AMD Phenom II X2 555 review

Price when reviewed

For now AMD can’t match the 32nm technology found in Intel’s Core i3 and Core i5 range, but it seems happy to keep on producing variations of its 45nm Phenom II core. Presumably, the idea is to stay competitive by letting customers buy only the features and performance they need.

AMD Phenom II X2 555 review

Hence this new dual-core Phenom II running at 3.2GHz, which in our tests powered a 2GB Vista system to an overall benchmark score of 1.64. That’s precisely on par with Intel’s 3.06GHz Core i3-540; but the individual exercises revealed strengths and weaknesses.

AMD’s biggest victory came in the Office tests, where the X2 555’s score of 1.62 significantly exceeded the Core i3’s 1.35. We suspect this is down to the Phenom’s larger caches; the i3 has just 512KB of L2 and 4MB of L3.

When it came to number-crunching tasks, the i3 pulled ahead. In the 2D graphics test it scored 1.80 against the Phenom’s 1.71, and managed 1.62 in our encoding tests while the X2 555 dropped back to 1.39. The closest battle was the multitasking test, in which the Phenom nosed ahead by 1.84 to 1.80 – a surprising result, as the i3-540 uses Hyper-Threading to expose twice as many processing cores as the Phenom.

The Phenom trails a little in power consumption: we’ve seen systems based on Intel’s 32nm processors idle at less than 40W and peak at around 80W. AMD’s chip, partnered with an 890GX chipset motherboard with an integrated ATI Radeon 4290 GPU, idled at 55W in Windows’ Power saver mode and hit 110W under heavy load in High performance mode.

But if the X2 555 can’t quite take the crown for efficiency, it’s well ahead of Intel’s parts for value. While a Core i3-540 costs around £90 exc VAT, the Phenom can be had for just £66. AM3 motherboards are cheaper than LGA 1156 models, especially if you already have a graphics card, and those savings should more than mitigate the extra wattage.

So, while it’s easy to dismiss the Phenom II X2 555 as last year’s technology, it would be a mistake to do so. For anyone building an office PC or a lightweight machine for home use, it will do just as good a job as Intel’s latest, and for a distinctly lower price.


Cores (number of) 2
Frequency 3.20GHz
L2 cache size (total) 1.0MB
L3 cache size (total) 6MB
Voltage range 0.875V-1.4V
Thermal design power 80W
Fab process 45nm
Virtualisation features yes
HyperTransport frequency 2,000MHz
Clock-unlocked? no

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.64

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