Final Words

General application performance can improve a bit by switching to Core 2 Duo, but the biggest performance gains are associated with 3D rendering and media encoding tasks. Considering the nature of the improvements to Intel's Core 2 processor, the areas in which it succeeds are not surprising. If you use your notebook as a professional rendering or encoding workstation with no desktop in sight, then you'll probably consider Core 2 Duo a lot more carefully than most.

One of the items that clearly stands out is that discussing gaming performance on laptops is largely an academic endeavor, as the vast majority of shipping laptops are going to be completely GPU limited. We will hopefully have some results from a high-end gaming laptop in the near future, at which time we can detmine how much of an advantage Core 2 Duo really has over Core Duo. The designs are similar enough that we don't expect a huge difference, and the lower FSB bandwidth will certainly limit performance potential more than on the desktop. However, we would expect a difference somewhere in the range of 5-15% in most games if we can remove the GPU bottleneck as is evidenced by the Oblivion results.

While Core 2 Duo does look nice, as long as you've got a good notebook today you'll probably want to wait until Santa Rosa before upgrading (at the earliest). With Santa Rosa, clock speeds will go up slightly but more importantly we'll get access to a faster FSB. Unfortunately a side-effect of keeping Core 2 Duo fed with a faster FSB is that while performance may go up, battery life may go down. It'll be interesting to see what Intel can pull off with the new platform; one of the funny things about performance and battery life is that if you can complete a task quickly enough thus returning your CPU to an idle state faster, battery life will grow even though instantaneous power consumption may be higher.

For Apple users this means that early adopters of the new MacBook or MacBook Pro won't be too pressured to upgrade again by the end of this year. Of course Apple has this way of making incremental changes irresistible.

Overall, Merom may not be as big of an upgrade to Yonah as Conroe was to NetBurst, but the bottom line is that you get equal or better performance in every test without increasing cost or decreasing battery life. Owners of Core Duo laptops really have no reason to worry about upgrading for now, and waiting for the Santa Rosa platform before your next laptop upgrade seems reasonable. Those looking to purchase a new notebook on the other hand have no reason to avoid Core 2 Duo models, assuming pricing is consistent with what Intel is promising. There will be a delay of at least a few more weeks as we await availability, and testing and validation by laptop manufacturers may delay things a bit more, but within the next month or so you should be able to get a Core 2 laptop.

Battery Life - Reading, DVD Playback & Wireless Web Browsing


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  • Spacecomber - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    I know that we are perhaps past the time for this, but I'd be curious how the Pentium M stacked up against its replacement, the Core Solo. It might shed some light on the roots for the Core line of processors. Reply
  • ksherman - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    I for one hope Apple pops these babies in the MacBook as well as the MacBook Pro. I have been reading a lot of rumors suggesting that Apple will only put Merom in the Pro model at first... Seems kinda goofy, since they purchase processors in *relatively* low quantity. Ive got my eye on the MacBook, so any performance increase with no price premium is always a plus, and I do plan on doing a lot of video editing/rendering Reply
  • mlittl3 - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    I'm waiting for the third revision of the Macbook Pro in the middle of next year. By this revision most of the problems with the new designs should be ironed out and these notebooks will probably be based on the Santa Rosa platform (800 MHz FSB). Right now I have a 1.5 GHz G4 Powerbook and it does what I need. I will upgrade to the Macbook Pro 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo (Merom) on the Santa Rosa platform. If you like your notebook right now, I would wait until then. This would give you the most stability and bump in performance in the near future. Expect the third revision sometime next summer. Reply
  • mlittl3 - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    To be more clear:

    First Revision - Macbook Pro 2.16 GHz Core Duo 667 MHz FSB 2 MB (1Q 2006)
    Second Revision - Macbook Pro 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo 667 MHz FSB 4 MB (3Q 2006?)
    Third Revision - Macbook Pro 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo 800 MHz FST 4 MB (2Q 2007?)
  • AndrewChang - Sunday, August 6, 2006 - link

    Santa Rosa... At the earliest? I mean, I supose with the Core 2 Duo being 'crippled' by a slow(er) FSB, it might be worth the wait. But what do you think Anand means by, at the earliest?

    Whats next after Santa Rosa? Does he know something we don't know? Well, thats a given, but now I'm sketched out about all this... Should we expect some early adopter problems with the introduction of this newfangled Robson technology? God, for a hardware enthusiast, who would've thought that making a new hardware purchase could be so tough. All I want is the fastest performing Merom/Leopard based Macbook Pro available. Am I really going to have to wait until at least Santa Rosa next year? It's going to be a long wait...
  • Olaf van der Spek - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link


    Our final battery life test centers around wireless internet browsing, and thus we could only test the three Compaqs in this roundup that featured built in wireless.

    What three Compaqs?
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    Didn't you see the three compaqs in the review? ;)

    Take care,
  • yacoub - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    now this is a test i can totally appreciate: everything is identical except the CPU, so you get to see what the REAL WORLD benefit of changing the CPU is in your REAL WORLD system that people might actually buy/own. ie, instead of maxing everything else out with parts 99% of people don't buy / can't afford.

    of course the result is that you see that the real world difference is only noticeable in some situations and with some programs. but hey, that's the reality of it and actually it's easy to see that since the pricing is comparable and all else the same, it's a decent upgrade and certainly a level of future-proofing as well.
  • jones377 - Thursday, August 3, 2006 - link

    It was interesting to compare the numbers in this review with the previous Core 2 Duo desktop review where 2MB vs 4MB L2 cache was examined (although at 1,83GHz/1066)">

    Its not a perfect comparison but from what I can gather, there are significant improvements performance wise coming from the core, even in the non-FP/SSE related benchmarks. A favorite argument among some people is that the extra cache makes all the difference, I hope this will shut them up! (tho I really doubt it)
  • iollmann - Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - link

    In SSE code, I see close to a factor of 2 performance increase from Yonah to Merom much of the time. These benchmarks are depressing. The improvement should be better than what we see. Does no one vectorize?

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