Final Words

Every generation a ridiculously overclockable bargain chip is born, and the Core 2 Duo E4300 is just that chip. Although it's not yet launched, Intel has a true winner on its hands with the E4300. Last year we saw overall desktop performance redefined by the Core 2 lineup, and in 2007 it looks like Intel will begin changing what we've come to expect in the sub-$200 CPU market. What's even more impressive is that in another quarter, the E4300 will drop even further to $133. At these prices you can build a second or third system with some very strong performance, at a very reasonable price tag.

The best part of it all is that the E4300 is a no-compromise core; you end up losing VT support, but all of the performance elements are there. The 800MHz FSB isn't crippling enough to really hinder performance, and the smaller cache is more than acceptable for the vast majority of applications. The Core 2 Duo E4300 is no Celeron; if anything it's a spiritual successor to a long line of attractive, highly overclockable Intel CPUs. It's everything Intel's Pentium D 820 was, but with much higher performance and a much lower power envelope.

At default speeds, the E4300 isn't all that impressive in the grand scheme of things; it's effectively a slightly cheaper, slightly slower E6300. But much like the E6300, much of the appeal of the E4300 comes from overclocking - and overclock it does. Compared to other Core 2 CPUs, the E4300 doesn't set any new overclocking records but at the price it's a true bargain.

The change in base FSB speed also has advantages in overclocking, making it possible to use a linked (1:1 ratio) memory speed and still get extremely high overclocks without resorting to anything more than DDR2-800 memory. The E6300 has a 7x multiplier and a 266 MHz base bus speed, so without dropping to a 4:5 ratio and sticking with DDR2-800, the E6300 tops out at 7x400 or 2.8 GHz. With a 9x multiplier the E4300 can potentially reach as high as 9x400 or 3.6 GHz while keeping memory at or below DDR2-800. While it is possible to get bus speeds of P965 motherboards above 500 MHz, it is far more difficult and often requires more expensive component choices, making the E4300 the new king of budget overclocking. Throw in a more powerful CPU cooling setup, and we have no doubt it will be very easy to exceed our 3.37GHz overclock by a large margin.

At stock speeds, the E4300 ends up offering similar performance to the Athlon 64 X2 4200+. In SYSMark 2004SE, DivX and some games it's faster, and in other situations it's basically the same speed. The Athlon 64 X2 3800+ ends up being slower in every benchmark, but with a lower price it's still a reasonable choice. Obviously the Core 2 upgrade path is a bit more desirable these days than AMD's Socket-AM2 platform, so the E4300 gets the nod there, but you can't really go wrong with either chip at default settings. When overclocked things get a little more complicated, but the E4300 gets the recommendation as a 2.8 - 3.0GHz Athlon 64 still ends up being slower than a 3.38GHz Core 2.

Compared to Intel's other value offerings, mainly the existing Pentium D lineup, the decision is clear. With the E4300 at $163 and moving down to $133 by Q2, cheap no longer means NetBurst. Intel is planning on significantly ramping its dual core presence this year, and with the E4300 available as a part of the lineup we can see exactly how. If you're building a Vista system early this year and want to do it efficiently, Intel is going to make it even cheaper to do.

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  • yiranhu - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    9X multiplier!!! Now there's absolutely no point in buying the 6300/6400!! Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    Unless of course, you're going the budget CPU server route, and need virtualization. For example, using Xen, in order to run Windows in a domU (VM), you need VT. Reply
  • yehuda - Thursday, January 11, 2007 - link

    Hi,

    Who else should be concerned with the lack of VT support?

    If I run emulators locally (my personal experience includes bochs, qemu and DOSBox), is there anything I would lose going with the E4300?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • Yoshi911 - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    I think that with a 3ghz Opty144, My next upgrade will be to a Opty165 that I can run at 3ghz...2mb cache and dual core, good for gaming still.. all I'll ever need...

    SPEND YOUR MONEY ON VIDEO CARD UPGRADES AND RAM!!! if you don't have 2gb's ram and a nice video card... DONT EVEN THINK about upgrading platforms.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    And if you don't have 2GB of RAM, don't even think about spending the money on 2x1GB DDR-400! As for me, I have an Opty 165 that tops out at around 2.6GHz with a Scythe Ninja cooler, so you'll be lucky to get 3.0GHz. Even if you do get 3.0GHz, a Core 2 E4300 overclocked to 3.5GHz+ (remember we're talking stock cooler in this article) would beat it for performance. Now, if you have 2GB of DDR and a decent CPU and you are mostly worried about games, then the GPU is the bigger issue. If you don't have any of those things and need to upgrade, you'll be best getting Core 2 with DDR2 and a fast GPU, rather than X2/Opteron and DDR/DDR2 and a fast GPU. Reply
  • Yoshi911 - Thursday, January 11, 2007 - link

    Yeah but we're talking about cost effective performance for games... 90fps vs 190fps is going to look very little difference.. the next upgrade any gamer should be thinking about should be a DX10 compatable system. Reply
  • Doh! - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    Why hasn't yet Intel released this cpu for the consumer in the US? This cpu has been widely available since Jan. 5 in Korea. Isn't the US usuually the first place for a new cpu launch? Reply
  • deathwalker - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    Very nice reiview and the introduction of a true bargin in CPU's. Alas though..once again us SFF builders(I have a microfly case) are out in the cold since nearly all the Matx C2D motherboards are "crap" overclockers. This is not the place for it..but I will none the less rant on the Mobo builders for not making an honest effort to give us a decent C2D product. By decent, I mean something that will run well at setting other than stock out the box defaults. Nice job AT..this article give hope to builders on a budget. Reply
  • tayhimself - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    -sigh- i complained of this after ATs informative review on uATX cases asking if anyone knew any uATX 965 boards that would OC decently (350 FSB even). Too bad I got no respnoses then either. Reply
  • Goty - Wednesday, January 10, 2007 - link

    I'm not sure the price difference here is quite enough to pull anyone away from the E6300 (or the E6320 when it hits the market). It's only $50 cheaper on average, but you lose the faster FSB of the E6300 and I've seen a lot of E6300s overclock a lot better than this chip. Reply

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