Computer Enthusiast” is a term that gets kicked around a lot these days, and it seems its meaning has quite a few variables and tends to be subjective. Let’s take, for example, an individual who purchases a custom made gaming PC from one of today’s top end esoteric manufacturers. The rig comes laid out with three Fermi cards in SLI, a Core i7 Extreme CPU overclocked from the factory, 16GB of RAM, all the bells and whistles, along with a price tag of $6,000.00 or so. Would this individual necessarily be a “computer enthusiast”? In the literal sense of one with great enthusiasm, I would assume so. You need to be pretty enthusiastic to drop that kind of cash. Now, what if that individual was using this computer strictly for web surfing, document writing and some MMO playing? Still an “enthusiast”? And if this computer locked up and required a call to tech support, if the owner replied to the tech “what’s a BIOS?”….still an enthusiast? Or just someone with excess cash to spend on a computer?




Personally, I stick with the more classic view of the “computer enthusiast.” And, no, I am not referring to anything that has to do with Star Wars or Dungeons and Dragons. I am talking about the individuals who tinker and tweak what they have, in order to get the most performance out of every component. The ones who buy a processor with a slower out of the box clock speed, but know it has architecture for better overclocking. The ones who buy RAM based on actual achievable speed rather than out of the box rated speed. The ones who never stop tweaking and keep researching and experimenting to get their system tailored to exactly how they want it to run. These are the individuals who truly make use of a CPU with an unlocked multiplier, like those in the AMD Black Edition series of chips.

AMD offers the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition as a 3.2Ghz dual core as a part of their line aimed squarely at enthusiasts. With an unlocked multiplier, the Phenom II X2 555BE comes out of the box already looking to be overclocked and pushed to its limits. Don't let the fact that it is a dual core deceive you, the Phenom II X2 555BE has all of the Phenom II architecture, including 1MB of L2 cache and 6MB L3 cache that go along with it and a 128-bit memory controller that is ready for DDR3. The Phenom II X2 555BE also contains four physical cores on the chip, and the possibility of unlocking an extra core or two is a very real one.



<hrdata-mce-alt="Technologies" class="system-pagebreak" title="Technologies" />



AMD Phenom II "C3"

Earlier in 2010, AMD released a "C3" variant of their top of the line, quad-core Phenom II X4 965 processor as part of an effort to continually improve yields. This, of course, also means advantages passed on to the consumers in the form of improved performance and better thermal design.  The TDP has been lowered from 140 watts to a cooler 125 watts.  Improvements in handling 4 DIMMS at DDR3-1333 were also made, where previously, the DDR3 speeds would drop to 1066 if all 4 DIMM slots were populated.  Another big improvement brought on by the C3 revision is the hardware implementation of C1E power saving technology.  With C1E, the CPU frequency and core voltage are lowered in idle mode.  Previously, C1E was emulated through Cool N' Quiet, but resulted in performance drops whenever it was turned on.  Since it is now hardware implemented, transitioning into C1E, and back, is now much faster and much more efficient than in previous "C2" revisions.

AMD64 with Direct Connect Architecture

  • Helps improve system performance and efficiency by directly connecting the processors, the memory controller, and the I/O to the CPU.
  • Designed to enable simultaneous 32- and 64-bit computing
  • Integrated Memory Controller
    • Benefits: Increases application performance by dramatically reducing memory latency
    • Scales memory bandwidth and performance to match compute needs
    • HyperTransport™ Technology provides up to 16.0GB/s peak bandwidth per processor—reducing I/O bottlenecks
    • Up to 37GB/s total delivered processor-to-system bandwidth (HyperTransport bus + memory bus)

AMD Balanced Smart Cache

  • Shared L3 cache (either 6MB or 4MB)
  • 512K L2 cache per core
    • Benefit: Shortened access times to the highly accessed data for better performance.

AMD Wide Floating Point Accelerator

  • 128-bit floating point unit (FPU)
  • High performance (128bit internal data path) floating point unit per core.
    • Benefit: Larger data paths and quicker floating point calculations for better performance.

HyperTransport™ Technology

  • One 16-bit link at up to 4000MT/s
  • Up to 8.0GB/s HyperTransport™ I/O bandwidth; Up to 16GB/s in HyperTransport Generation 3.0 mode
  • Up to 37GB/s total delivered processor-to-system bandwidth (HyperTransport bus + memory bus)
    • Benefit: Quick access times to system I/O for better performance.

