A Closer Look
[ad#content_main]As I mentioned earlier, the Phenom II X3 720 sports AMD’s new Socket AM3. The difference between Socket AM2+ and AM3 is the latter’s support for the Phenom’s new memory controller, which supports DDR3 memory. Cosmetically, the current AM3 processors have two less pins than AM2+ processors.
Currently, AM3 processors are backwards compatible to AM2+ motherboards, but AM2+ processors will not work on AM3 motherboards. For whatever reason, Tom’s Hardware removed the extra two pins from an AM2+ processor just to see if it would work on an AM3 motherboard and it wouldn’t.
Besides supporting DDR3, the new memory controller adds a few other bennies, such as allowing for configuration to simultaneously read/write in 64-bit mode.
At 1.47″ x 1.147″, the X3 heatspreader has a large surface area, over 20% larger than Intel’s i7. Larger surface area means more contact area for the CPU cooler, which should make for easier cooling while overclocking.
As with all AMD “Black Edition” processors, the Phenom II X3 720 BE has unlocked multipliers to allow for overclocking.
So just what is an X3 compared to an X4? Looking at AMD’s photo of the die, you will see a large red block. This merely covers a core, meaning that the X3 is actually an X4 with one core disabled, the fourth core was flawed for whatever reason. Since the X4 has three totally independent cores, it is no problem disabling one of them, the other three won’t miss it at all.
Included with the X3 720 is a CPU cooler. To be honest, this cooler really doesn’t look much different from the Socket A cooler of the early part of this decade. I don’t care for stock coolers myself at all, but this one probably will suffice on a rig that will remain at stock clock. If you are planning on overclocking you definitely should invest in a better CPU cooler.