AMD Athlon II X2 250 £60

7th Sep 2010 | 12:40

AMD Athlon II X2 250

Is this £50 PC processor a canny bargain or a false economy?

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

Adequate in isolation, this dual-core chip looks poor value next to cheaper quad-core models.

Like:

More than adequate for casual computing; Very affordable

Dislike:

Not cheap enough compared to some quads; Won't satisfy demanding users

AMD Athlon II X2 250: Overview

Is £50 enough to buy adequate PC processor performance? One way to find out is to take a punt on the AMD Athlon II X2 250. On paper, it looks promising enough thanks to specifications that would have qualified as high end just a few years ago.

For starters, you get two processor cores benefiting from AMD's latest architectural refinements. OK, the main details date back to 2003 and the original Athlon 64 processor. But with features like an integrated memory controller and the high speed HyperTransport interconnect, it's still thoroughly up to date. Even the clockspeed is healthy enough at 3GHz on the nose.

Of course, at this price point something has to give. Compared to AMD's more expensive dual-core chips, such as the Phenom II X2 550,that something is cache memory. The Athlon II X2 250 only has 1MB of L2 cache per core. There's no shared L3 memory at all.

AMD Athlon II X2 250: Verdict

Whether you can live with the AMD Athlon II X250 all comes down to context. In isolation, it's a reasonable performer. With two cores humming a 3GHz tune, day-to-day duties such as document editing and multi-tasking are no problem.

Likewise, high definition media playback runs smoothly enough so long as you have nothing else processor-intensive on the go. Of course, it says something about the Athlon II X2 250 that we even feel the need to confirm it's up to the job of running an HD video file. For most modern CPUs, that's a given.

Still, when you stack the 250 up against slightly more expensive AMD processors, it doesn't look half bad. The dual-core Phenom II X2 550, for instance, is barely faster in any of our benchmarks. The triple-core Athlon II X3 435 doesn't exactly blow it away, either.

There is, however, one exception: the quad-core Athlon II X4 620. At 2.6GHz it runs significantly slower Athlon II X2 250. But the extra cores more than make up for the clockspeed deficit. In fact, it's not far off twice as fast in out HD video encoding benchmark.

Admittedly, the higher clocked Athlon II X2 250 has the edge in our World in Conflict benchmark. But neither chip is a great choice if smooth gaming performance is a high priority. Finally, it's worth noting that unlike many dual-core AMD processors, the Athlon II X2 250 does not have any hidden cores to unlock. It's a pure dual-core chip, not a quad-core model with two cores disabled at the factory.

We liked:

If you need a basic PC processor for casual computing, you could do a lot worse than the AMD Athlon II X2 250. In fact, if all you want to do is browse the web, edit a few documents and watch some video, there's little reason to pay more.

We disliked:

The more demands you make of this chip, the less convincing it is. But the biggest problem is the fact that, for around £15 more, you can grab a cheap quad-core chip that's much more adept at media encoding and other CPU-intensive applications.

Verdict:

Adequate in isolation, this dual-core chip looks poor value next to cheaper quad-core models.

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