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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  • soydios - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Awesome article, as always from AT. Between the article and the 100+ comments above this one, almost all my Conroe questions have been answered.

    ;)
    Reply
  • johnsonx - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Wow is all I can say. I don't think there's ever been a performance jump quite like this. AMD will still do ok (not win mind you) on the low-end, where most people live, but the mid-range and high-end is so overwhelmingly in Intel's camp now there's just no comparison. AMD would have to go to 3.4Ghz+ to even be competitive (and still not win mind you).

    My office computers will continue to be AMD Sempron for the forseeable future (AM2 from now on of course), but next time someone wants a CAD box I don't see how I can quote anything but Core 2 Duo.

    Also, loved the dinner table analogy on page 13.
    Reply
  • crimson117 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/07/13/dell_xps700_to_f...">http://www.tgdaily.com/2006/07/13/dell_xps700_to_f...

    "Grapevine (TX) - On the day Intel announces its next generation of Conroe desktop processors - which is expected within days - Dell Computer will upgrade its top-of-the-line XPS 700 desktop computer model to offer not only an overclocked Core 2 Extreme CPU, but also the option of two Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX cards in SLI mode. These will apparently replace the Pentium Extreme processor and GeForce 7900 GS options currently available, and will be in addition to the Aegia PhysX accelerator already offered."
    Reply
  • epsilonparadox - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Probably an Nf4 chipset since there are motherboards with conroe support using Nf4. Reply
  • Avalon - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    This is one fine architecture. It wound up performing as well as I had suspected it would. Definitely wow. Reply
  • cgrecu77 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I gambled by purchasing a A64 3700+ a few weeks ago when it dropped to under 150 ...
    If I were to upgrade to the cheapest solo I would probably have to pay 500 dollars or more (new cpu, mb and memory) and I will probably get ~ performance in games. I stopped overclokcing a long time ago (except for maybe 10%) because I am tired of my new system becoming unstable after 4 months (plus I don't really need it anymore since nothing I do is really cpu limited).

    98% of people actually buy the cheapest CPUs in a range (A64 2800-3200, x2 3800, C6300). That's where the real competition will be and frankly I'm not impressed at all, A64 is an ~3years old processor and intel's newest product can only beat it by 20%? As far as I can remember the Athlon 3200+ was even worse in comparison to P4 3,2 Ghz and most people still bought the 2500+ Bartons ... So I wouldn't worry too much if I were an AMD stock holder, especially that it looks like Opterons still have no competition in the multi cpu servers (more than 2 ...).

    After all, if Dell decided to use AMD NOW of all times it must mean something, they probably had access to these benchmarks a little earlier than Anand had ... :)

    One thing I would have expected to see for such a new CPU that is supposed to carry the Intel flag for the next 2 years is 64 bit performance. This is probably the last year when 32bit OSes have the upper hand, starting with Vista most people will take advantage of their 64bit cpus. Once the majors concentrate on 64 bit drivers you can be sure that they will gradually take resource from the 32 bit development and the balance will shift very quickly ... If A64 has even a 10% advantage over the Cores combined with the .65 switch it will probably balance the equation to the point where core and a64 will have similar performance per clock ...
    Reply
  • dargaard - Saturday, July 15, 2006 - link

    http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/trurl_pag...">Some Conroe problems (??) with 64 bit Reply
  • dev0lution - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I gambled by purchasing a A64 3700+ a few weeks ago when it dropped to under 150 ...
    If I were to upgrade to the cheapest solo I would probably have to pay 500 dollars or more (new cpu, mb and memory) and I will probably get ~ performance in games. I stopped overclokcing a long time ago (except for maybe 10%) because I am tired of my new system becoming unstable after 4 months (plus I don't really need it anymore since nothing I do is really cpu limited).

    98% of people actually buy the cheapest CPUs in a range (A64 2800-3200, x2 3800, C6300). That's where the real competition will be and frankly I'm not impressed at all, A64 is an ~3years old processor and intel's newest product can only beat it by 20%?


    First off, why mention Core Solo when it's totally unrelated to this article and any of the comments?

    Second, socket 939's days are already numbered. You'd have to pay the same $500 to upgrade to the AM2 processors benched in the article, so mentioning this as a diss to Core 2 Duo is pretty weak.

    So you'd have the option of spending $500 to upgrade to a E6600 setup that would beat out a $1200+ AM2 setup. Sounds like a no-brainer. And if you think AMD's going to slash prices below Intel's parts I don't think you can hold your breath that long.

    And 98% of people don't even build their own computers, they buy tier-1... who aren't making nearly that percentage of their systems with the lowest end parts.

    Looks like I'll have a 3200, 3700 and 4000 (939 parts) for sale in the near future...
    Reply
  • MrKaz - Monday, July 17, 2006 - link

    OK.

    But if you dont want to spent more than 120$ for the processor, the Conroe looks expensive.
    Reply
  • aznskickass - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Dude, 20% is a HUGE margin when you are talking competitive benchmarks.

    When A64 was released back in 2003 it had about a 10% edge on the P4 and people were lauding it for it's leap in performance, and rightly so, considering the AXPs were getting beaten by 10%, so it was a 20% turnaround altogether.

    This time around, it's even more impressive from Intel as they have turned a 10 - 20% performance deficit into a 20% advantage, you really can't expect much more than that, can you?

    What did you expect Intel to do, double A64 performance? I'm sure if they ran their chips @ 4GHz/400FSB they might be able to get close to that, but what is the point when you have beaten your competition so convincingly already?

    Reply

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