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Q9400S & Q8200S: Intel’s 65W Quad-Cores
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by Rob Williams on February 9, 2009 in Intel Processors

The benefits of a low-TDP processor are obvious, but a usual downside is also obvious: low clock speeds. Intel’s changing that thinking with their Core 2 Quad “S” series, which includes the Q9550S, Q9400S and also the Q8200S. Compared to their non-”S” variants, they draw less power and run cooler, all while retaining the performance they’ve become known for.

Introduction

With Intel’s Core i7 launch now more than two months behind us, the question now is, how much longer will we go before Intel begins phasing out their Core 2 line-up? That’s a question I obviously don’t have an answer to, and given the state of the economy, Intel likely doesn’t either. Because as we found out in our Core i7 launch article, the latest CPUs from Intel are the fastest the planet has ever seen, but, compared to the Core 2 line-up, they carry an obvious premium.

So while Core 2 isn’t going to be phased out soon, we’re unlikely to see many more releases under that moniker. Last month, specifications were leaked for a potential Core 2 Duo E8700, a 3.5GHz offering, which we could probably expect to be the final C2D Dual-Core chip, although nothing’s ever really set in stone. On the Quad-Core side of things, Intel helped pad their line-up with the help of three new models, launched late last month.

Each of these new models belong to the “S” series, although I don’t believe that the letter represents an actual word. In addition, each of the new chips are absolutely identical to their non-”S” counterparts, aside from the lower TDP. At the top-end, the Q9550s is Intel’s only 65W offering that includes 12MB of L2 Cache. This chip, like the original, settles in nicely at 2.83GHz.

That’s not the CPU we’re investigating today, however. Rather, we have both the Q9400S and Q8200S, two different processors that cater to two different crowds. The mid-range Q9400S runs at 2.66GHz and includes 6MB of L2 Cache, while the Q8200S (and non-”S”) currently remains as Intel’s lowest-end desktop Quad-Core offering, at 2.33GHz with 4MB of L2 Cache. All three of the new models continue to run with a 1333MHz front-side bus.

Intel’s 65W Quad-Cores – A Closer Look

So, what’s the reason for a launch of 65W Quad-Core parts at this point in time? It’s difficult to assume, but it could be that since the Core i7 launch, the company hasn’t released much in the way of processors, so the timing might have seemed right. To add to it, we can no longer go a single day without hearing about the effects of global warming and the shape of the environment, so the “S”-line might intrigue crowds who are passionate about those issues.

There is one caveat, though – the price. As we first mentioned in our news a few weeks ago, these models are going to see limited adoption solely because of their premium pricing, and even Intel themselves acknowledge this. People that purchase these are those who are either building SFF (Small Form-Factor) PCs and want a fast CPU with great thermals, or those who are simply looking for the fastest CPU with the lowest power consumption possible.

Intel notes that all three of these models have been available as off-roadmap chips to OEMs for some time, and that won’t change. It’s only now that they’ve begun offering them to regular consumers, and while it’s still catering to a very specific audience, it’s a nice move.

Quad-Core CPU Name
Cores
Clock
Cache
QPI/FSB
TDP
1Ku Price
Intel Core i7-965 Extreme Edition
4
3.20GHz
8MB
3200MHz
150W
$999
Intel Core i7-940
4
2.93GHz
8MB
2400MHz
130W
$562
Intel Core i7-920
4
2.66GHz
8MB
2400MHz
130W
$284
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775
4
3.20GHz
2 x 6MB
1600MHz
150W
$1,499
Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9650
4
3.00GHz
2 x 6MB
1333MHz
130W
$316
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550S
4
2.83GHz
2 x 6MB
1333MHz
65W
$369
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550
4
2.83GHz
2 x 6MB
1333MHz
95W
$266
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400S
4
2.66GHz
2 x 3MB
1333MHz
65W
$320
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400
4
2.66GHz
2 x 3MB
1333MHz
95W
$213
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300
4
2.50GHz
2 x 3MB
1333MHz
95W
$266
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200S
4
2.33GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
65W
$245
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200
4
2.33GHz
2 x 2MB
1333MHz
95W
$163

As seen in the table above, the pricing premiums are rather stark. Where the Q8200 is concerned, we can see a 50% ($82) increase, while at the top-end, the Q9550 sees a 38.7% ($103) bump. There’s an obvious price to be paid for fine-tuned products, but it’s still too bad to see increases like these. If it was a more modest bump, we’d likely see far greater adoption.

One thing that should be stressed though, is that while the new models will naturally draw less power over time, when compared to non-”S” models, thermals will also see an improvement. With less voltage being required to run to the CPU, the temperatures will drop, which is one of the reasons the “S”-line is perfectly-suited for SFF PC builders.

Although it’s difficult to gauge the benefits before testing, Intel’s specifications show that these new CPUs can also function at a slightly higher temperature as well. Whereas the non-S versions of these chips are designed with a 71.4°C top-end (that’s not a per-core temperature, but rather the temperature at the center of the IHS), the new models have been bumped to 76.3°C… a healthy increase.

Because the “S” models share identical clock speeds and other features as their non-”S” versions, we don’t expect to see a difference through any of our benchmarks, but we ran the entire fleet of tests to find out for sure. We didn’t have a Q8200 on-hand to directly test against the Q8200S, but we did have a Q9400 to test against the Q9400S, so let’s take a quick look at our testing methodology and then dive right into our first set of results, courtesy of SYSmark 2007.