Integrated DRAM Controller with AMD Memory Optimizer Technology

  • A high-bandwidth, low-latency integrated memory controller
  • Supports PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066); PC2-6400 (DDR2-800), PC2-5300 (DDR2-667), PC2-4200 (DDR2-533) or PC2-3200 (DDR2-400) SDRAM unbuffered DIMMs – AM2+
  • Support for unregistered DIMMs up to PC2 8500(DDR2-1066MHz) and PC3 10600 (DDR3-1333MHz) – AM3
  • Up to 17.1GB/s memory bandwidth for DDR2 and up to 21GB/s memory bandwidth for DDR3
    • Benefit: Quick access to system memory for better performance.

AMD Virtualization™ (AMD-V™) Technology With Rapid Virtualization Indexing

  • Silicon feature-set enhancements designed to improve the performance, reliability, and security of existing and future virtualization environments by allowing virtualized applications with direct and rapid access to their allocated memory.
    • Benefit: Helps virtualization software to run more securely and efficiently enabling a better experience when dealing with virtual systems

AMD PowerNow!™ Technology (Cool’n’Quiet™ Technology)

  • Enhanced power management features which automatically and instantaneously adjusts performance states and features based on processor performance requirements
  • For quieter operation and reduced power requirements
    • Benefit: Enables cooler and quieter platform designs by providing extremely efficient performance and energy usage.

AMD CoolCore™ Technology

  • Reduces processor energy consumption by turning off unused parts of the processor. For example, the memory controller can turn off the write logic when reading from memory, helping reduce system power.
  • Works automatically without the need for drivers or BIOS enablement.
  • Power can be switched on or off within a single clock cycle, saving energy with no impact to performance.
    • Benefit: Helps users get more efficient performance by dynamically activating or turning off parts of the processor.

Dual Dynamic Power Management™

  • Enables more granular power management capabilities to reduce processor energy consumption.
  • Separate power planes for cores and memory controller, for optimum power consumption and performance, creating more opportunities for power savings within the cores and memory controller.
    • Benefit: Helps improve platform efficiency by providing on demand memory performance while still allowing for decreased system power consumption


The AMD 800-Series Chipset

The new 8- Series of AMD Motherboard chipsets introduce both USB and SATA 3.0. USB 3.0 draws its power from the NEC host controller; this is a Dual Simplex link that is bi-directional and, unlike USB 2.0 which is Half Duplex (one –way), it transfers data more efficiently.

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE Processor


Unlike SATA 3, which was first seen on Intel motherboards (Marvell chipset/3rd party), the AMD 800 Series motherboards run native SATA 3 via the 850 Southbridge chipset, which is a direct link to 6 SATA ports, alleviating the middle man. (Marvell)

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE Processor


The 890GX chipset contains an ATI HD 4290 integrated video, which is DirectX 10.1, has a 700MHz core, 40 unified shaders and, with added SidePort memory, is the most powerful integrated video card produced by AMD, to date. The HD 4290 is also capable of Picture in Picture Blu-Ray Playback and upscaling to 720p.

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE Processor AMD Phenom II X2 555BE Processor


Other features include Hyper-Transport 3.0 (5.2 GT/s), HDMI, VGA and DVI video outputs, two PCI-e 2.0 (1 x 16/1x8) for discrete video, support for DDR3 1333 MHz memory and onboard HD audio.

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE Processor





<hrdata-mce-alt="Review Philosophy" class="system-pagebreak" title="Review Philosophy" />

Review Philosophy

For this review we will focus on three areas:

  • Cost of using your old AM2+ components while upgrading to the new AMD Phenom II X2 555BE.
  • Cost of upgrading to the new AM3 motherboard.
  • Performance.


First let's take a look at pricing:

  • AMD Phenom II X2 555BE $89.00 USD
  • nVidia GTS250 $99.00
  • nVidia GTX480 $469.00
  • AM3 Motherboard 800 Chipset $90.00+
  • 4GB DDR3 Memory 1600 MHz $89.00+

Here are a few combinations and prices on the various upgrades available.

