In one breath Intel dramatically cut pricing on its Core 2 Quads. Intel’s swift response was even faster than NVIDIA’s after the RV770 launch. In the following breath however, Intel introduced new, lower power, and much higher priced Core 2 Quad CPUs. Enter the S-line.

TDP binning is something that AMD has done for quite a while on the desktop. The e-suffix parts (e.g. Phenom X4 9350e) are lower TDP parts, sold at a premium, to those users who need lower power consumption.

The Phenom X4 9350e and the 9150e are both 65W quad-core parts from AMD, while all of Intel’s quad-core CPUs have been 95W. Unwilling to allow AMD any sort of advantage, Intel has finally responded with 65W quad-core offerings of its own. The difference here is that while AMD’s 65W quad-cores are all significantly lower clocked Phenom processors, Intel’s 65W chips are available at up to 2.83GHz.

The Core 2 Quad Q9550S, Q9400S and Q8200S are all 65W TDP quad-core CPUs. They share the same specs as their non-S brethren. The only difference here is that instead of being 95W TDP parts, these CPUs can fit in a 65W thermal envelope.

Processor Clock Speed L2 Cache L3 Cache TDP Price
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition 3.20GHz 1MB 8MB 130W $999
Intel Core i7-940 2.93GHz 1MB 8MB 130W $562
Intel Core i7-920 2.66GHz 1MB 8MB 130W $284
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 3.00GHz 12MB - 95W $316
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550S 2.83GHz 12MB - 65W $369
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83GHz 12MB - 95W $266
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400S 2.66GHz 6MB - 65W $320
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 6MB - 95W $213
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 2.50GHz 4MB - 95W $183
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200S 2.33GHz 4MB - 65W $245
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 2.33GHz 4MB - 95W $163


The price premium for these new S-parts is huge. The Q9550S costs $103 more than the non-S, the Q9400S will set you back another $107 and the Q8200S is the most affordable with only an $82 premium. Note that in the case of the Q9550S and Q9400S you're actually more expensive than the entry level Core i7-920.

Intel achieves these lower TDPs by running at a lower core voltage. With a mature enough manufacturing process, which Intel’s 45nm process is, it’s quite possible to produce CPUs that run much cooler than average and on a lower voltage. CPU power varies with the square of the voltage, so any savings in voltage can result in a non-linear decrease in power consumption.

Don’t get too excited however. If you remember back to our review of the 9350e/9150e we found that the decrease in power wasn’t worth the added price. Even Intel has come forward and told us that these are primarily OEM parts and not intended for the high volume enthusiast community. With Intel being honest in its intended purpose for these S-class CPUs we don’t really have to do much to keep them honest, we just need to confirm the findings.

To do this we took a subset of our regular CPU performance tests and looked at performance, power consumption and power efficiency. We measured total system power consumption at the wall outlet, which does admittedly lessen the impact of a lower power CPU but it should give us an idea of the real world benefit of these processors. If you want to see how the Q9550/Q9550S performs across our entire suite of benchmarks take a look at AnandTech bench, our new publicly available benchmark database.

...and in case you’re wondering, no, they don’t overclock any better. Our Q9550S couldn’t get any further than the Q9550 we used in our Phenom II review.

The Test

CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 940 (3.0GHz)
AMD Phenom 9950 (2.6GHz)
Intel Core i7-965 (3.2GHz)
Intel Core i7-920 (2.66GHz)
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (3.2GHz/1600MHz)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 (3.00GHz)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550S (2.83GHz)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 (2.66GHz)
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 (2.66GHz)
Motherboard: Intel DX58SO (Intel X58)
Intel DX48BT2 (Intel X48)
MSI DKA790GX Platinum (AMD 790GX)
Chipset: Intel X48
Intel X58
Chipset Drivers: Intel (Intel)
AMD Catalyst 8.12
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M SSD (80GB)
Memory: G.Skill DDR2-800 2 x 2GB (4-4-4-12)
G.Skill DDR2-1066 2 x 2GB (5-5-5-15)
Qimonda DDR3-1066 4 x 1GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Card: eVGA GeForce GTX 280
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 180.43 (Vista64)
Desktop Resolution: 1920 x 1200
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit
Adobe Photoshop CS4 Performance
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Jaramin - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    The temperature data was really interesting. Would love to see that more often. And why leave out the AMD Phenom II X4 920 ?
  • Holly - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the review folks, much appreciated :-)
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    How about buying a regular part, and under volting it yourself ? Can these new parts be under volted themselves ? Why isnt intel selling a Core 2 that is internally a laptop CPU, but externally a socket 775 part ? e.g. "we" would like a desktop 25W TDP CPU.

