The architecture is called Core, processor family is Core 2, the product names are Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme. In the past we've talked about its architecture and even previewed its performance, but today is the real deal. We've all been waiting for this day, the day Intel lifts the last remaining curtain on the chip that is designed to re-take the performance crown from AMD, to return Intel to its days of glory.

It sure looks innocent enough:


Core 2 Duo (left) vs. Pentium D (right)

What you see above appears to be no different than a Pentium D. Honestly, unless you flip it over there's no indication of what lies beneath that dull aluminum heat spreader.


Core 2 Duo (left) vs. Pentium D (right)

But make no mistake, what you see before you is not the power hungry, poor performing, non-competitive garbage (sorry guys, it's the truth) that Intel has been shoving down our throats for the greater part of the past 5 years. No, you're instead looking at the most impressive piece of silicon the world has ever seen - and the fastest desktop processor we've ever tested. What you're looking at is Conroe and today is its birthday.

Intel's Core 2 launch lineup is fairly well rounded as you can see from the table below:

CPU Clock Speed L2 Cache
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz 4MB
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 2.66GHz 4MB
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 2.40GHz 4MB
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 2.13GHz 2MB
Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86GHz 2MB

As the name implies, all Core 2 Duo CPUs are dual core as is the Core 2 Extreme. Hyper Threading is not supported on any Core 2 CPU currently on Intel's roadmaps, although a similar feature may eventually make its debut in later CPUs. All of the CPUs launching today also support Intel's Virtualization Technology (VT), run on a 1066MHz FSB and are built using 65nm transistors.

The table above features all of the Core 2 processors Intel will be releasing this year. In early next year Intel will also introduce the E4200, which will be a 1.60GHz part with only a 800MHz FSB, a 2MB cache and no VT support. The E4200 will remain a dual core part, as single core Core 2 processors won't debut until late next year. On the opposite end of the spectrum Intel will also introduce Kentsfield in Q1 next year, which will be a Core 2 Extreme branded quad core CPU from Intel.

Core 2 Extreme vs. Core 2 Duo

Previously Intel had differentiated its "Extreme" line of processors by giving them larger caches, a faster FSB, Hyper Threading support, and/or higher clock speeds. With the Core 2 processor family, the Extreme version gets a higher clock speed (2.93GHz vs. 2.66GHz) and this time around it also gets an unlocked multiplier. Intel officially describes this feature as the following:

Core 2 Extreme is not truly "unlocked". Officially (per the BIOS Writers Guide), it is "a frequency limited processor with additional support for ratio overrides higher than the maximum Intel-tested bus-to-core ratio." Currently, that max tested ratio is 11:1 (aka 2.93G @ 1066 FSB). The min ratio is 6:1. However, do note that the Core 2 Extreme will boot at 2.93G unlike prior generation XE processors which booted to the lowest possible ratio and had to be "cranked up" to the performance ratio.

In other words, you can adjust the clock multiplier higher or lower than 11.0x, which hasn't been possible on a retail Intel chip for several years. By shipping the Core 2 Extreme unlocked, Intel has taken yet another page from AMD's Guide to Processor Success. Unfortunately for AMD, this wasn't the only page Intel took.

Manufacturing Comparison

The new Core 2 processors, regardless of L2 cache size, are made up of 291 million transistors on a 143 mm^2 die. This makes the new chips smaller and cheaper to make than Intel's Pentium D 900 series. The new Core 2 processors are also much smaller than the Athlon 64 X2s despite packing more transistors thanks to being built on a 65nm process vs. 90nm for the X2s.

CPU Manufacturing Process Transistor Count Die Size
AMD Athlon 64 X2 (2x512KB) 90nm 154M 183 mm^2
Intel Core 2 65nm 291M 143 mm^2
Intel Pentium D 900 65nm 376M 162 mm^2

Intel's smaller die and greater number of manufacturing facilities results in greater flexibility with pricing than AMD.

New Pricing
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  • defter - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Xbitlabs has a great E6300 review:
    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core2...">http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core2...

    Overclocking was limited by a motherboard, but they still managed to achieve 2.94GHz with 420MHz FSB, not bad from a <$200 chip. E6300@2.94GHz was way faster than Athlon64X2@3GHz.
    Reply
  • Frackal - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    4ghz Conroe, holy shiat Reply
  • AndrewChang - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Loved the title, and loved the article. Can't wait till the Return of the Jedi... Reply
  • JackPack - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Jedi is considered to be weakest film of the three.... Reply
  • formulav8 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Yeah, but the Emperor WAS overthrown. :)

    Anyways, good job on the review. Intel is definitely trying to almost GIVE those PD cpu's away it seems. $93? Not that I don't blame them. They would almost HAVE to give them away to get rid of them.



    Jason
    Reply
  • haugland - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Page 18:
    quote:

    The 2.4GHz E6600, which outperformed the FX-62 in most benchmarks at stock speed costs $223, and overclocked to 4Ghz with excellent air cooling


    According to the prices on page 2, the price for the 2.4GHz E6600 is $316, while the 2.13Ghz E6400 costs $224.
    Reply
  • mobutu - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I quote:

    "The 2.4GHz E6600, which outperformed the FX-62 in most benchmarks at stock speed costs $223, and overclocked to 4Ghz with excellent air cooling"

    It costs $316 according to Intel charts. Please fix it.
    10x
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Fixed (also for post below). Reply
  • mi1stormilst - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I was like skimming throught the article and thinking to myself wow. Then I went back and looked at the benchmarks and realized that until I see benchmarks with a wider range of video card and cpus I will reserve my excitement. At the moment my $120.00 used 3200 venice running at 2600MHZ with an X1800XL gives me some very good performance. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I http://www.anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.aspx?i=279...">looked at performance with several CPUs using a 7600 GT (slower than X1800XL, but not by a huge amount). Basically, on lower end GPUs you will be GPU limited and just about any fast CPU. Maybe not always with NetBurst, but K8 and Core2 will be more than sufficient for all but multi-GPU setups (until next gen GPUs arrive). Reply

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