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AMD Phenom II X2 560 Black Edition review

AMD Phenom II X2
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £78
inc VAT

If overclocking doesn’t interest you, then this is a great dual-core chip to base a budget PC around.

AMD’s dual-core Phenom II processors have always garnered a healthy respect from us for their balance of price and speed. The fastest version previously was the 3.2GHz X2 555, which has now been discontinued and superseded by this, the 3.3GHz X2 560. Unfortunately the price has risen slightly as well.

The architecture is identical to previous processors in the series. These are actually four core processors, with two cores disabled. Some motherboards have BIOS features, or even dedicated buttons, to try and unlock these extra cores. We’ve usually got an extra processing core using such methods, but had no luck this time on our test sample.

As a Phenom II processor, the X2 560 benefits from a large 6MB L3 cache, which lifts its benchmark scores well above that of equivalent Athlon chips in memory intensive applications. This may be an AM3 processor with DDR3 support, but it will also work in older AM2+ motherboards, just be sure to check yours for BIOS support first.

AMD Phenom II X2

Comparing this processor to the similarly-priced G6950, we can see that Intel’s 2.8GHz chip is slightly slower overall; most notably in single-threaded applications. However, its more modern architecture makes it quicker in multi-threaded tasks, like video encoding. These differences aren’t huge, however. The G6950 undoubtedly has more overclocking potential; even taking into account the X2 560’s unlocked multiplier.

If you’ve got a compatible AM2+ or AM3 board and want to upgrade, the X2 560 is a great choice for those who don’t need massive multi-core processing power – for this you should opt for a fully-fledged X4 chip. Those looking to build a new low-cost PC have a tougher choice. Motherboard prices for Intel chips have come down a lot, and are roughly equal to the current 800-series AM3 boards – though older AM3 boards can be found for around £10-15 less.

An equivalent dual-core AMD PC can be constructed for a little less than its Intel equivalent then. The Intel-based PC looks to have superior upgrade potential, with processors such as the excellent i5-760 (below) being available – though if you want this level of performance you should just buy it now, as it’s a false economy to pay for it later. Early next year, we expect to see Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor line with its non-backward compatible LGA 1155 socket – so you can’t expect any upgrades beyond the currently available LGA 1156 chips.

Considering all this, if you’re interested in overclocking your PC, then build your system around the G6950. Otherwise, plump for the X2 560, it’s a touch faster at stock speeds and you could save up to £15 by shopping around for a cut-price motherboard based on the older AMD 700-series chipsets.

Basic Specifications

Processor coreCallisto
Processor clock speed3.3GHz
Processor socketAM3
Processor process45nm
Processor number of corestwo
Processor supported instructionsN/A
Processor multiplierx16.5
Processor external bus200MHz (2GHz HyperTransport)
Level 1 cache2x 128KB
Level 2 cache2x 512KB
Processor level 3 cache6MB
Supported memory typeDDR3 1066/1333
Processor power rating (TDP)80W


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