July 14, 2006 11:26 AM PDT

Intel's Core 2 Duo lives up to hype

Even Steven Spielberg's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" didn't get these kind of reviews.

Independent chip reviewers across the Internet unveiled the results of their tests of Intel's upcoming Core 2 Duo processor for desktops, or the chip formerly known as Conroe. For the first time in several years, Intel has a clear performance lead in a wide variety of benchmarks for office applications, games and other software.

Back in February, before Intel had released details about the Core architecture used to build Conroe, Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of Intel's Mobile Platforms group, claimed that, in general, the Core architecture chips would deliver a 20 percent performance lead over comparable chips from Advanced Micro Devices. While it's hard to assemble an overall figure based on dozens of benchmark results, the Core 2 Duo meets that target in some areas and comes in shy of that figure in others. But its lead was clear in the minds of reviewers, who did not hold back their praise for Intel's new chip.

CNET.com, which like CNET News.com is published by CNET Networks, said "the Core 2 Duo chips include not only the fastest desktop chips on the market, but also the most cost-effective and among the most power-efficient." Most reviewers evaluated three chips that will formally launch later this month: the Core 2 Extreme X6800, the Core 2 Duo E6700 and the E6600. The Extreme version runs at the fastest clock speed and costs a lot more than the E6700 and E6600, but it will be the most powerful desktop PC chip on the planet when it is released.

Anandtech, which was one of the sites that was granted access to a preproduction version of Conroe, declared that "Intel's Core 2 Extreme X6800 didn't lose a single benchmark in our comparison; not a single one." Even Intel's mainstream E6700 and E6600 processors beat AMD's highest-performing chip, the Athlon FX-62, in several benchmarks.

Sharky's Extreme, another hardware review site, was equally impressed with the new Core 2 Duo chips. "The launch of the Core 2 processor line has hit the market with a bang, and offers up an incredible combination of performance and value, coupled with low heat and power specifications. These processors are so good, that it's difficult to highlight any real negatives."

Core 2 Due outperforms

Hardware reviewers were overwhelmingly positive in their praise of Intel's upcoming Core 2 Duo chip. Here's a brief sampling:

"But make no mistake, what you see before you is not the power hungry, poor performing, non-competitive garbage (sorry guys, it's the truth) that Intel has been shoving down our throats for the greater part of the past five years. No, you're instead looking at the most impressive piece of silicon the world has ever seen, at the fastest desktop processor we've ever tested. What you're looking at is Conroe, and today is its birthday."
--Anandtech.com

"Intel once again has the fastest desktop processor on the market...If you're after the best performing desktop processor on the planet, you're going to be shopping for an Intel Core 2 processor." --Reg Hardware

"After years of wandering in the wilderness, Intel has recaptured the desktop CPU performance title in dramatic fashion." --The Tech Report

"For the first time in about two years, Intel is offering a superior desktop processor that may cause more than just a headache for AMD." --Tom's Hardware Guide

"There is no doubt that when it comes to editing video, manipulating images or encoding music, the Intel Core 2 Duo and Extreme processors at 2.66GHz and above currently enjoy a healthy performance advantage over AMD's Athlon FX and Athlon 64 line of processors. Moreover, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Core 2 Duo and Extreme also do a great job of making the Pentium 4 look like a dinosaur." --Hard OCP

On PC World's own benchmark, WorldBench, the E6700 processor outscored AMD's FX-62 processor by a substantial margin, and the gap was even wider between the FX-62 and the Core 2 Extreme. PC gamers, who have been solidly behind AMD's Athlon 64 processors almost since the day they were released, will have to rethink their stance based on some of the gaming benchmark figures, according to PCMag.com.

The language used to describe the Core 2 Duo chips was almost reverent, perhaps in part because it has been so long since Intel has been this competitive from a performance standpoint in the desktop PC market. Intel's Netburst chips, which the world knows as the Pentium 4 and Pentium D processors, trailed AMD's Athlon 64 chips on many of these same tests and also consumed a great deal more power than AMD's offerings. But the performance tide has turned, and the power consumption of the new processors meets or beats AMD's chips in tests done by several reviewers.