    Things that make you go "hmmm" ?

    Too bad Cyrix, and possibly more ( Centuar ? ) CPU makers are no longer around, we're getting stuck in some stupid war between two manufactures, instead of embracing newer, and better technology; At Intel's whim. How about something truly revolutionary . . .
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    Probably because most users are not running off solar/wind, and a few more kW per month are not a huge deal.
  • WillR - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    A few kW average per month is most people's electric bills. :) I wanted to say, if more people considered every watt used a big deal then more people might be able to run off panels on their roof. Every watt certainly matters by the time you count how many electrical devices you have in your home.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    kWh, my bad.

    I live in upstate NY. Until there is a revolution in efficiency of panels, no one will be running 100% off solar up here.
  • Jansen - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link">

    DailyTech did a bit on the price cuts and the announcements a little while ago.

    But this chart is much nicer :-)
  • Giant Panda - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    Intel's pricing is still so far off base on their quad cores. Right now on the egg a Phenom II X4 920 @ 2.8GHz is $195. The closest Intel CPU, the Q9550 Yorkfield @ 2.83GHz is $281.99. Granted, the Intel CPU is ever so slightly faster, and may overclock a bit better, but almost $100 worth of better? At the higher end the price gap becomes utterly ridiculous. The Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition @ 3.0GHz is $235. The closest Intel CPU, that also has an unlocked multiplier like the AMD, is the Core 2 Extreme QX9650 @ 3.0GHz which costs 1,029.99. Again, granted, the Intel CPU may be slightly faster and a better overclocker, but that is a price difference of 794.99. I could build an entire midrange system for that. What I would much rather see as a consumer, rather that a processor that consumes a bit less power, is a quad that is actually reasonably priced. While this seems to be the direction AMD has gone, Intel still charges you and arm a leg just for entry to the quad club. I'm no AMD fanboy, but I do believe in buying what gives the biggest bang for the buck. I bought an lga 775 motherboard almost a year ago because AMD simply couldn't compete at the time. I also had the intention of going to a quad core when they became more mainstream and affordable. If the prices of Intel chips don't drop substantially soon, I may just go ahead and get an AMD product and use the money I save to get a new motherboard.
  • QChronoD - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    Are you even bothering to look at the benchmarks? I understand that it is easiest to compare a PIIX4 940 Black @ 3.0GHz with a C2E QX9650 @ 3.0GHz because the numbers are the same. But looking at the x264 benchmarks(the only one that is relevant to me) it's really only as fast as the Q9400 @ 2.66GHz. According to the egg, the X4 940 is on sale for $253 while the Q9400 is only $229.

    Your entire argument is pointless because you've fallen for the MHz myth it seems. There hasn't been clock parity since the days of PIII and original Athlon.
  • Giant Panda - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    Yes, I am considering benchmarks. According to Anand techs own video game benchmarks (the only thing I care about) in the recent Phenom II article, the closest match to the Phenom II X4 920 in terms of performance is the Q9450, which is no longer listed on the egg. However the Q9550, which is still listed, is anywhere from about 2 to 10 fps faster in benchmarks, but costs almost $100 more. I am not trying to argue that these two CPUs have identical performance. As I stated previously the Intel CPU is without question a faster CPU, but it is not all that much faster especially when you consider the price difference. That boils down to anywhere from about $9 to $50 per additional fps, depending on the game. I'm sorry but the cost to benefit simply is not there. You would be much better off investing that money into a better video card, motherboard, or more RAM. This isn't even factoring in that AMD motherboards tend to be cheaper as well, lowering the overall cost of the system, or conversely, allowing you to get a better AMD CPU to make up that performance gap and still end up ahead.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now