It must have been difficult for Intel to watch AMD's Athlon 64 and then the Athlon 64 X2 and FX pretty much take over the performance PC market, putting the once-untouchable chip giant into a position where its only competitive response was to cut prices. Those were dark days indeed. But now, with the release of the long-awaited codename "Conroe" -- the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors -- Intel looks set to start a new age of desktop domination.
Most onlookers expected Intel to take back the performance crown from AMD, but few anticipated the sheer magnitude of this victory, or the nearly flawless style with which Intel performed it. And the Core 2 Duo is just the first strike in this battle, as Intel is also planning preemptive Pentium D price drops and has revamped its single-core Pentium 4 and Celeron D lines as well.
The Conroe excels in three areas, which add up to the very definition of what a current buyer expects from a top-end desktop CPU. These factors are price, performance, and power requirements, and the 65-nanometer-process Core 2 Duo and Extreme have surpassed their AMD counterparts in each, completing the same type of triple play that AMD had turned on the Pentium 4 and Pentium D.
The question of who's got the best performance is not even up for debate: The 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 is the fastest desktop processor on the planet, and the 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700 is not far behind. Even the next-step-down 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo E6600 is an outstanding desktop performer that can outpace AMD's flagship Athlon 64 FX-62 in most tests.
Power and cooling requirements are also extremely low -- the Core 2 Duo line offers the lowest power draw of any dual-core processor, with the Core 2 Duo Extreme not far off. Prices are also extremely competitive. In fact, it's amazing that for such a competitive price , the Core 2 Duo E6600 can outrun AMD's entire desktop lineup. The lower-end Core 2 Duo E6300 and E6400 models are even more affordable, although their 2MB instead of 4MB of Level 2 cache mean their relative performance isn't as high.
Intel has accomplished this via a drastic shift away from the Pentium's NetBurst technology. Conroe's next-generation core performs more instructions per clock cycle (IPC), rather than having a longer and potentially less efficient pipeline that can be clocked into the stratosphere. Core 2 processors' 2MB or 4MB of 256-bit L2 cache feature what Intel calls Advanced Smart Cache, dynamically shared between the two cores for maximum efficiency rather than chaining half the cache to each core.
With IPC levels exceeding those of AMD plus clock speeds up to 2.93GHz and a 1066MHz front-side bus, Intel has moved well ahead in the performance game despite sticking with traditional CPU and chipset architecture rather than AMD's on-chip-memory-controller approach.
The Conroe design also reflects a need to keep power requirements and heat production down via various power-saving technologies. Since the basic architecture will be shared through all of Intel's processor lines (except the Itanium), including upcoming mobile CPUs, this translates into very power-efficient processing.
The Core 2 Duo and Extreme processors may offer industry-leading performance, but Intel's SpeedStep technology ensures that the chips can ramp down the multiplier and reduce clock speed to conserve battery power and/or lower core heat levels.
Moreover, new Intelligent Power Capability can go beyond slowing the CPU as a whole to turning various core functions on and off as required. These power-saving techniques don't get in the way of outright performance, as the Conroe instantly jumps back to top speed when required.
Through the use of technical expertise obtained through advanced CPU server technology and exprertise Intel has leapfrogged once again to a combination of power , low energy use and heat production and reliability especially since with advances in CPU speed can disabling and damaging hear.
The Core 2 Duo CPUs should be a major consideration in your next high end computer purchase.