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AMD is launching a new series of affordable quad-core processors today under the Athlon II brand name. Based on the 'Propus' architecture and built using a 45nm design process, the new series is intended to help AMD secure the low-end portion of the market, as Intel's Core i5 750 and LGA1156 platform have clearly made life difficult for them on the mainstream front.

This is essentially the same Deneb architecture that is used by the Phenom II X4 series, except for the L3 cache which has been removed from the Athlon II X4 parts.

With models ranging from 2.20GHz through to 2.9GHz on the horizon, AMD has decided to unleash the Athlon II X4 620 first, clocked at 2.6GHz and expected to retail for just $100. The amazingly low price tag puts this chip in a category of its own, as there are currently no quad-core parts competing here.

169 square millimeters Propus die

In fact, for $100, there's not a lot else on offer. Intel has the Pentium Dual-Core E5400 at $90 and then there is the Core 2 Duo E7400 at $120. The cheapest quad-core competitor is the Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 at $150, and with a clock speed of 2.33GHz it works out to be a little slower than the venerable Core 2 Quad Q6600.

The die size is extremely small on the Athlon II X4 620, measuring just 169 square millimeters, or 35% less than on the Phenom II X4. It is made up of 468 million transistors, while the core voltage is rated at between 0.925 - 1.425v. The TDP of 95 watts happens to be the same rating Intel has given their Core 2 Quad Q8200 processor.

Like the Phenom range, the Athlon II X4 620 is capable of operating on either AM2/AM2+ or AM3 motherboards, and thus inherits the ability to use DDR2 or DDR3 memory. This could arguably be a way to provide users with a viable upgrade path a few years down the track, but for most the case will be about picking up the cheapest and best performing parts today.