L2 Cache: 4MB or 2MB?

The majority of Intel's Core 2 Duo line feature a single shared 4MB L2 cache, but the E6300 and E6400 are only equipped with a 2MB cache. Given that the Core 2 Duo doesn't have an on-die memory controller, it is more dependent on larger caches than AMD's Athlon 64 X2, which raises the question - how big of a difference is there between the 2MB L2 and 4MB L2 parts?

Our Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz) part, like all X6800s, is unlocked so we could simulate any other Core 2 Duo clock speed with it. We managed to get our hands on a Core 2 Duo E6300 (1.86GHz/2MB) and we were in business.

The graph below features all of the benchmarks we ran on the processors in this review, showing the percent performance improvement from a Core 2 Duo E6300 (1.86GHz/2MB) to a hypothetical 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo with a 4MB L2 cache. The bar labeled "Average" is simply an average of all of the performance improvements graphed on the chart.

The 4MB L2 cache can increase performance by as much as 10% in some situations. Such a performance improvement is definitely tangible, and as applications grow larger in their working data sets then the advantage of a larger cache will only become more visible. Unfortunately, you do pay a price premium for this added performance and future proofing as the cheapest 4MB L2 part is the E6600 priced at $316.

If you're the type to upgrade often, then the extra cache is not worth it as you're not getting enough of a present day increase in performance to justify the added cost. However, if this processor will be the basis for your system for the next several years, we'd strongly recommend picking a 4MB flavor of Core 2.

The Test Memory Latency: No Integrated Memory Controller Necessary
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  • Josh7289 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    When I go to college next year, I know what I'll be buying. :) Reply
  • Pirks - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    quote:

    When I go to college next year, I know what I'll be buying. :)
    When I see AMD price cuts next month, I know what your face'll look like. :)
    Reply
  • theoryzero - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    This review (and the many others from other review sites) is interesting in that it confirms Intel's bold claims made back in March.

    However, with that out of the way, what I really want to know is which chipset/MoBo to go with? Is springing for high-end memory worth it on Core2? Any plans for a motherboard review in the very near future? Given the Abit AB9 preview and recent articles on DDR2-1000 memory I kind of expected this stuff to show up after the NDA was lifted too.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Conroe starts shipping July 27th - the original launch date. Intel moved the launch date back two weeks because OEMs like Dell and HP were hot to start advertising and shipping Conroe systems. I suspect Intel was also trying to salvage their NDA. Good news is hard to contain and two more weeks of NDA would have likely resulted in more info leaks that Intel did not want to turn into a flood.

    You will be able to find answers at AnandTech to your basic Conroe motherboard and memory questions early next week.
    Reply
  • theoryzero - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Sounds good, thanks! Reply
  • bob661 - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    quote:

    You will be able to find answers at AnandTech to your basic Conroe motherboard and memory questions early next week.
    Thanks.
    Reply
  • Howard - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    I would have loved to see minimum FPS as well as average FPS. The review was great otherwise. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    While we could report those scores, we didn't feel we should at least on Oblivion. The reason for that is because the Oblivion runs were manually tested with FRAPS, and the results aren't perfectly comparable between runs. Anyway, here are some of the numbers, but recognize that the margin of error is going to be larger than what you would see with automated timedemos:

    Oblivion Bruma:
    Core E6300: 32-53.7-77
    Core X6800: 47-78.6-117
    AMD 3800+: 27-47.0-72
    AMD FX-62: 38-62.5-94

    Oblivion Dungeon:
    Core E6300: 39-81.3-211
    Core X6800: 57-106.5-214
    AMD 3800+: 35-72.0-189
    AMD FX-62: 46-89.9-211

    F.E.A.R.:
    Core E6300: 34-92-224
    Core X6800: 41-118-310
    AMD 3800+: 28-83-212
    AMD FX-62: 38-101-247

    Rise of Legends:
    Core E6300: 8-68.2-137
    Core X6800: 45-120.5-216
    AMD 3800+: 5-52.1-115
    AMD FX-62: 25-78.4-144

    Minimum frame rates in the Rise of Legends benchmark are zero on most of the Pentium D systems, so again we take those with something of a grain of salt. Regardless of how you look at it, though, the Core 2 Duo processors consistently outperform their AMD equivalents in gaming results. We will be looking at additional games next week in our motherboard reviews.
    Reply
  • nowuadmit - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    First off, when u guys reviewed a 486/33 for the first time... it was also "the fastest piece of silicon the world has ever seen"... then later, when u saw the P2-550... THAT was the "fastest piece of silicon... blah blah".

    Well its nice that intel has made a really expensive and barely available new chip, so they can finally match (or even exceed by a few points) AMD's reasonably priced previous generation. So now u can say they have the fastest, and if u want to spend thousands on a CPU that is only slightly faster than something that costs hundreds of dollars, HEY BE MY GUEST! there have been worse wastes of money! (in theory anyways, since the avg american wont be able to actually find any of these in the local stores for quite some time, if intel follows their previous habits).

    Anyhow the point of my comment... i think this is a good thing. i mean, anything that actually causes an intel fanboi to admit finally that intel has been reaming your butts for 5 years..

    while the people who simply buy whatever CPU makes the most sense have been enjoying getting great quality nookie from AMD! SO i present to you, this Technical Quote of the Year, spoken on behalf of all intel fanbois with half a brain!

    Technical Quote of the Year:

    "...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."

    Congradulations on your honesty, finally.
    Reply
  • MrKaz - Friday, July 14, 2006 - link

    Yes that’s truth.

    80% of Intel crap, only 20% is good. The Pentium M.

    So they say 5 years ago until now Intel was “all” crap. I think Northwood was/is very good.

    My maximum price is 100$ (or 120$ with cooler) for a CPU. Only AMD as an honest performing CPU for those prices.
    Reply

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