Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 & E6400: Tremendous Value Through Overclockingby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 26, 2006 8:17 AM EST
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If it weren't for AMD, we wouldn't have Core 2, and if it weren't for Core 2 then we wouldn't have affordable Athlon 64 X2s. Right now is one of the best times to purchase a new processor that we've seen in a long time -- assuming current prices hold and that availability of Core 2 Duo chips is reasonable in the next week or so. If you've been running a single core processor and are finally looking to make the jump to dual core computing, there's little reason not to at this point.
The processor landscape has been changed once more thanks to AMD's extremely aggressive price cuts. The Core 2 Duo E6300 is a better performer than the X2 3800+ but is also more expensive, thankfully for the E6300's sake it is also faster than the 4200+ and the 4600+ in some benchmarks. Overall the E6300 is a better buy, but at stock speeds the advantage isn't nearly as great as the faster Core 2 parts. In many benchmarks the X2 4200+ isn't that far off the E6300's performance, sometimes even outperforming it at virtually the same price. Overclocking changes everything though, as our 2.592GHz E6300 ended up faster than AMD's FX-62 in almost every single benchmark. If you're not an overclocker, then the Athlon 64 X2 4200+ looks to be a competitive alternative to the Core 2 E6300.
The E6400 finds itself in between the X2 4200+ and X2 4600+ in price, but in performance the E6400 generally lands in between the 4600+ and 5000+. Once again, with these 2MB parts the performance advantage isn't nearly as impressive as with the 4MB parts (partly due to the fact that their native clock speed is lower, in addition to the smaller L2 cache), but even with AMD's new price cuts the Core 2 is still very competitive at worst. If you're not opposed to overclocking, then the E6400 can offer you more than you can get from any currently shipping AMD CPU - our chip managed an effortless 2.88GHz overclock which gave us $1000 CPU performance for $224.
There are two potential concerns with building a budget Core 2 Duo system. The first is availability, and hopefully we will have a clear answer on that subject in the near future. The other is motherboard cost. The ASUS P5W-DH we used in this article is currently the best overclocking motherboard we've seen for the socket 775 platform, but at $250 it is anything but cheap. We have seen quite a few of the P965 motherboards that can also overclock the budget Core 2 chips to reasonable levels, with prices hovering much closer to $140. Unfortunately, none of those boards can support SLI or CrossFire at present.
If you are simply interested in maximum processor performance, P965 with any of the Core 2 Duo parts is going to be very fast. Gamers on the other hand are probably going to at least want to think about SLI/CrossFire, as typical gaming settings will be GPU limited with just about any current single GPU. That means they might need to pay more for an appropriate motherboard, especially if overclocking is a primary concern. We're also waiting to find out how nForce 500 for Intel does in the overclocking arena; at present, there's definitely concerns about whether or not the NVIDIA motherboards can reach the high FSB speeds that are required for overclocking everything but the X6800.
The E6300 and E6400 can easily overclock to E6700 and Core 2 Extreme X6800 levels, though the smaller cache does limit performance a bit. That being said, our overclocked E6300 was able to equal and in all cases but one outperform AMD's Athlon 64 FX-62. In fact, in quite a few benchmarks, the overclocked E6300 is essentially out of reach of anything AMD can offer with their current K8 designs. At $183, the value here is tremendous, and if you're willing to overclock the benefits don't get any clearer than that.