Intel's Core 2 Extreme & Core 2 Duo: The Empire Strikes Backby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 14, 2006 12:00 AM EST
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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.