Extreme Budget System

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE


Keep Old AM2+ Mobo


Keep Old DDR2 RAM


Keep Old Video Card





Budget System

AMD Penom II X2 555BE






Onboard Video / Keep Old





Mainstream System

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE






XFX Core Edition GS250XYSL4 GeForce GTS 250 512MB 256-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card





Enthusiast System

AMD Phenom II X2 555BE







EVGA 015-P3-1480-AR GeForce GTX 480 (Fermi) 1536MB 384-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI Support Video Card





There are obviously many directions you can take your system, depending on your needs. Fortunately, the AMD AM2+/AM3 platform opens many different roads to take. If your focus is on gaming, a graphics card upgrade, rather than a motherboard/RAM upgrade, is obviously going to do more for what YOU want to do and, in many cases, will be a less expensive option with much more pronounced results. AM2+/AM3 compatibility allows you to upgrade individual components, with each having a pronounced performance improvement. The AMD CPU line offers incredible flexibility and performance, all without breaking your wallet.



<hrdata-mce-alt="Specifications and Features" class="system-pagebreak" title="Specifications and Features" />

Specifications and Features

Specifications for the Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition:

Model Number & Core Frequency

X2 555BE / 3.2GHz


HDZ555WFGMBOX (Retail Box)

L1 Cache Sizes

64K of L1 instruction and 64K of L1 data cache per core (256KB total L1 per processor)

L2 Cache Sizes

1MB of L2 data cache per core (1MB total L2 per processor)

L3 Cache Size

6MB (shared)

Total Cache (L2+L3)


Memory Controller Type

Integrated 128-bit wide memory controller *

Memory Controller Speed

2.0GHz with Dual Dynamic Power Management

Types of Memory Supported

Unregistered DIMMs up to PC2-8500 (DDR2-1066MHz) -AND- PC3-10600 (DDR3-1333MHz)

HyperTransport 3.0 Specification

One 16-bit/16-bit link @ up to 4.0GHz full duplex (2.0GHz x2)

Total Processor-to-System Bandwidth

  • Up to 37.3GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 21.3 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR3-1333) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]
  • Up to 33.1GB/s total bandwidth [Up to 17.1 GB/s memory bandwidth (DDR2-1066) + 16.0GB/s (HT3)]


Socket AM3 938-pin organic micro pin grid array (micro-PGA)

Fab location

GLOBALFOUNDARIES Fab 1 module 1 in Dresden, Germany (formerly AMD Fab 36)

Process Technology

45-nanometer DSL SOI (silicon-on-insulator) technology

Approximate Die Size


Approximate Transistor count

~758 million


80 Watts

AMD Codename





<hrdata-mce-alt="Testing Methods" class="system-pagebreak" title="Testing Methods" />

Testing Methods


To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius.

For comparison purposes, we will be using the Phenom II X4 965BE benchmarks from our review of this CPU, as well as the Athlon X2 7850BE. Due to changes in benchmarking programs, several benchmarks were not run on the Phenom II X4 965BE and will be omitted.


Test System
  • Processor: AMD Phenom II X2 555BE, Athlon X2 7850BE
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte MA790GP-UD4H
  • Video Card: nVidia GTS250 1MB
  • Memory: 4GB G. Skill DDR2 800
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master V6GT
  • HDD: Western Digital RE3 500GB
  • PSU: Ultra X-4 500W
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit


Comparison System

  • Processor: AMD Phenom II X4 965BE
  • Motherboard: Asus M4A79T Deluxe
  • Video Card: Ati 4890 1MB
  • Memory: 4GB Corsair XMS DDR3-1600
  • HDD: Maxtor Diamond Max 10 100Gb SATA 1.5
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit



System Benchmarks

  • World Bench
  • PCMark Vantage
  • SiSandra (CPU)
  • Everest (Cache and Memory)
  • Cinebench 10 (CPU Rendering)
  • Cinebench 11.5(CPU and OpenGL)


Gaming Benchmarks

  • 3DMark Vantage
  • Resident Evil 6
  • BattleForge
  • World in Conflict



<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (World Bench)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (World Bench)" />

Benchmarks (World Bench)

World Bench

World Bench is a system benchmark that tests the rendering, DirectX, video encoding, file compression, data entry, and overall performance of your system. World Bench 6 Beta (stable) gives a base score of 100 for a baseline comparison when different systems are chosen. For our tests, these scores will not be valid; all benchmarks are run individually and will reflect times in seconds as given by the program. If you would like more information here is a link. World Bench 6





<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (PC Mark)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (PC Mark)" />

Benchmarks (PC Mark)

PCMark Vantage

Designed for Windows Vista, PCMark Vantage benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark Vantage visit Futuremarks website.





