AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000 plus AM2 review

Back for one more fight

Our Verdict

Still packs a punch, but buying one for £300 is stark-raving, drooling, babbling insanity


  • Best-performing AM2 yet

    Much lower AMD pricing...


  • ...but still not low enough

    Left in the dust by mid-range Core 2s

here's a temptation to bend the truth when discussing AMD's recent offerings. It's the same sort of misguided pride that compels people who've just seen the Rolling Stones creak across some gigantic arena to say "yeah, they've still got it", whilst secretly knowing they're just a bunch of clapped-out old men painfully going through the motions and disguising it with a whole lot of noise and lights.

Anyone who's ever cared more than they should for PC hardware will have a soft spot in their hearts for AMD - including us. Once, it was the Stones to Intel's Beatles, the rowdier, sprited underdog that might have sold less records, but goddamn if it didn't make for a better party.

Tragically, now, it's just hanging onto the past - slowly turning up the clockspeeds, in much the same way as its arch rival used to, in the desperate hope it can hang on until one of its fabs turns out a Conroe-esque knight in shining silicon.

The 6000 , running at an AM2-first of 3GHz, is a perfectly suitable chip for everyday computing and gaming. The trouble is it's impossible to recommend - at £300, only a few bob cheaper than Intel's eight month-old Core 2 Duo E6700. It'd be insane to pick this over that far better performing rival, despite sounding pretty good on paper.

The previous flagship, the FX-62, has been retired, and in almost every way, this is an identically-specced chip - the same Windsor core, but with 200MHz added to the clockspeed.

Quite a bargain. But no. Essentially, we're looking at a wheezing interim processor before AMD's native quad core chip (codenamed Barcelona) offers up a real fight to Intel in the mainstream later this year. So, the song remains the same - a 90nm, dual core K8-based chip with 1Mb cache per core.

A speed boost to the tune of 200Mhz simply cannot give it enough of a run-up to leap the gulf between the AM2s and the Core 2s.

Bring on the hi-def

That's not to say it isn't a capable chip, however. Hi-def content barely troubles it, for instance, with H.264 1080p decoding keeping CPU usage well below 40% on average, and only a little higher than that pesky E6700. In memory bandwidth, it delivers the customary AMD shoe to the wiggling Intel behind, the revered Athlon 64 on-die memory controller once again proving it has the edge over everything big blue has to offer.

It's spanked by the E6700 in our games tests, but fairly lightly. The 6000 also has the edge over one of its long-standing forerunners, the X2 4600 . The additional 600MHz on the clockspeed and extra 512K on each core's cache makes for better results across the board, though not, it must be said, dramatically enough to make upgrading from the 4600 (or any subsequent AM2 chip) to this hugely worthwhile.

And so, inexorably, we turn back to the Core 2 E6700, the 6000 simply being unable to hold our attention. Should the skies suddenly let forth a hail of AM2's (probably) last gasp, you'd find that snaffling one of these strange meteorological gifts would certainly give you a system more than up to the job of any current game or consumer application.

In truth, it doesn't lag a catastrophic distance behind the E6700, but far enough that £300 (though a canny change of tactic from AMD's usual £600 top-end pricing) is just too much. If you're a first-time dual-corer with three ton to spend, a £120 Core 2 E6300 can, with a spot of easy and safe overclocking, snap convincingly at the 6000 's heels, thus freeing up the best part of the £200 needed for a GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card.

How much?

Had the 6000 been £200, it might have been a different matter, a slight return to the sepia days of the K6-2's bargain-bucket prices, back when AMD carved out a successful niche selling decent chips to gamers on a tight budget.

It's a different company now though - we won't see those sort of prices for this chip until Barcelona starts doing the rounds. Further down the AM2 product line, an X2 3800 for £70, paired with a £35 motherboard, offers a basic but capable games platform for the price of an E6300 on its own. That's the safe ledge AMD should cling onto until it's rescued, not the crumbling, fragile one higher up the cliff face.

So, once again, the 6000 is not, by any stretch of the measure, a bad chip, but we wish it hadn't been released, really. To use another geriatric-pretending-he's-not analogy, it's Rocky going into the ring yet again, the nostalgia and good will we had for him last time now all used up, with nothing left to disguise that this is a fight the admittedly musclebound pensioner simply can't win.

Let the old man die in peace, AMD. Bring us a fresh challenger.