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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [09.11.08]
Manufactured by: Intel



The last time we looked at dual core processors, it was for our Dual Core War in December 2007. Back then, the top processors were Intel's then-$190 E6750 versus AMD's then-$180 X2 6400+. Things have changed since then, at least on the Intel side. Supplanting the E6750 and the rest of the 65nm "Conroe" lineup are processors based on the 45nm "Wolfdale" core. These cores add a few things which we'll get into later.

Since then, AMD has been focusing on Phenom X4 and X3. Largely a flop, Phenom is their native quad-core CPU. We'll be looking at these at a later time. This leaves the Athlon64 X2 6400+ as AMD's top dual-core processor nearly a year after its introduction.

Prices have of course changed since then. Back in December, top dual-core processors were just a bit under $200. Now we have the X2 6400+ in the $150 range. Intel's prices haven't moved quite as much however - the E6750 is still around $185 after all these months, and the E8500 we're looking at today is $190. Intel's venerable quad-core Q6600 has dropped significantly though - from $279 when we first looked at it down to $185 or so. The new price of the Q6600 creates quite a dilemma - do you go for more slower-clocked cores, or a pair of potentially faster higher-clocked cores? We should have the answer to that by the end of this article.


What, more codenames? Okay it goes like this. Penryn refers to the actual 45nm dual-core die that Intel introduced back in January 2008. When one Penryn die used in a processor, it is known as "Wolfdale". Slap two Penryns together in a CPU, and you get a quad-core known as "Yorkfield".

The step from Conroe to Wolfdale, while more than just a die-shrink, is not quite the evolutionary step we saw going from the old Pentium D to Core 2 Duo. Several key improvements include:

  • The addition of a new instruction set - SSE4. This has the potential to improve graphics and video performance in applications that support the new instructions.
  • L2 cache increased to 6MB (shared between both cores) - probably the biggest factor in terms of performance vs. Conroe
  • Fast Radix-16 Divider - significantly mathematical calculations (both floating point and integer)
  • High-k dilectric fab process - I won't even pretend to know what this means, but Intel says it will allow them to increase processor speeds without raising heat dissipation or power consumption. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Overclocker's dream!

All of these new features mean that clock-for-clock performance should be better in contrast to Conroe-based Core 2 Duo processors. Considering that Conroe was already stomping Athlon 64 X2 badly, this doesn't bode well for AMD.

Next Page: (The Test; CPU Benchmarks)