AMD is using 2006 to catch its breath after its surge over the last few years. The company isn't planning any major overhauls to its Athlon 64 X2 processors this year. But it has introduced support for faster DDR2 memory and announced plans to launch a gaming platform known as 4x4 that can accommodate two AMD processors such as its Athlon 64 X2 chips or its FX chips. AMD hasn't officially said which processors it will use in the 4x4 design. It's unclear whether that will be enough to overcome the performance of Conroe, but in 2007 AMD plans to make more sweeping changes to its processors, including support for quad-core designs.

Beneath all the critical praise, however, is the fact that most PC users won't be pushing their PCs near the limit of the Core 2 Duo's performance. For those who just like to check e-mail or manage their finances, most any processor will do. But gamers and multimedia enthusiasts are influential forces in the PC market, and praise from that demographic tends to carry over into the larger market.

Some of the reviews noted that AMD is about to cut prices on its desktop chips to keep pace with the Core 2 Duo. An AMD representative confirmed pricing changes are in the works. "AMD will perform an aggressive price move in July to ensure we maintain price-performance leadership in desktop products," the company said in a statement. Intel also plans to cut prices on its older Pentium D chips when the Core 2 Duo chips start to arrive later this month.

See more CNET content tagged:
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25 comments

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Oh, here we go...
I can see it now. This is going to become a huge debate with the Intel guys on one side and the AMD guys on the other just like Apple/Windows debates.

Look, both companies have good processors. Both companies do basically the same thing. Intel may be on top now (a point that is debatable) and then AMD will come out with a new processor and be the big kid on the block and it will all start over again.

Lets not start a huge debate over which one is better.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i agree
chips go in cycles. this year it's clearly an intel year (except for the opteron area). next year amd will release some new chips, and they'll take the lead too.
i myself couldn't care less about some of these amd wakos trying to legitimize their investment.
if i want to buy a new system, and performance is a priority then intel gets my business. if i'm in a tight budget then it's amd. apart from chips i would rather spend more money on ram, video cards, sound cards, software...
there are more important things in a pc to worry than the chip company. dah...
Posted by anarchy1999 (21 comments )
Link Flag
"Meets or Beats"...
Despite the author's obvious enthusiasm for getting to display a marked performance for Intel's new chips (anyone out there gettin' a rub?), there wasn't much talk of the obvious. While it's true that Intel's new breed will 'meet or beat' the power consumption of AMD's last-generation and benchmark higher... that really doesn't address the real power of AMD's recent surges...

They were able to build a BETTER chipset, that consumed LESS power, and more importantly, cost LESS than bloated Intel chipsets. Intel had become so self-assured, that like Microsoft felt little need for innovation and improvements...and AMD latched onto this like a shark and was able to out-perform them and gain a substantial market-share. Nothing against the company inself, but this fact wasn't even given a glance in this glaringly biased 'review'.

Comparing the performance of a next-generation chipset to the last-generations' and being astounded that a marginal difference occured at all is curiously hilarious. Maybe the new benchmark isn't showing a marked improvement, but rather sustained competence.
Posted by teeter3000 (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What chipsets??????????
Chipsets are AMD's weakest link....they have none. Conversly Intel chipsets are the standard to beat. Intel chipsets are rock solid.

On the AMD side its NVIDIA, SIS, and VIA....all commonly refered to ******** by many.

AMD had a more efficient and less power consuming CPU product that out performed Intel CPU's.

Now Intel has a more efficient, less power consuming...that out performs any and all AMD products all at a lower cost.

Match that to their chipsets and much higher FAB capacity and you have a smack down IMHO
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
What chipsets?
AMD does not have any??? They use NVIDIA, SIS or VIA....and they are mostly horrible...often called s**tsets. NFORCE is plagued with problems.

