At this year's Spring IDF, before the launch of Intel's new Core 2 processors, in an unprecedented move (for Intel) we were allowed to benchmark the new Core 2 processor alongside an AMD system and publish benchmarks. While we've previewed Intel processors in the past before their launch, this was the first time we were able to test something this far in advance of its launch, with Intel's support, and also test a competing AMD part at Intel's own show. Previously, Intel would hardly even recognize that it had a competitor, but in the past year alone Intel's attitude towards competition has changed dramatically. The change in heart was also quite evident at this year's Fall IDF, where featuring competing AMD solutions on stage for performance comparisons was far from taboo.

Generally speaking, Intel had a lot of success with its early previews of the Core 2 processors. Readers could get a good idea of performance well before its launch and they could plan upgrades accordingly, and as it turned out, the final shipping performance of Core 2 CPUs was nothing short of impressive. With the November launch of its quad-core Kentsfield and Clovertown based processors quickly approaching, Intel offered members of the press a similar chance to take an early look at quad-core performance at IDF.

This time around there were only two systems, both of which were Intel based. There's no need for a reference AMD system since we've already determined that Intel's Core 2 Extreme processor is faster than anything AMD currently has to offer; what we're now interested in is how much of a performance improvement you can get from going to quad-core. Both systems were identically configured with 2GB of DDR2-800 running at 4-4-4-12 timings on an Intel BadAxe2 motherboard based on the 975X chipset.

Click to enlarge

Unfortunately, we weren't very pleased with the benchmarking circumstances this time around. When we tested Core 2 at last IDF, we were able to run some of our own benchmarks and the benchmarks represented a reasonable subset of the performance tests we were already running in house. With Intel's quad-core setup, we were not able to run any of our own benchmarks and the majority of the tests we were able to run were of benchmarks we wouldn't normally use to begin with. While we could adjust settings and use some of our own demos/test configurations last time, this time we couldn't do anything other than click go and see the results generated in real time. There's no reason to believe that Intel did anything fishy, and the performance we saw agreed with internal performance testing of Kentsfield, but overall the time benchmarking at IDF was not all that useful.

Keep in mind that the benchmarks Intel selected to show off were specifically chosen to maximize the impact of four cores, and thus we're looking at a lot of significantly multi-threaded applications like 3dsmax. Realistically, the majority of tests in our normal CPU benchmark suite will not see a benefit from quad-core and thus the real purchase decision between dual and quad core is far more difficult to make than you'd think based on these numbers alone. At the same time, when your options at $999 are a 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 (dual-core) or a 2.66GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6700, we'd generally recommend going for the latter if you're multitasking at all or plan on running any applications that are well threaded. Even games like Alan Wake and Unreal Tournament 2007 will be able to take advantage of the extra cores, and you can always overclock the processor to make up for the clock speed difference, but you can't enable more cores than you have.

With the stage set, let's take a look at the actual performance Kentsfield brings to the table.

Kentsfield Performance
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  • yacoub - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    Now give me a storage technology (ie, hard drive) that can multi-task and really feed the CPUs, RAM, and GPU effectively. Currently hard drives are by far the biggest bottleneck.

    I really don't want to get too involved with RAID; I just want a new technology that allows for much quicker data access and multi-tasking ability over high-bandwidth lines.

    Also, affordable plz. ;)
    Reply
  • Madellga - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    Anand, I was going to ask if you could tell us which mobos will support the Quad core and after reading the article I just noticed that you just promised a list.

    I look forward to see the list and thanks for thinking of it :)
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, September 28, 2006 - link

    I was thinking of upgrading to core 2 duo end of this month, what is price range on these being released in Novemeber? These gonna be like $1000 till more are release im assuming.. Reply
  • coldpower27 - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    It's going to be Core 2 Extreme QX6700 so it's a 999US processor which is pretty standard, what is the most interesting though is what is coming in Q1 2007 with the Core 2 Quad Q6600. Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    quote:

    It's going to be Core 2 Extreme QX6700 so it's a 999US processor which is pretty standard, what is the most interesting though is what is coming in Q1 2007 with the Core 2 Quad Q6600.
    Seriously doubt it will cost anywhere near the present cost of the X6800.
    Reply
  • coldpower27 - Saturday, September 30, 2006 - link

    Well the present cost of the X6800 is around 975US or so, when the Kentsfield just comes out in Extreme form I expect it to cost 1150US due to slight gouging at first but the price should fall back to 999US once the intial burst demand and supply builds up.

    1300US might exist for vendors that overcharge extremely, but not as the de feacto standard price for the QX6700.
    Reply
  • bob661 - Thursday, September 28, 2006 - link

    They'll definitely be more expensive than the present X6800's. I'm thinking about $1300 retail. Reply
  • JackPack - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    They already said $999.... Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    quote:

    They already said $999....
    And by the time the Intel fanbois are done it will be $1300 and OOS.
    Reply
  • Questar - Friday, September 29, 2006 - link

    What do you care? You're not going to buy one anyway. Reply

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