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The budget end of the AMD processor spectrum is a tricky one to negotiate – there are a host of CPUs on offer for incredibly low prices.
The Athlon II X4 620 is one of the cheapest quad-core processors you'll ever see and it's definitely no slouch at 2.9GHz. For some decent multithreaded application performance, or video tweakery, then the quad is always going to prove a boon over the more remedial dualies.
That said, the lack of decent cache levels means it's not going to give you any joy in games, which is where the dual-core Phenom IIs really take over. They also give you rather stellar overclocking performance too.
Then there's the looming spectre of AMD's core unlocking feature, although that increasingly is looking redundant in the latest chip samples we've had a play with. One of our 550s went all the way and unlocked two extra cores giving us a bargainous quad-core, but the other stubbornly refused to. The same happened here with our 560 sample – it just wouldn't boot with any extra cores unlocked.
So what do you really get for your extra cash if you pick up the 560 over the Phenom II X2 550? Honestly, very little. Despite the new stepping, there's no change in the power rating of 80W and we could garner no extra overclocking performance out of it either. Both CPUs would happily hit 4GHz on air, but try as we might we couldn't get a stable clock any higher than that.
At £65, then, the 550 Black Edition looks like a far better bet for those after a budget gaming setup, and that's easily achievable when twinned with a bargain AMD motherboard. You can also drop more on the motherboard with a view to upgrading your CPU if and when you can afford it thanks to AMD's single-socket platform.
Which leaves the Phenom II X2 560 a rather unnecessary addition to AMD's CPU lineup, lacking the multithreaded performance of chips with more cores or any extra overclocking headroom.
The Phenom II X2 560 is still able to hit 4GHz on air-cooling alone, as long as you've got a decent cooler, and the gaming performance isn't bad for a cheap chip either.
The fact that there's little tangible difference between this newer chip revision and the cheaper dual-core 550 Black Edition makes this processor practically irrelevant.
An unnecessary addition to the low-end Phenom II range.
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