Pros: Better performance than Intel in multithreaded apps; Affordable; Good upgrade for AM2 motherboards.
Cons: High power consumption; Each core is slower than Intel’s.
Bottomline: Triple cores break the CPU mould a bit.
With the introduction of B3 stepping (Phenom 9050) quad cores, which don’t have the translation lookaside buffer (TLB) bug that dogged the original Phenoms, AMD also introduced the X4 moniker, making way for triple-core Phenoms to get the obvious X3 name.
Phenom triple-cores are essentially quad-cores with one faulty core, a common problem for CPU makers, but AMD is selling faulty quad cores as perfectly good triple cores. We’ve tested the fastest triple core, an X3 8750 running at 2.4GHz with a 3.6GHz (full duplex) Hypertransport 3 link. We successfully overclocked it to 2.8GHz, so it offers much better overclocking than early Phenom 9000 chips.
The X3 8750 has a thermal design point of 95W, the same as a Phenom 9600 Black Box edition. Ilde power consumption was 2W more than the Phenom 9600 running at 2.4GHz, but that’s within the margin for error and means triple-core CPUs have identical idle power draw to quad-core Phenoms. The X3 8750’s pre-order pricing is around the same as 2.66GHz E6750s and new 2.66GHz E8200s.
The 45nm E8200 is a bit faster than the 65nm E6750 and both these Intel dual-cores are faster than the 8750 in Cinebench’s single-core tests and PCmark05’s CPU test, but are slower in 3Dmark06’s CPU tests and multi-threaded Cinebench tests. Essentially one Intel core is faster than one AMD core, but three AMD cores for the price of two Intel ones is an easier sell.
However, we struggle to name many consumer applications that can use more than two cores, so a 2.66GHz Intel chip will suit most. If you’re into 3D rende ring then AMD’s triple core makes sense. At the very least, AMD is beginning to be competitive in the mid-range.