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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  • MrKaz - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    So how do you calculate performance/watt?

    Based on Doom3? Quake4? Lame? PowerDVD? Divx encoding?

    My point is, this is "impossible" to do, unless you do it for all progs and games.

    Picking up just one of them is being biased...
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Including performance/watt on *ANY* game is a bit odd, given that the GPU will comsume more power than the CPU. That's why when we talk about performance per watt on GPUs, we use the same platform for all tested systems.

    If we're going to talk about performance per watt and we're worried about the CPU and platform, then we should look at benchmarks that stress that portion of the system more than anything else. In fact, you could argue that we should drop down to the lowest power GPU possible, or even go with an integrated graphics solution. Anyway, here are a few of the results using WME9:

    0.358 FPS/W X6800
    0.319 FPS/W E6600
    0.279 FPS/W 4600+ EE
    0.276 FPS/W 3800+ EE
    0.273 FPS/W 5000+
    0.244 FPS/W FX-62
    0.244 FPS/W E6300
    0.228 FPS/W PD XE 965

    Part of the reasons on the lower performance Core 2 Duo chips score so poorly is because we are measuring Watts of the entire system. It's reasonable to say that the motherboard, hard drives, graphics card, etc. probably use up on average 100 W of power, give or take. The AMD motherboard and peripherals might also use a bit less power than than the Intel board, or vice versa, so the 12 W difference in power draw at idle shouldn't be considered really significant.

    What is significant is that other than the two energy efficient AMD chips (which you can't yet purchase on the retail market), Core 2 offers better performance per watt at similar price points. We could go and measure performance per watt on a bunch of the other applications (even games, though the differences are going to be greatly diminished given the GPUs requirements), but the results really aren't likely to change much. Core 2 is faster than AMD, and at worst it matches AMD's power requirements; ergo Core 2 offers better performance for watt.
    Reply
  • epsilonparadox - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Intel didn't start the focus on performance by watt. AMD started it and ruled the charts based on that measure. Every single X2 vs P4D review has a chart for that measurement. Intel w/ the C2D just turned the table back on them by harping on the same issue. If this measurement didn't become a big deal, you'd likely be running dual 1000W psus to run dual core/multi gpu setups. Reply
  • Furen - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    It's hard to do a performance/watt chart because processors perform differently under different applications. I'm sure you'll agree with the fact that the E6600 is much faster than an X2 3800+ yet draws only slightly more power. Reply
  • bupkus - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    : (

    Where's the pics?
    My browser doesn't show them on the first page.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    What browser? Reply
  • bupkus - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Firefox Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I have tried three different versions of FireFox on varying machines without an issue so far. Still looking in to it. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Options ->
    Web features ->
    Load Images ->
    UNCHECK "for the originating web site only"
    Reply
  • ianwhthse - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Mine is already unchecked, however I cannot see the pictures either. [Firefox]

    Kicking and screaming, which is somewhat disruptive @4am, I opened Internet Explorer and I cannot see the images there, either.
    Reply

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