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Processors with unlocked multipliers are sort of like the Holy Grail of overclocking. AMD’s Black Edition (BE) chips, similar to the Intel K series, offer this versatility to enthusiasts. Recently, AMD introduced several new processors and one of these is the Phenom II X2 560 BE. This is just a small increase in stock multiplier above the existing Phenom II X2 555 BE processor (16.5 vs. 16) and a small increase in price ($105 vs. $88), but the silicon should be stronger which should result in better overclocking and core unlocking.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with unlocked multipliers, it is another tool in the overclocker’s arsenal. The important distinction is that you can increase the multiplier, rather than just lower it as on typical processors. Without the ability to increase the multiplier, the only way to overclock is by increasing the FSB (Base Clock or HT Reference) which can put too much stress on other components. Having the ability to tweak both the multiplier and the FSB gives overclockers much more control and flexibility.
- Product Name: Phenom II™ X2 560 Black Edition Processor
- Model Number & Core Frequency: X2 560 / 3.3GHz
- OPN: HDZ560WFK2DGM
- L1 Cache Sizes: 64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (256KB total L1 per processor)
- L2 Cache Sizes: 512KB of L2 data cache per core (1MB total L2 per processor)
- L3 Cache Size: 6MB (shared)
- Total Cache (L2+L3): 7MB
- Memory Controller Type: Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller *
- Memory Controller Speed: Up to 2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management
- Memory Supported: Unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)
- HyperTransport 3.0 Specification: One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)
- Total Processor-to-System Bandwidth: Up to 37.3GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 21.3 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR3-1333) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)] or up to 33.1GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 17.1 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR2-1066) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]
- Packaging: Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA)
- Fab. location: GLOBALFOUNDARIES Fab 1 module 1 in Dresden, Germany (formerly AMD Fab 36)
- Process Technology: 45-nanometer DSL SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology
- Approximate Die Size: 258mm2
- Approximate Transistor count: 758 million
- Max TDP: 80 Watts
- AMD Codename: “Calisto”
*Note: configurable for dual 64-bit channels for simultaneous read/writes
Let’s compare that to the 555:
- Frequency: 3.2GHz (16*200 MHz)
- Total L2 Cache: 1MB
- Packaging: Socket AM3
- Thermal Design Power: 80W
- Process Technology: 45nm SOI
The processors are essentially the same except for the stock multiplier. Like the 555 and other Phenom II X2 processors they are the same exact die as the X4 chips but with two of the cores deactivated. They are binned down, which means the two other cores were not strong enough to run at stock specs but does not mean they will not work at all. This is great news for enthusiasts: with certain motherboards like the Biostar TA890FXE used in this review, you can enable the two hidden cores and hopefully (with a little more voltage supplied to the processor) have yourself a quad core (X4) processor for the price of an dual core (X2). Similarly, the stock multiplier bump to 16.5 could mean that these 560’s are better silicon than the 555’s, which could hint at better overclocking performance.
Marketing can often be deceiving, but benchmarks never lie… or something like that. At any rate, I have put this 560 through several hours of torture to see what it is really capable of. I’ll be using the same Biostar TA890FXE that I previously reviewed which will allow me to compare the numbers this processor achieves to those of the Athlon II X4 640. I’d have liked to see directly how this does compared to the 555, but unfortunately I don’t have one at my disposal. I’ve used the numbers from HWBot for a frame of reference. There is much more diversity in the hardware used in the HWBot database, so ther numbers aren’t directly comparable but will still give a good idea of relative performance.
HWBot data for the Phenom II X2 555 BE:
- Single Task: Average Super Pi 1M – 16.703 s
- Multitasking: Average wPrime 32M – 15.124 s
- Average Overclock (MHz): 2x 3200 (4531)
The table data is from all submissions with all types of cooling, including dry ice and liquid nitrogen, but the averages shouldn’t be too far off from what is possible on air. Filtering the data a little, I found the maximum overclock with air cooling was 4630 MHz with 1.62 V. Knowing that, the 4531 MHz average listed above looks achievable.
- Processor: AMD Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition
- Motherboard: Biostar TA890FXE
- Memory: G.Skill 2x 1 GB DDR3-2000 Trident
- Power Supply: NZXT HALE90 850 W
- Heat sink: Zalman CNPS-9900
When overclocking this chip, I was able to reach a maximum overclock of 4300 MHz, which is just shy of my goal of 4500 MHz. When running tests, I was only able to complete them all at a maximum of 4133 MHz. I was able to pass a 1 hour test of OCCT at that speed, but did not have time to test if that was 4 hour Prime 95 stable. I was also able to reach a maximum HT Reference of 290 MHz, which is higher than I was able to achieve when running the Athlon II X4 640. What’s even more exciting is that I was able to unlock to 4 cores and run 10 minutes of Prime95 at 4 GHz (20 x 200 MHz). This is impressive to me since I borrowed a Phenom II X2 555 to test the unlock feature when I first reviewed the Biostar TA890FXE but I could not get that processor stable with 4 cores even at stock speed.
People use their computers for several reasons, many of which can benefit from increased performance. Synthetic benchmarks try to emulate the real world performance but it doesn’t always translate perfectly. At the same time, rendering benchmarks like Cinebench are much better at showing actual performance for the task they are designed to simulate. Screen shots with stock scores are included in the gallery at the end of the article.
Additionally, we have the results that matter to competitive overclockers: SuperPi, PiFast, wPrime, and 3DMark. These may translate in to real world performance, but the boints (bot points on HWBot) matter so much more! The Athlon II X4 tests were run at different speeds according to what settings would allow the processor to pass the test. I pulled the numbers straight from my Biostar TA890FXE review, so check that out for more details.
The Phenom II X2 560 BE is a welcome addition to the Black Edition family and is a normal product refresh. It doesn’t overclock particularly better than the 555, but the silicon is a little more stable allowing you to essentially have a Phenom II X4 on the cheap. Considering the 560 retails around $105 and the X4 970 retails around $185, this is a perfect example of where overclocking gets more value for your dollar. If you want a fantastic overclocking chip, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but this processor certainly holds it’s own and shouldn’t be completely overlooked.