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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.07.06]
Manufactured by: Intel


Back with a Vengeance

Intel's launch of the Core 2 Duo has come and gone, and now, for the most part, the entire range of speeds are available in stores (the 4 big ones of course - Newegg, mWave, ZZF, and TigerDirect). Availability still seems a bit scarce at this moment, and prices will range so shop around. Of course, Intel will likely come up with product in no time, as they are known to do after launching new processors (just don't ask them to do the same with chipsets! But that's for another story).

If you're wondering why this review is late - well there are a few reasons really. First of all, Intel actually pulled back Core 2 Duo from its original release date of July 27th, I guess to get the jump on AMD's planned price drops. So really we're not that far off the original release date ;)

We also had to put together an AMD test system ourselves, because AMD often has problems producing enough CPU's to meet the demands of OEM, retail, and media. I set out to put together the fastest AM2 system I could buy today (ridiculously expensive FX chips notwithstanding). That ended up being an Athlon64 X2 4600+. That's right - the 5000+ and 4800+ parts were nowhere to be seen, even though they launched last May. The retail channel is just starting to get 4800+'s in stock, so the 5000+'s can't be far behind. To round out our AMD system, we went with an Asus motherboard based on NVIDIA's 570 Ultra chipset. Unfortunately I ended up buying my X2 just before the price drops occured... So I paid about $550 USD, while they are now going for around $255-260. Ugh.

Finally, I had major issues with the beta BIOS on the Intel test motherboard. For some reason, the board would no longer POST either of the Core 2 processors after having a Pentium-D installed in it. No matter what I tried, it wouldn't do it. I only had one option - wait for Core 2 to officially launch, and use a production BIOS. Finally, all testing is complete, and I'm ready to report about Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme.


Goodbye Pentium

After 13 years, Intel is finally rid of the Pentium name, and more importantly, NetBurst microarchitecture. The Presler-based Pentium D will likely be the last we'll ever see from that hot, power-hungry architecture and its lengthy pipeline. As you'll see, Core 2 marks an impressive leap in performance in all facets for Intel.

Intel really owes a lot to their mobile platform team in Israel for finally coming up with something to replace NetBurst. They hit a home run with the Pentium-M, which made Intel a clear winner for notebooks, despite consistently losing to AMD on desktop side of things. Yonah was the next step forward, bringing low power consumption dual processors to mobile computing. Confusingly, Yonah was called "Core Duo" and "Core Solo" in the retail market, although it does not use Core microarchitecture.

What happened to Core 1?

The codenames for the new desktop parts are "Conroe" "Conroe XE" and the lesser-known "Allendale". For the retail market, they are called "Core 2 Duo" and "Core 2 Extreme", even though this is actually their first CPU based on Core, desktop or otherwise.

Conroe and Allendale are identical, except Allendale comes with half the amount of L2 cache - 2MB instead of 4MB. Conroe XE is identical to Conroe, except that it has an unlocked multiplier.

The two Allendale based processors are the E6300, which runs at 1.86 GHz, and the E6400, which runs at 2.13 GHz. The Conroe parts are the E6600 and E6700 which run at 2.40 GHz and 2.67 GHz respectively. Finally, there is the Conroe XE based Core 2 Extreme, which is identical to all other Conroe processors in every way - it's just clocked higher and has an unlocked multiplier. The top Core 2 Extreme (and Intel's top processor of all) is the X6800, which runs at 2.93 GHz.

All of the aforementioned processors run on a quad-pumped 1066 MHz FSB.

The mobile part is codenamed "Merom" and was quietly launched alongside Conroe. It too is called "Core 2 Duo" and "Core 2 Solo" in retail; frontside bus is limited to 667 MHz on these low power-using parts, rather than 1066 MHz. Confused? No kidding.

Next Page: (Pricing; Heat Output)