Intel Core 2 (Conroe) Performance Review

By Zachary Chan - 14 Jul 2006



This time last year, Intel was busy prepping themselves for the launch of the Smithfield, Intel's first dual-core desktop processor and it just seems fitting that Intel chose July 2006 as the launch pad of their new Core 2 processors. With a whole new look, branding and technology behind this chip, one can easily tell that Intel has been hoping for it to be a resounding success. Well, fresh from our round of benchmarking, we think that no one would disagree when we say that the numbers speak for themselves. The Core 2 processors practically ripped to shreds any and all previous desktop performance records with scores that were mostly through the roof.

Even AMD's newly launched Socket AM2 Athlon 64 FX-62 heavyweight could hardly hold a candle to the Core 2 Duo E6600, let alone the computing monster that is the Core 2 Extreme X6800. With almost half the TDP and a third of its price, the 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo E6600 made the 2.8GHz Athlon 64 FX-62 look like a lumbering giant. It is not everyday that you get to see a lower end processor outperform an enthusiast part most of the time by a wide two-digit margin. The burning question now is how will AMD respond to this 'not so little' threat. AMD's next performance part, the FX-64 is possibly scheduled for a Q4 2006 release and will be nothing more than a speed bump to the FX-62, while retaining the 125W TDP envelop. Looking at the performance of the FX-62 as compared to the Core 2 Duos, it is highly unlikely that the FX-64 will make a ripple even if AMD decided to release it today.

However, in retrospect, the exact same sentiments can be said for Intel's own Presler lineup. The results of the Core 2 Duo really puts the Pentium Extreme Edition 965 in its place, so much so that it isn't even remotely funny. If anything, this is akin to Intel admitting just how inefficient NetBurst has been and the Core microarchitecture is their form of apology. With the Core, Intel has totally redeemed itself of any past shadows.

Moving back to the Core 2, Intel truly has an exceptional product this time around. Taking advantage of the maturity of their 65nm process and a new core design (albeit its roots are practically from the mobile department, which in itself an advanced Pentium 3), the Core 2 die size and transistor count has shrunk considerably compared to the Presler core, which helps keep heat down. All Core 2 CPUs based on the Conroe die will feature 4MB of L2 cache and Intel seems to have officially moved all processors to a higher bandwidth 1066MHz FSB. However, this brings us to one little itch we've been having since we broke open our Core 2 kit. Does anyone feel that the Core 2 Extreme just isn't 'extreme' enough? Granted we've seen its performance, but the X6800 is just the next multiplier in the line after the E6700. What about a 1333MHz FSB and DDR2-1000 memory support? We've certainly seen memory manufacturers ramp up production during Computex last month.

Nonetheless, the Core 2 Extreme and Core 2 Duo CPUs notch up a perfect 5/5 score for the compelling leap in performance and efficiency thanks to Intel's Core microarchitecture. Never have we seen a performance jump as high as we've seen with the Core 2 on any desktop processor in years and yet maintains both low thermals and power consumption - a true innovation in desktop processor microarchitecture. Stay tuned to this space for our follow up article as we tackle power consumption and temperatures of the Core 2 Duo and other interesting articles.

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