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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  • crystal clear - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    Just to remind all that-" Intel decides to release a B2 stepping of its Conroe
    processors.Also
    BEWARE of Engineering samples & reviews based on Engineering samples inlcuded.
    Reply
  • OcHungry - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    I don’t know if this Q been asked or answered (sorry no time reading 120 posts)
    Bu Mr. Anand, can I kindly ask you couple of concerns:
    1) why don’t we see any reference to temp. under load? Temp. is a crucial factor in deciding wether or not I buy conroe since I live in a very hot climate.
    2)A lot people make reference to 64bit and window vista and that conroe is a 32bit architecture and will not perform as good in 64bit. Is it true? can we have some 64bit benchmarks? It would be great to do this test in multitasking.
    3) I have also noticed (from so many who have had pre-release ES @ XS, and other forums) that overclocked conroe does not correspond directly to performance, unlike A64.
    What I mean is: If A64 is overclocked 20%, the performance increases ~20% 9more or less, in most cases), But have not seen this to hold w/ conroe. So I am wondering what would happen if we put a low end conroe, such as E6400 against A64 4000 x2, 2x1mb cache (same price range after price drop) and overclock them to their limit, using stock cooling, and do the benchmarks (64bit included). The reason I am interested in this type of review is because I am an average end user on budget and would like to know which would give me better price/performance. I think I am speaking for at least 90% of consumers. Not everyone buys $1000 cpu and consumers on budget is detrimental to survival of conroe or AM2 cpus. This alone should give you enough incentive to put together a review oriented around us, the mainstream computer users. We can make or break any chipmaker.
    So please Mr. Anad, can we have another review along those lines described above?
    We greatly appreciate it.
    Thanks,
    ochungry
    Reply
  • aznskickass - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    Hey ochungry, I believe Xbitlabs did an overclocking comparison between a Conroe E6300 and an A64 X2 3800+, and while they didn't do any 64bit benchmarks, the conclusion is that at stock speeds the E6300 is slightly faster than X2 3800+, and when both are overclocked to the max, E6300's lead increases even more.

    Here is the review/comparison:
    http://xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core2duo-...">http://xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/core2duo-...
    Reply
  • OcHungry - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    Those guys @ X-bit lab do not fool me. And I hope Anandtech conducts the same test w/ best suited memory module for “BOTH” platforms. We know (so as Xbitlab knows) that, because of IMC, A64 performs its best @ tightest memory timings. X-bit lab should have used http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82...">This memory module if the test was going to be fair and square. Furthermore A64 3800 x2 @ 3ghz is 10x300, which means DDR2 667 1:1 could have been better to use. This http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82...">DDR2 667 @ 3-3-3-10 would have given about 10% better performance than DDR2 4-4-4-12 that they used. X-bit does not mention anything about memory/cpu ratio. What divider was used? Was it 133/266? Or as close to 1:1 as possible? Sooner or later the truth will prevail when we end users try it for ourselves (oh BTW, not ES), and we will see if xbitlab and others were genuinely interested on behalf of consumers, or the interest destined to ill-fated purpose. Will not accuse anyone, but it all look very fishy.
    I am certain that Mr. Anad will clear all these conspicuous reviews , and hand us another that concerns the consumer’s majority- us average users.
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    quote:

    We know (so as Xbitlab knows) that, because of IMC, A64 performs its best @ tightest memory timings. X-bit lab should have used This memory module if the test was going to be fair and square. Furthermore A64 3800 x2 @ 3ghz is 10x300, which means DDR2 667 1:1 could have been better to use. This DDR2 667 @ 3-3-3-10 would have given about 10% better performance than DDR2 4-4-4-12 that they used.


    W-R-O-N-G!!! DDR2-800 at EVEN slower 5-5-5-15 timings is FASTER THAN DDR2-667 3-3-3-10: http://xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/amd-socke...">http://xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/amd-socke...

    Prefer AT's results?: http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...">http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?...

    DDR2-800 is faster. The myth that it performs amazingly better(comparatively) with lower latency is just, a myth. I believe there was a thread in forums that tells exactly that.
    Reply
  • OcHungry - Sunday, July 16, 2006 - link

    Iguess you don’t understand much about AMD's memory latency, direct connect, and 1:1 ratio.
    It is not like Intel's illusionary, that faster than FSB is better. It is not and is useless. Anad proved it here. But this subject has a tendency to be dragged on for ever by those who don’t understand the concept of IMC. So it's better leave it alone.
    But I still would like to see tightest timing and 1:1 ratio. It is now clear to me that those reviews in favor of Intel, artfully evade this argument/request, knowing it will give AMD advantage over Intel's FSB.
    Reply
  • aznskickass - Sunday, July 16, 2006 - link

    *sigh*

    How is the AMD disadvantaged if BOTH platforms are reviewed using the same RAM?

    AMD needs ultra low latency DDR2 to attain best performance? Well, bad luck, Intel doesn't , there is no 'deliberate' conspiracy to put AMD in a bad light.

    Look, if you just want to hang on to the notion that AMD has been cheated in the reviews, then go ahead and get your X2 4200+ and see how close you can get to Conroes numbers.

    I'll be using my E6600 @ 3.5GHz+ and laughing at your stupidity.
    Reply
  • aznskickass - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    I consider Xbitlabs to be one of the more trustworthy sites around, and do note that they are testing mainstream chips, and expensive CL3 DDR2 just doesn't make sense in a budget setup, which further puts Conroe in a good light, as it doesn't require expensive CL3 DDR2 to perform well. Reply
  • sum1 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    A good read. For the editor, I found 4 errors, search the full lines of text below at:
    http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.html?i=2795">http://www.anandtech.com/printarticle.html?i=2795

    That begin said,
    and H.264 in coding
    as soon as its available
    at the fastest desktop processor we've ever tested
    ("and" would be more readable that "at" in this sentence)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Thanks. At least one of those (in coding) can be blamed on my use of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and not catching the error. The others... well, they can be blamed on me not catching them too. LOL. The last one is sort of a difference of opinion, and I've replaced the comma with a dash, as that was the intended reading. :)

    --Jarred
    Reply

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