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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  • finbarqs - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    just to show you how EASY it is to O/C the system! (and for the Futuremark junkies :-) )

    http://www.futuremark.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1...">http://www.futuremark.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1...

    You would want one :)

    if you want to know, 3DMark 2001SE posted a score of 45k, and 3DMark 2003 posted a 33k, FACTORY.
    Reply
  • phaxmohdem - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I was wondering if you could possibly do some "single core" performance testing in the CPU's by simply changing the HAL to "ACPI Uniprocessor PC" instead of "multiprocessor PC" This would tel windows to only use one of the Core2 Duo cores, and I think would give us a good indication of how it will perform when released. Especially on the 2MB cache models, since I'm guessing the single cores won't bust out the door with a full 4MB.

    Just some food for thought/consideration. I personally would love to see a few tests run this way and compared to some single/dual core A64's.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Conroe-L is so far off that it's really an afterthought. The only reason it's not shipping is that Intel has a ton of Netburst stuff to offload, IMO. At $145, the PD 945 is still interesting in terms of certain computational tasks. (I miss the QMD Folding@Home cores....) Reply
  • fishbits - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I had hoped AMD could gain even more market-share before something like this happened, would rather see the two CPU makers on more even footing. Intel just hit this one out of the park however, if pricing holds and availability is decent. Was looking at upgrading my 3500 (939) to a $300 X2 4600 after the price drop, but now? It looks like I'll probably keep this system and build a new rig around a $300 Intel 6600, which wins over or smokes the 4600 depending on benchmark. I really don't know what AMD can do to keep me in the short term, because I don't know if they can make any money dropping prices as far as it looks like they'll need to go. Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    One thing to consider though, if you decide to go with the C2D 6600, then you will also have to spend $$ on a new Mobo + Memory (since your DDR RAM won't work on the platforms for C2D. Keep that in mind when you're upgrading. Reply
  • fishbits - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    When I said that if I went with Intel I'd keep my current rig and build a new one around the Conroe, didn't it dawn on you that I'd already "considered" the need to get a new mobo, memory, etc? Reply
  • SpaceRanger - Sunday, July 16, 2006 - link

    Holy arrogance.. EXCUSE ME for pointing something out.. Reply
  • epsilonparadox - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Well the loads of money they made when they had the better performing architecture can hopefully keep them doing very well also the Opteron isn't really being challenged and thats really their moneymaker right now. They shouldn't have any problems lowering prices on their desktop chips while keeping the status quo on the Opterons. Reply
  • zsdersw - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    They can't really keep the status quo on the Opterons either. Woodcrest excels (or, at the very least, is equal to the Opteron) in the 1P and 2P server space.. which is a huge chunk of the overall server market. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    While I'm sad to see AMD lose the performance crown, I'm not so obtuse as to deny it's happening.

    I'm excited by Intel's newest chip, but I think the results for me will be that I'll buy a faster Athlon 64 X2 when the prices drop (assuming Socket 939 ones become cheaper as well, I don't plan a move to Socket AM2 for some time to come). So Intel's newest chip should benefit even those of us sticking with an AMD system. :)
    Reply

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