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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [12.01.07]
Manufactured by: AMD, Intel


The Test

As usual, we try to include the latest chipsets in our CPU reviews. For the Intel test bed, we are using Abit's IP35 Pro, which is based on Intel's P35 chipset. Expect a full review on this board soon. On the AMD side, we're using Foxconn's confusingly named C51XEM2AA-8EKRS2H, based on the Nvidia Nforce 590 SLI chipset, and is essentially an Nvidia reference board. It is quite a good board, as we found in our full review.

We used the same RAM in both tests; Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800 with 4-4-4-15 timings.

We used two different video cards in this review; for all but the gaming tests, we used an ATI x1600 (with Catalyst 7.10). About halfway through testing, we obtained an 8800GT for another review, so I decided it might be a good idea to use it for the gaming tests in this CPU review (Forceware 169.09 drivers were used). 

Everything else was the same; WD Raptor 36GB 7200 RPM SATA drives, with Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit installed. Yup, 32-bit as I still don't see much reason to switch to 64-bit just yet, considering the issues that often come up when it's used. Vista received all the latest updates from Windows Update before benchmarking took place, as well as a manual installation of KB940125 which is required to run Crysis. KB929777 was also required for the Nforce system to run properly.

The power supply is a Toughpower 750W, supplied by Thermaltake. After a year of testing with this PSU, it has held up perfectly well, and in fact I have started using one for my personal system as well.

What to Look For

Instead of throwing a bunch of colourful charts at you and calling it a day, here's a quick rundown of what to look for on the following pages. Since this review is quite focused compared to our other CPU reviews, it's quite simple.

  • Compare the top 2 respective Intel and AMD processors to each other; the E6750 is only $10 more than the X2 6400+, and the E6550 costs $10 more than the X2 6000+
  • Pretty much forget about the E6320 - there are really only two dual core CPU's worthy of consideration from Intel these days, thanks to some hefty price drops on their top models.
  • The 5600+ can be considered, if you are in the market for a sub-$150 CPU.
  • The Q6600 is included as an entry-level quad-core solution. It also represents the Phenom, which is around the same price and offers slightly lower performance. It will kick ass in some tests, and fail in others - depending on where its strengths and weaknesses are and how that suits you, you may want to consider adding $100 to your budget for a quad-core CPU

And that's it! We have received a lot of new tests since our last CPU review, and this is our first review based entirely on Vista. Exciting!

SiSoft Sandra CPU Benchmarks

As always, we start things off with synthetic benchmarks so we can get an idea of what to expect when we dive into the real world tests. SiSoft Sandra's latest version, XII 2008c, was used.

First up are the two purest CPU benchmarks around - Dhrystone, measuring pure integer performance, and Whetstone which measures floating point performance. These tests are multithreaded, and as you can see, directly correspond to processor speed. Therefore, the performance decrease on the Core 2 Duo side are more significant due to the larger differences in clock speed. Also, AMD seems to have held onto their floating-point performance advantage all the way until now.

However, these tests do not utilize any instruction sets that all processors have these days... To find out how these processors perform when used to their full potential in a more real-world situation, we look to SiSoft's Multimedia tests:

In the Multimedia integer test, the Athlon X2 uses the Enhanced MMX instruction set optimized for Athlon CPUs, while the Core 2 Duo uses an SSE3 version, which was compiled for Core 2 CPUs. When CPU extensions are used, the Intel processors pull far ahead. I would like to see SiSoft add a version that allows SSE3 to be used by AMD processors (we tested it with their SSE2 version, and the score was about the same as the EMMX results). They do support SSE4, which we'll look at in a future review.

In the floating-point test, SSE2 was used for both processors. This time, Core 2 Duo actually performs slightly better than the X2. Now we just have to see if this will continue in the real-world tests.

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