Final Words

Intel's Core 2 Extreme X6800 didn't lose a single benchmark in our comparison; not a single one. In many cases, the $183 Core 2 Duo E6300 actually outperformed Intel's previous champ: the Pentium Extreme Edition 965. In one day, Intel has made its entire Pentium D lineup of processors obsolete. Intel's Core 2 processors offer the sort of next-generation micro-architecture performance leap that we honestly haven't seen from Intel since the introduction of the P6.

Compared to AMD's Athlon 64 X2 the situation gets a lot more competitive, but AMD still doesn't stand a chance. The Core 2 Extreme X6800, Core 2 Duo E6700 and E6600 were pretty consistently in the top 3 or 4 spots in each benchmark, with the E6600 offering better performance than AMD's FX-62 flagship in the vast majority of benchmarks. Another way of looking at it is that Intel's Core 2 Duo E6600 is effectively a $316 FX-62, which doesn't sound bad at all.

We're still waiting to get our hands on the E6400 as it may end up being the best bang for your buck, but even the slower E6300 is quite competitive with AMD's X2 4200+ and X2 3800+. If AMD drops the price on those two parts even more than we're expecting, then it may be able to hold on to the lower end of the performance mainstream market as the E6300 is not nearly as fast as the E6600.

As impressed as we are with Intel's Core 2 processor lineup, we are still very concerned about availability and street pricing. To quote from our last Core 2 preview article:

While Intel's Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors will be released at the beginning of Q3 of this year it will take some time for all of Intel's shipments to be Conroe based. The scary statistic is that by the end of this year, only 25% of Intel's Performance Mainstream desktop processor shipments will be based on Conroe. The remaining 75% will still be NetBurst based, meaning they will be Pentium 4, Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition.

...

For the Dells of the world, Conroe availability shouldn't be too much of an issue because companies like Dell get first dibs. For years of not going with AMD, all while demanding something more competitive from Intel, you better believe that Dell is going to soak up every last Conroe that it can.

The problem then becomes what happens after Dell and HP have eaten their lunch; unfortunately the concern is that aggressive pricing won't be enough to reduce retail demand for Conroe. What we're worried about happening is a very small supply of Conroes on the retail market in late Q3/early Q4, resulting in much higher street prices than what you see on page 2. In the worst case scenario for Intel, Conroe's limited retail availability could result in a price to performance ratio equal to or worse than AMD's Athlon 64 X2.

Despite pulling in the official launch date for Core 2 processor benchmarks, shipment dates for the CPUs haven't changed. According to Intel:

Intel Core 2 Extreme processor based systems and boxed product are expected to be available on the day of launch, 27 July. Intel Core 2 Duo processor based systems and boxed product [through places such as Newegg] are expected to be available from 7 August. Each OEM has their own product introduction / transition cycles based upon their target market segment and current product offerings. We expect some to offer product in August with more introductions extending through September. Check with the OEMs of your choice to get their specific message on system availability.

From what Intel is telling us, you shouldn't be able to so much as purchase Core 2 processors until after the first week in August, although you'll be able to get complete systems before then. At the same time, we're hearing that distributors already have some Core 2 parts in stock and will begin shipping very soon. While we tend to believe Intel's assessment of availability, we're hoping it's conservative.

If Intel's availability statements are true or even worse, overly optimistic, then don't expect to be upgrading to a Core 2 system anytime soon. However, if all goes well, although Vista may be delayed until 2007, Intel's Core 2 processors will give you a very good reason to upgrade this year.

Overclocking
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  • Calin - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    A very good part of what Intel makes (processor wise) goes to mainstream and lower-than-mainstream performance (Celeron-like chips). There might be, in the end (of the year), enough production of Core2 to fill the enthusiast/retail market.
    Indeed, the Netburst are obsolete over night...
    Reply
  • xFlankerx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Not just Netburst, even the Athlon 64s are obsolete now.

    With the Pentium 4 vs. Athlon 64 debate, atleast there were moments when going with the Pentium 4 could be justified. However, because of the huge difference in performance and prices of the Core 2 Duo and Athlon 64 processors, I think it would be foolish to go for a new Athlon 64 system right now (unless ofcourse you're on a tight budget).
    Reply
  • Calin - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Yes, Pentium4 was better in so-called media benchmarks, and there were some uber-optimized application that were flying on Pentium4.
    Right now, there are (as stated in article) three competitors: Core2Duo at high price, performance and low power, Athlon64 X2 at lower price, performance and a bit higher power, and PentiumD at dumping prices, even lower performance and quite a bit higher power. It all depends on how much money you would invest.
    I am thinking at a single core Core2, and integrated video mainboard with ATI or NVidia chipset - or a Sempron AM2 3000+. I wonder how cheap a Core2 Solo would be
    Reply
  • Squidward - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Agreed, an excellent review, I loved Anand's anologies about the dinner table. I get the feeling he may have been thinking Arby's (tm) when he wrote this review. :)

    My goodness does Intel's new lineup impress. I've been using AMD ever since the K6/2 days and was planning on getting an X2 soon, but this review has made me decide to wait it out just a little bit longer.

    Great article guys, keep up the good work.
    Reply
  • Viditor - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    quote:

    Not just Netburst, even the Athlon 64s are obsolete now

    I'd say that the A64 X2s are still quite competitive, depending on your budget and availability of the C2Ds.
    That said, Intel has done a magnificent job with these chips!
    It looks like Conroe will own the high end market until AMD can release K8L...but judging by the review, AMD will own the low end. I can't see anyone buying a PD once AMD drops the prices, nor can I see anyone buying an AMD if they can afford a medium or higher priced system.
    Reply
  • jkostans - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    With the 1.83GHz conroe at $183 and on par with a X2 4600, I don't see the low end going for AMD either.Ultra low end will be a toss up however. Reply
  • Viditor - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    quote:

    With the 1.83GHz conroe at $183 and on par with a X2 4600, I don't see the low end going for AMD either

    If you look at the situation in total, it will probably make more sense...
    1. The X2 has far more inexpensive but fully functional motherboards to choose from.
    2. Supply will be far more constrained on the Conroe than on the X2

    Combos are king in the low end...for example, if you combine an Asus M2NPV-VM with an AM2 X2 3800 (after the price drop), you get a good dual core system with Raid 5, HDTV, nVidia 6150 graphics, Firewire, dual screen (VGA and DVI), and just about every whistle and bell you could want for (est) ~$250. You'd be hard pressed to find just a Conroe-ready motherboard with that kind of functionality for that kind of money (let alone a combo).
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    correct the real performance king will be for now the conroe starting from 6600 and above. maybe 6400 this will be clear later. but for the budget platform it will be better to buy an x2 3800 or 4200 seeing the price combo it will have. mobo + proc is way cheaper then any intel combo (100$ and more) thats a lot for a budget system.

    Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    oh and one big item which is left out of sighht... the performance gain is less on a conroe then on a k8.. its a difference of 15% in identical apps... that's an interesting point for the future... just my opinion Reply
  • Xenoid - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Yes it was a very, very well done review and I will definitely be purchasing one of these bad boys. Reply

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