<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (SiSandra)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (SiSandra)" />

Benchmarks (SiSandra)


One of our favorites, Sandra from SiSoftware is a system benchmark that individually tests all components of your system. For our benchmarking purpose, we will use the processor section, which includes Processor Arithmetic, Multicore Efficiency, and Multimedia. We will also use the memory section to test the Phenom II X2 555BE and Athlon X2 7850 for Memory Bandwidth, Latency and Cache. All scores will be listed as given by benchmark, higher will be better unless otherwise stated. SiSandra






<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (Everest)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (Everest)" />

Benchmarks (Everest)


Everest is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. Everest will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, L2 cache, and L3 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Lavalys is the producer of this software.





<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (Cinebench)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (Cinebench)" />

Benchmarks (Cinebench)

Cinebench R10 and R11.5

Created by Maxon, Cinebench R10and R11.5 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and multiple CPU performance.





<hrdata-mce-alt="Benchmarks (3DMark Vantage)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Benchmarks (3DMark Vantage)" />

Benchmarks (3DMark Vantage)

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is a gaming benchmark used to test the DirectX performance of your graphics card. There are four tests plus a custom setting that can be run: Entry (1024x768), Performance (1280x1024), which is the default setting, High (1680x1050), and Extreme (1920x1200). In each resolution, a total score, a CPU, and GPU are generated. Futuremark


3DMark Vantage




<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)" />

Gaming Benchmark (Resident Evil 5)

The fifth installation of the Resident Evil Series, which is a first person shooter. You are a member of the World Bioterrorism Team and are sent out to stop a new infestation of the virus created by the Umbrella Corporation.


  • AA: 8X
  • Levels: High

Resident Evil 5





<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (World in Conflict)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (World in Conflict)" />

Gaming Benchmark (World in Conflict)

World in Conflict

Do you have what it takes to conquer your opponent? World in Conflict is a DX10 game where, if you don't defeat your opponent, you don't gain. This is an all out, winner-take-all, modern war scenario.



  • AA: 4X, AF: 4X
  • Graphics: Very High


World in Conflict Benchmark





<hrdata-mce-alt="Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)" class="system-pagebreak" title="Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)" />

Gaming Benchmark (Battle Forge)

Battle Forge is an MMORPG that is free to play with its download. You choose from mythical characters and battle until your opponents are conquered. Battle Forge is the first game to support Direct X 11.


  • AA: 8X
  • Graphics High Default


World in Conflict Benchmark





<hrdata-mce-alt="Overclocking" class="system-pagebreak" title="Overclocking" />



There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to unlocking cores in a processor. None. We all know that when you are buying a Phenom II X2 or X3, the processor has four physical cores. However, we don't know the actual state of the cores that are unused out of the box. There very well may be a good reason they are locked that has nothing to do with selling a lower priced chip. Many times the cores are locked due to not passing QC standards, and may be completely unstable or non-functioning. But, thankfully, there are also instances when the cores will unlock and are stable. They may not OC, or may even need to be slightly underclocked to stay stable. But....that is only IF they are functional at all. It is always a possibility, but again, no guarantees.

Our Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition happened to be an excellent specimen in this aspect. It unlocked with four fully functioning cores on the first try on both an Asus M4A79T Deluxe and a Gigabyte MA790GP-UDH4. Asus is kind enough to actually have a note on the splash screen telling you to press “4” to unlock all cores. Gigabyte requires a couple of BIOS settings to be changed with regard to EC Firmware and ACC. Regardless of how your motherboard handles unlocking, you may well need to bump up the voltage slightly to keep it stable.

There is one other little quirk when you unlock the Phenom II X2 555BE - the temperature sensors cease giving you any sensible or accurate output. I was getting readings of 14-17 degrees in a few different programs, including Gigabyte's monitoring software made for the motherboard. Obviously, in a 23 degree room on air, this was not correct. It is essential that you know your cooler is up for the task.

Users have reported a good success rate in unlocking the Phenom II X2 555BE, but don’t expect it to be a given. Always approach it as a purchase of a dual core. If you are fortunate enough to get a stable core or two extra, look at them as an added bonus.



The AMD Phenom II X2 555 is a Black Edition processor. What separates the “Black Edition” from the standard AMD processor is an unlocked multiplier. Basically, this means that “Black Edition” when translated from AMD-ese directly to English means “overclock this CPU.”

