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
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  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    Far and away the most cost efficient thing for those like you who only care about games is to stick with your dual core, followed by getting a faster dual-core or an SSD. Check the performance numbers in the Phenom II launch article, as most of the games are not using the quad-cores, very few of them look good in added performance for the money.
  • WillR - Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - link

    What it really boils down to is "which socket do you already have?". And Intel knows this. Think about it, they've been beating AMD pretty much since the C2D's came out so most people adopted that platform and already own Socket T/775 boards with C2D chips. Now that AMD has released a competing 45nm quad core, Intel has had to lower their prices to attract purchases of customers they already had. The decision for many people (including yourself) is do you spend $280 on a new Q9550 or $195 for a new P2 920 and another $100-150 on a new motherboard that will make it work? Clearly the almost $300 CPU is the cheaper option. And I'd bet most will go for the Q8200 or the Q9400. "Most" being the average consumer that buys it and gets someone else to install it for them. Intel would be silly not to get another $85, or even the $35 for the Q9400, out of customers that are upgrading from Core2Duo's. IMO, it's worth it just to avoid the hassle of changing 2 pieces of hardware at 1 time. That's a major headache if one of the parts is DOA.

    The only place Intel can lose business (in reference to quad cores) to AMD right now is people buying Phenom 9600s for $110 that want a quad core "just because", to people that already have an AM2 platform, AMD fanbois, and people that have not bothered to upgrade their 2Ghz P4 yet. And those last aren't going to go with AMD because they think AMD parts are cheap for a reason. There are many people that just won't buy from tech companies like AMD because they consider them "second rate" businesses with low quality products, even though they've never owned anything they make.
  • plonk420 - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    what build of x264 was this?

    i'm assuming this build was downloaded via MeGUI and its updater...
  • Jedi2155 - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    Have we really become that? I didn't think there ever wood be high volume enthusiasts.
  • hansmuff - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    I was hoping to get some information about how the chip overclocks and if there are significant differences between it and the non-S cores in terms of overclocking.
    Anything the author can add?
  • B3an - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    Exactly, thats what nearly all of us care about. Such an OBVIOUS thing to have in the article.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    The Q9550S didn't overclock any better than our other Q9550 that we used in the overclocking section in the Phenom II review.

  • Giant Panda - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    You people really need to read before you post. At the bottom of page one the author states and I quote "...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." If you aren't going to even bother reading the article why do you bother to post and ask questions that were answered in the article you clearly didn't even read?
  • Ryun - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    In the Photoshop tests I'm assuming you calculated joules by multiplying the time it took to complete the test by the average system wattage drawn from the wall. If that is the case the Phenom II 940 joules should be closer to about 3800 joules (24.2sec * 157watts) and not the 4700 joules you have listed.

    Please correct me if I am mistaken.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, January 27, 2009 - link

    I actually took the system power every second during the test and summed that. The numbers are close, but not identical.


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