Intel on the other hand has the BEST chipsets probably the best product they make and supported by the likes of Windows out of the box.

AMD had more effiecient, less power hungry and better perfroming CPU's. Now Intel blew all of that out of the water and at much cheaper prices.

Get a clue.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
Typo
It's lead was clear --> Its lead was clear
Posted by vocaro (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
More intel market fluffs
only 20%? hardly something to declare victory over.
Posted by microsoft slayer (174 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Red Alert! Fanbois to your posts!!!
Pathetic
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
Intel Victory
"only 20%? hardly something to declare victory over."

How much faster while at the same time consuming how much
less power does Intel have to achieve in order to declare victory,
at least for this year? Considering their position a year ago, this
is a huge victory for Intel. No, it's not going to make owners of
current top-of-the-line AMD rigs throw it all away and start
over, but anyone upgrading a system more than a year or two
old would be foolhardy not to seriously consider the Core 2 Duo.
AMD doesn't appear to have anything in the pipeline to match it
for a year or so, and it's definitely the fastest chip out there.

Unless you can't afford it, get it.
Posted by samkass (310 comments )
Link Flag
I am partial to Pentium D (Presler)
I don't worry about the 135-watt power requirement of the D versus the 65-watt power requirement of the Core Duo. I can see where that may be a player for some people using battery power, but not for me. Any Pentium D was blowing away the competition before the first Core Duo was even available to the public. I'm not going to trade my D-930 in for any Core Duo any time soon.
Posted by Des Alba (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cyclical, as everything
Intel i486, AMD Am486, Intel Pentium, AMD K6-2, Intel Pentium III, AMD Athlon, Intel Pentium 4, AMD Athlon 64, Intel Pentium 4 HT, AMD Athlon FX-55, Intel Pentium D, AMD Athlon 64 x2, Intel Core Duo, Athlon FX-62, Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD...
Posted by Juanchito_2006 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good point...
...well made.

I do hope neither company ever gives up the ghost. We'd buy the new processors anyway, so money aside, being top is for bragging rights, and its a two horse race. If AMD had decided not to go against the P1, there's no way we'd be seeing the performance we have now.
Posted by djcaseley (85 comments )
Link Flag
AMD Wake UP! Intel has a Athlon Killer...
I have been an AMD Athlon fan since day one but I also thought highly of the Intel Pentium III.
It was when Intel came out with the P4 and in particular the 850 chipset with it's horrible Rambus interface when I divorced Intel from any of my systems.
So far what I have seen of the Core Duo for the Desktop "Conroe", I am thoroughly impressed. At the same time I am somewhat depressed that AMD did not see this coming as this is going to devastate AMDs desktop sales.
AMD still has the advantage in the 4way and higher server market because of their architecture but their upcoming 4x4 desktop campaign looks to be a washout before it's even introduced.
Unless AMD has something up it's sleeves that I don't know about my next upgrade will be to an Intel MB and CPU, something I haven't done in about 5 years.
AMD, you had better wake up or become just a pleasant memory.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And the real winner is...
...the consumer. Get over your personal bias and enjoy the fact that some damn fine CPUs from both camps are available and getting cheaper. :)
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Proof that competition works
If only all sectors enjoyed this kind of competition my computing world would be a better place.
Posted by herkamur (115 comments )
Link Flag
Low Heat...
>offers up an incredible combination of performance and value, coupled with low heat and power specifications.<

I would think that low heat would translate to greater reliability.

I had a CPU chip die on me once, so I am leary of chips that are said to run very hot.
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Haven't we seen this same thing between ATI and Nvidia?
It's still going on but this looks so much like the battle for video card dominance it's almost laughable. I look at it this way, you use what has met your needs in the past from the perspective of performance and cost. I don't really care which company I use to put together a new system, I just want everything to do the job.
Posted by wheelzup (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So what's the speed?
I've seen all this talk about how much better they are than this or that. What's the actual processor speed though?
Posted by Amazingant (146 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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