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AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition 3.1 GHz Socket AM3 Processor Review

AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition 3.1 GHz Socket AM3 Processor Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: AMD's suggested retail price for the Phenom II X2 550 processor is a mere $103 USD ($110 CDN, £62 GBP), which positions it right between Intel's 2.6GHz E5300 processor and the Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz E7400 processor. This makes it both an inexpensive, easy upgrade for those looking to drop it into an existing socket AM2+ motherboard. The 3.1GHz clockspeed and potential overclocking headroom....
Filed under: CPU / Processors Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: AMD Jun 05 2009   Julian Apong  
Home > Reviews > CPU / Processors > AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition

AMD Overdrive 3.0 - Black Edition Memory Profiles

AMD Overdrive

AMD's gift to these brave performance daredevils is Overdrive 3.0, an updated version of its existing performance tuning and software overclocking suite that is designed to give unprecedented levels of control over system clocks and settings. When compared to similar solutions from Intel and NVIDIA, AMD Overdrive 3.0 has far more comprehensive controls, adjustments and options. It's a tool with enough depth that even advanced overclockers will want to use it, negating the need to trek through the BIOS and continually restart the system.

The performance control panel in AMD Overdrive 3.0. Fingertip overclocking of AMD processors, system memory and ATI videocards from one control panel.

Simple controls that automate most of the overclocking process are available to novice users; a basic slider will adjust performance from within the GUI. Using the slider, it was possible to increase the stock 16x multiplier of the Phenom II X4 550 Black Edition processor up to 16.5x, which essentially overclocked the processor from 3.1GHz up to 3.3GHz.

While this feature is made deliberately simplistic, it does provide a lot of feedback and information on which settings are being changed in order to improve performance. It's a good way to learn more about how your CPU and chipset function and what exactly goes on inside your system.

For advanced overclockers there are a lot more options to play with. AMD's Overdrive software can monitor voltages, CPU clock speeds, CPU multipliers, front side bus speeds, memory frequencies, PCI Express frequencies and even the core speed of the IGP and Sideport memory. There's also a separate page dedicated to memory that lists pretty much every timing option available. It would be nice to see some more built-in recommendations and ToolTips of what each RAM setting does, but as it stands the included help file at least gives a description of each variable. A built in benchmarking utility tests Integer Computation, Floating Point Computation, Memory Speed and Cache Speed, and then returns individual scores as well as a synthesized result from all four tests combined. It's not quite as exhaustive as what's possible with PCMark Vantage or SiSoft Sandra, but it provides a good indication of how much faster your system has become after overclocking.

The stability test stresses the CPU to see if there are any potential problems caused by overclocking too far. It's possible to test Floating Point Unit and Integer calculation separately for individual cores, as well as doing overall calculation tests and checking system registers. Once the system is being stress-tested, voltage draw and temperatures can be monitored using the status monitor window, which can read temperatures, processor utilization, as well as voltages for the separate cores of the processor.

BEMP

Black Edition Memory Profiles are a new feature to AMD Overdrive. It's AMD's way of getting the most out of high-performance DDR3 memory paired with, you guessed it, a Black Edition processor. Working in partnership with popular memory manufacturers, AMD has created an online database with presets for the fastest memory timings for high frequency memory modules.

BEMP works through AMD's Overdrive software. Supported AM3 motherboards can detect compatible memory and connect to the internet to download an XML profile with the appropriate memory timings - this means profiles can be rapidly updated, revised and included.

The entire system is similar to Intel's XMP, but could potentially be more versatile since it does not rely on the embedded SPD profile of the installed memory.

AMD's BEMP removes a lot of the guesswork of selecting balanced memory speeds and timings, resulting in a one-click solution that simply boosts performance.

The system was booted into Windows Vista, AMD Overdrive loaded up and the BEMP profile loaded. The PC restarted to lock in the new memory settings, and was then run through WinRar, Cinebench and PCMark Vantage's memory tests. BEMP was used to optimize memory settings, and we also compared similar memory speeds as configured in the BIOS by memory SPD settings, and with latencies manually configured to find out if PCSTATS could exceed the BEMP scores.


The BEMP setting, as downloaded from AMD for Corsair DDR3-1600 CAS9 memory.

Pre-set 'performance' settings are often very conservative, or not performance-tuned enough. It was important for us to find out if AMD's BEMP is A) actually useful and B) a time saver that offers up a better end result.

Memory Timings Performance Test vs. AMD BEMP Settings
AMD B.E.M.P. BIOS / SPD BIOS / SPD BIOS (Tuned)
Memory Speed
& CAS Latencies:
DDR3-1600
9-9-9-24-34-1T
DDR3-1600
11-11-11-30-41-1T
DDR3-1333
9-9-9-25-34-2T
DDR3-1333
7-7-7-20-27-1T
3DMark06: 15181 15078 15058 15081
CineBench: 10552 10530 10412 10535
Sandra 2009
Memory Bandwidth Int: (GB/s)
15.63 13.45 13.00 13.14
Sandra 2009
Memory Bandwidth Float: (GB/s)

15.60

13.46 12.96 13.2
Sandra 2009
Memory Latency (Random): (ns)
72 81 83 76
Sandra 2009
Memory Latency (Linear): (ns)

12

14 14 14

Fighting with the BIOS over memory timings is not fun... while it's possible to manually tune CAS values up to the levels that BEMP selects, it took a while for us to get the PC stable and to the point where performance exceeded the built-in memory profiles. While overall neither approach resulted in huge gains, it is free performance that's easy to unlock.

BEMP makes it easy to get memory working at its rated speeds, and does a better job than relying on the motherboard to auto-detect SPD settings which are indeed conservative and don't push things very far.

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Contents of Article: AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition
 Pg 1.  AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition 3.1 GHz Socket AM3 Processor Review
 Pg 2.  — AMD Overdrive 3.0 - Black Edition Memory Profiles
 Pg 3.  Overclocking, Power Draw and Test Specs
 Pg 4.  CPU System Benchmarks: SYSMark 2007, PCMark Vantage
 Pg 5.  CPU Synthetic Benchmarks: SiSoft Sandra Processor/Memory
 Pg 6.  CPU Calculation Benchmarks: Super Pi, wPrime2.0, ScienceMark2, WinRAR
 Pg 7.  CPU Rendering Benchmarks: Cinebench R10, Bibble 5
 Pg 8.  CPU Rendering Benchmarks: POV-Ray, 3.7, SPECviewPerf 10
 Pg 9.  CPU Synthetic Gaming Benchmarks: 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark 06
 Pg 10.  CPU Gaming Benchmarks: Crysis, FEAR
 Pg 11.  Best Dual-Core Chip for $110?

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