AMD Athlon 64 X2 “Black Edition” Processors
With all of the talk of quad core CPUs these days including AMD’s own Phenom just around the corner, it is no surprise that AMD’s latest X2 offerings have received little press. I’d wager a guess that most enthusiasts were not even aware of AMD’s latest ‘Black Edition’ processors hitting the retail shelves.
I’ll be the first to admit that news of another Brisbane and Windsor based processor being added to AMD’s lineup was not terribly exciting at first, but looking a little closer reveals that these are not just more run of the mill X2s. AMD has targeted the enthusiast crowd with the Black Edition processors. They come in an attractive package and while they are considered ‘Retail Box’ processors, there is no included heatsink and fan. AMD really wanted to keep costs down to an absolute minimum with these processors and therefore elected not to include something that will ultimately sit in someone’s drawer.
Aside from the unique packaging and great pricing, the Black Edition processors offer something that AMD has historically reserved only for the most elite (and expensive) processors in their lineup. That’s right, you guessed it, Black Edition processors are multiplier-unlocked just like the top-end FX series processors. This is music to an overclocker’s ears. We’ll explain what exactly this means a little bit later on.
Image courtesy of AMD.
At this time, there are only two ‘Black Edition’ or ‘Black Box Edition’ processors and they are fairly different from one another. Let’s take a look at the specifications:
As you can see, they are at almost opposite ends of the spectrum. The 6400+ is clearly the fastest processor in the X2 lineup at the time of writing this. It really pushes the limits of AMD’s 90nm SOI process at an impressive 3.2GHz. After seeing how little overclocking headroom my 3.0GHz X2 6000+ had, I honestly didn’t think we’d see another 90nm X2 push beyond the 3.0GHz mark. Unfortunately, an unlocked multiplier is really not terribly exciting on a top-end chip like the 6400+ simply because it likely has little left in it. The 5000+ X2 “Black Edition” is an entirely different animal, however. Clocking in at a much more ‘average’ 2.6GHz, there is a lot more to be gained from the unlocked multiplier. Although the 5000+ has half the L2 cache of the 6400+, it is produced using AMD’s newer 65nm SOI process and has a TDP (thermal design power) that is almost half that of the 6400+. Personally, I think the 5000+ “Black Edition” is a much more exciting processor—especially considering that it is retailing for a very reasonable $129. It is amazing that the vanilla 5000+ sold for over five hundred dollars when we first took a look at the AM2 processors back in May of 2006.
Unlocked for Greater Overclocking Flexibility
So what is so great about an unlocked multiplier? Well, for one, it makes overclocking incredibly easy. I won’t get too technical on the subject as the 754/939 overclocking guide I wrote a while ago goes deeply into it. Think of your CPU clock speed as a simple mathematical equation:
Reference Clock * CPU Multiplier = CPU Clock Speed
On all retail AMD processors with the exception of the Black Edition and FX series processors, you cannot increase your CPU multiplier beyond its default. You can lower it, but that will only decrease your CPU clock speed. If you cannot increase the CPU multiplier, you are forced to increase the reference clock. “So what is the big deal?” you might ask. The reference clock does not just impact your CPU clock speed but it is also tied to your HTT bus frequency and can even impact your memory clock speed. There are all sorts of extra considerations that have to be taken when increasing the reference clock.
The maximum attainable reference clock can also vary quite a bit from mainboard to mainboard. Some non-enthusiast boards simply are not designed to run an ‘out-of-spec’ reference clock. There are some mainboards that can barely budge above the default, while others can run over 100% higher like the DFI Infinity NF570-M2/G that we reviewed. The beauty of an unlocked CPU multiplier is that to overclock your CPU, you simply increase the multiplier. No other consideration is necessary. The reference frequency, memory frequency, HTT bus frequency and all other frequencies remain as if the CPU was at its default clock speed. Simply increase the multiplier and add extra vcore when needed. With every increase, you literally transform your 5000+ to a 5400+ to a 5600+ and so on. Simple.
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Black Edition
AMD sent us one of their new 5000+ Black Edition processors. Naturally, I was eager to get it cooking. Since the “Black Edition” does not include a heatsink, we opted to use SilverStone’s very capable Nitrogon NT06 that we had in the lab. I used the following test system:
- AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Black Edition
- DFI Infinity NF570-M2/G Mainboard
- 2x1024MB Buffalo FireStix PC2-6400
- SilverStone Nitrogon NT06 HSF with Scythe S-FLEX 1600RPM fan.
- BFG 8800GTS OC Video Card
- Western Digital WD3600AAKS 320GB SATA2 Hard Drive
- Pioneer DVR-108 IDE Optical Drive
- PC Power and Cooling 510 Express
- Lian-Li PC65B Case
I had no issues getting the DFI board to boot up with the 5000+. It was nice to see the rather low 1.3V default vcore. CPU-Z recognizes the processor as a Brisbane 5000+ but does not recognize the relatively new G2 revision.
Call me overconfident but I didn’t waste any time and immediately tried to boot with the 15x multiplier for a clock speed of 3.0GHz. It booted up without complaint and was Orthos stable. I didn’t even have to touch the vcore.
I was amazed just how cool these new Brisbanes run. No heavy-duty coolers are necessary with these chips. I can tell you that it runs significantly cooler than my 6000+ at 3.0GHz. The Nitrogon NT06 kept it nice and cool, even with an almost silent 1600RPM Scythe S-FLEX fan.
I got a BSOD at 3.2GHz (16×200) upon bootup at the default vcore but backing down the multiplier to 15.5 for a 3.1GHz clock was a success! 3.1GHz at 1.30V is just plain awesome. Again, the Nitrogon NT06 kept the chip running nice and cool. Unfortunately, it is a pretty steep voltage curve beyond 3.1GHz. Utilizing the 16x multiplier for 3.2GHz, I was able to maintain stability with a 0.075V increase at 1.375V.
3.2GHz is the sweet spot on this processor. Anything more, and the ‘law of diminishing returns’ start to apply. 3.3GHz was definitely attainable but 1.55V was required and temperature increased by about 12’C over 3.2GHz and 1.375V. I could boot into Windows without issue at 3.4GHz, but stability could not be maintained with any level of vcore. This ‘wall’ is pretty common with K8 based AMD processors—they simply don’t scale terribly well with voltage. At any rate, 3.2GHz with a reasonably small bump in vcore is an impressive 600MHz overclock.
I know full well that my DFI Infinity NF570-M2/G is a great overclocking board. I was able to achieve an impressive 418MHz reference clock speed with a low 8x multiplier. I wanted to see if I could achieve the same 3.2GHz overclock at the same level of vcore using the default multiplier of 13. As you can see, the DFI board had no issue at 13x247MHz. There are many boards out there that would indeed have an issue with a 50MHz reference clock increase, so it is nice to have the option.
The AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ “Black Edition” is a nice gift from AMD to the enthusiast community. An unlocked CPU multiplier and lots of overclocking headroom make this an awesome value at only $130. For those who already own a lower end AM2 processor, this would be an excellent drop-in replacement for a nice performance boost. As an added benefit the Brisbane based 5000+ runs very cool and does not need a high end HSF to overclock it. Thanks to the unlocked multiplier, you don’t need a sophisticated mainboard to overclock it either.
A special thanks goes out to AMD for providing us with this sample and for their continued support of this and other tech communities across the web.