches. Makes me wonder if its FSB related though. Nice clock for a cheap chip though
You are indeed onto something there. While higher HTT Base Clocks or even the HTT Link Speed has little bearing on performance unless ran well under 1.0GHz, high Northbridge Frequencies, such as an increase from 2.0GHz to 2.60GHz makes a notable difference. Perhaps some official testing with regards to Northbridge Frequency would be an interesting read? Quote

01-09-2009, 14:38:31

For the price of a pentium 5200, I would be tempted to use one of these, especially if I was building a budget machine for a (non-overclocking) relative. It looks like a pretty good punch for its price, even if it is beaten by the 8400.Quote

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