I decided to aim high on the Phenom II X2 555BE and work backwards, if need be, to find its max stable OC. I gave the CPU a little voltage bump to 1.45 and set the multiplier to 20, right out of the box, to see if we could hit the magic 4Ghz. The system booted into Windows flawlessly and ran OCCT without issue. Impressive, so I upped the multiplier to 20.5 for a speed of 4.1Ghz. Windows booted, but an OCCT check resulted in BSOD. Increasing voltage didn’t help matters, so I brought the multiplier back down to 20 and tried an increase on the CPU frequency, a step at a time. The system stayed stable through 206, giving a stable OC of 4.12Ghz, a 28% increase over stock speeds.

I had already seen that the CPU would unlock, so I decided to try my luck with a four core OC. I began with exactly the same multiplier of 20 I had previously tried for 4Ghz, with all four cores. Windows booted, but OCCT or any stressful operation caused a BSOD. Upping the voltage to 1.5v did nothing to change this. I backed the multiplier down, 19.5 was not stable, but 19 was, at 1.475v. I began pushing up the CPU clock, getting it to 205 stable for a four core unlocked OC of 3.905. An impressive feat, a full 22% increase in speed with two cores unlocked.

Of course, this procedure is a little nerve wracking due to the CPU’s inability to report accurate temp readings with the cores unlocked.  I was more comfortable given the proven results of my cooler on a 965BE OC’d, but if you are trying this, it is of utmost importance that you know your cooler is up to the task.



<hrdata-mce-alt="Conclusion" class="system-pagebreak" title="Conclusion" />


Provided By: AMD

No compensation was received for review of this product.

Price Point

Price: $89.00

Class: Budget

At a price point of $89.00, the AMD Phenom II X2 555BE falls into the Budget category for CPU processors.


Performance was outstanding all around, delivering snappy performance across the board in productivity, multimedia and gaming. An OC and/or unlock only made it that much better. Temperatures stayed very low, even when overvolted and overclocked in stock dual core configuration, making an excessive cooling solution completely unnecessary.

Reviewer's Opinion

Here is where things get tricky. I just completed extensive testing of a CPU and need to give my opinion. Problem is, since results on OC and unlocking vary, I need to keep focused on the CPU out of the box as a 3.2Ghz dual core. A 3.2Ghz dual core that just happened to turn itself into a 3.9Ghz quad core and beat up on my 965BE while it was at max OC in every benchmark I threw at it. And there wasn't even extensive tweaking involved. Granted, OC and unlocking are not guaranteed, and your mileage may vary...but I digress.

An interesting oddity here is that we are looking at the prospect of buying this chip as an upgrade for an existing system, and that is exactly how it was tested. The test bed and comparison used in this review wasn't something arbitrary. With the Athlon X2 7850 installed, it is an actual system that I used regularly for an extended period of time, so I have a good familiarity with how it functions and reacts. The Phenom II X2 555BE made an immediate and pronounced difference right out of the box. Everything felt quicker and snappier, apps loaded in a shorter time, fps went up noticeably in games. All around it was a distinct noticeable upgrade. Going back and forth with my Phenom II 965 system, there was no feel of this being the heart of a "slow computer," and when the Phenom II X2 555BE was overclocked, it was the 965 that felt a little sluggish.

The fact of the matter is, if you are buying a Black Edition, the odds are pretty good that you are going to want to tweak it. With the unlocked multiplier of the Black Edition, it makes it just that much easier. Unlocking is not guaranteed, and max stable OC will vary from chip to chip and will be affected by the components of your system. But, this chip seems to be made to OC, and you can be pretty well assured that with a good quality motherboard and RAM, you will get a nice speed increase with little effort.

Out of the box, the AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition may well be the most capable sub - $100 processor on the market. It will not do heavy multi-tasking as well as a triple or quad core in its price range, but it's going to be significantly quicker running single, and most times two, applications simultaneously. At present, there aren't many common applications that take advantage of more than two cores, so it's clock speed that is going to drive performance rather than more than two cores. If you take this into consideration, and you are not a heavy multi-tasker, the Phenom II X2 555BE sits right in the top echelon of price/performance. So, top performance, great OC headroom with an unlocked multiplier and the possibility of an extra couple of cores for $89.00? Yeah, it's all that, a bag of chips and an Editor's Choice.


  • Multi-Core
  • Possibility Of Unlocking 3rd and/or 4th Core
  • Excellent Performance
  • Black Edition With Unlocked Multiplier
  • Overclockability
  • Low Temps Even When Overclocked/Overvolted
  • Low Price
  • AM2+/AM3 Compatible



  • None