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AMD has made a successful transition to the 45nm fabrication process, giving the Phenom II series the necessary breathing room to prove it has what it takes to go head to head with the Intel Core 2 range. Their most recent launch in the form of the Phenom II X4 955 consisted of a 3.20GHz part with support for the AM3 socket, while retaining compatibility with older AM2 boards.

At $245 the Phenom II X4 955 remains to this day AMD's flagship desktop processor, offering top performance for a competitive price. And from there you can tell that the rest of AMD's desktop offerings belong to the mainstream or value sectors. With the arrival of the X4 955 last April, the older 940 and 920 CPUs received a heavy price cut with both selling for around $190.

The triple-core Phenom II X3 range is made up of the 720 ($140) and 710 ($120) models which come clocked at 2.80GHz and 2.60GHz respectively.

However, as of today it will be possible to get your hands around the Phenom II architecture for even less as we present you with the Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition processor. The Phenom II X2 550 is based on the same specifications as the rest of the Phenom II family, but featuring half as many cores being a dual-core processor. The new processor operates at 3.10GHz, so about 100MHz slower (per core) than the flagship X4 955, and is expected to sell for a compelling $102.

AMD is also breathing new life into the Athlon brand with today's launch of the Athlon II X2 250. This new dual-core Athlon is the first of four models scheduled for release, of which the X2 250 should be the fastest part clocked at 3.0GHz. Rumor has it that there will also be triple and quad-core versions of the Athlon II, which sounds like an interesting proposition but likely to become quite confusing as well if these myriad of processors are all going to sell with a ceiling of $250.

The Athlon II X2 250 is also set for immediate release at $87, effectively undercutting Intel's Pentium E5400 processor.

On the next few pages we will take a closer look at both processors specs, run our usual suite of benchmarks, test power consumption levels and overclocking performance of these new AMD CPUs.