Date: June 25, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams
When Bearlake launched last month, it opened the doors for native 1333FSB processor support. That’s where the refreshed Conroe line-up comes into play. In our performance preview of the E6750, we will show you what to expect when it’s released later this summer.
It hasn’t been a full year since we saw Intel launch their Core 2 Duo processors, but we will soon be seeing a line-up refresh. This is one product that really needs no introduction, but seeing as this is a refresh, refreshing everyones minds seems appropriate. Intel launched the Core 2 Duo to much fanfare last July. Months prior to this, enthusiasts were drooling over leaks of performance reports, which fortunately, turned out to be right on the money.
The entire Conroe line-up is built on a 65nm process, with the mainstream products offering 4MB of L2 cache. Improved over the previous Pentium 4/Pentium D line-up was better power efficiency resulting in a lower TDP and better overall temperatures. This is appreciated, as two cores under the same IHS can potentially create an unwanted room heater.
All but the lowest end Core 2 Duos take advantage of a 1066FSB. This is where this refreshed line-up comes into play, as it ushers in 1333FSB computing. This noticeable speed bump is all done while retaining the same TDP.
All Conroe 1333FSB processors are identified by by a 50 at the end of the product name, hence E6750, which is effectively taking over the spot of the E6700. Nothing has changed except for the FSB and speeds, except the ratio of course, which had to be altered in order to compliment the upgraded frequency.
One thing that should be cleared up is that most overclocking enthusiasts have already accomplished the same speeds we are seeing today, with most being exceeded. In fact, there is nothing stopping anyone from popping in an E6600 and overclocking using a 333FSB and 8 multiplier. That would effectively give you the exact same speed as the E6750 we are taking a look at today.
You might be wondering where the benefit is, with this official speed bump. Primarily it will benefit those non-overclockers most. There is no comparison to equal processor speed at 1066FSB and 1333FSB. That added FSB frequency should make a much more noticeable performance difference than the CPU frequency boost itself.
This boost also helps usher in the DDR3-era, since these new processors will be able to utilize a 1:1 ratio with DDR3-1333 modules, a common DDR3 standard.
Aside from the obvious speed benefit with the new processors, there is another aspect that most are going to enjoy. The price. According to reports, the processor we are taking a look at today will retail for an average of ~$200 at launch. One popular e-tailer recently leaked their prices, which backed up these claims.
So here we have an E6750 at 2.66GHz with a 1333FSB… for $200? This is probably -the- reason why excitement should be in the air. Compare that to the current E6700 price, which hovers around the $300 mark. We will touch a lot more on pricing and other specifics in our conclusion.
The new processors don’t have a hard launch date yet, but will be launched later this summer. Therefore, this is more of a performance preview than a review, but it will show you what to expect should you purchase one at launch. Before we move on, here is a table to better help you understand the entire Conroe line-up, including these new offerings. Just bear in mind that once this refreshed line-up hits the market, some other models may be phased out.
|Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 *||3.0GHz||1333MHz||4MB x 2||130w||4|
|Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6800||2.93GHz||1066MHz||4MB x 2||130w||4|
|Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700||2.66GHz||1066MHz||4MB x 2||130w||4|
|Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600||2.40GHz||1066MHz||4MB x 2||105W||4|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6850||3.0GHz||1333MHz||4MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800||2.93GHz||1066MHz||4MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 *||2.66GHz||1333MHz||4MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6700||2.60GHz||1066MHz||4MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6600||2.40GHz||1066MHz||4MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 *||2.33GHz||1333MHz||2MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6540 *||2.33GHz||1333MHz||2MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6400||2.13GHz||1066MHz||2MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E6300||1.86GHz||1066MHz||2MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E4500||2.2GHz||800MHz||2MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E4400||2.0GHz||800MHz||2MB||65W||2|
|Intel Core 2 Duo E4300||1.80GHz||800MHz||2MB||65W||2|
Note that all listed with an * denotes that it is one of the new processors slated for release this summer. The QX6850 is tentatively priced for $999, the E6850 for $266, E6750 for $183 and the E6550 for $163. Upon launch, the other part of line-up is expected to go down in price. If proven true, the Q6600 is expected to be priced identically to the E6850 at launch.
As mentioned in the intro, the new releases retain the same TDP as the previous releases. When the CPU voltage was set to “Auto”, the actual voltage used was 1.344v. The CPU is able to run with less voltage, and we will tackle that more in our overclocking section.
Most of the 1333FSB reviews you see around the web today will be of the E6750 for the fact that it is likely to be the most desired pick of the new line-up. The E6850 costs about $80 more for a 340MHz boost, something that can be accomplished with this CPU without even increasing the voltage. However, for CPU overclocks of 4.0GHz and higher, the E6850 will be the preferred chip for the 9x multiplier. The E6750 has a 6 – 8 multiplier, meaning that your motherboard will need to handle a 500FSB to hit 4.0GHz… a tough task.
We’ve covered all the basics, so let’s compare this new CPU to our E6600 and Q6600 processors on hand.
Throughout all of our benchmarking tests, regardless of what we are reviewing, testing is done in a clean and stand-alone version of Windows XP Professional with SP2. The exception is in our SYSmark 2007 tests, which uses Windows Vista Ultimate. No Windows Updates are applied for the sake of time, unless one is required for a piece of hardware on the computer.
We’ve recently updated our methodology, to reflect a more real-world experience. Instead of tweaking Windows to a minimalist state, we leave all initial processes running, as it is a realistic scenario. The primary form of computer latency is a network, so all network devices are disabled prior to any testing. This is done in addition to:
Games that are used for benchmarking have their average frames per second recorded with the help of FRAPS 2.82. Here is the specs of the machine used for todays testing:
The refreshed line-up is consists of mere speed bumps, so this preview will not be as long as it would be if it were a complete architecture change. Also, throughout our testing we are comparing only three CPU’s since that’s all we have on hand. The Q6600 is a Quad-Core processor so it will no doubt beat the other two in almost every test.
SYSmark is an industry leading system benchmarking tool, which is completely automated but utilizes real-world tests. It installs common applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, Photoshop CS2, 3DS Max, SketchUp! among others.
SYSmark grades the performance of the system with various methods, but most notably how well it could handle different operations. Systems with more than one core will benefit in the tests, since there is a lot of multi-tasking throughout. Once the test is completed, it will provide you with an overall score, in addition to showing areas where the computer excelled.
SYSmark can offer some odd results, but overall they scale accordingly to having a better CPU. The 3D test confuses me as the exact same GPU is used, however the E6600 scored far less. Our E6750 performed as expected though, beating the E6600 by two points overall. Not surprisingly, our Quad-Core beat the others in most of the tests, especially the VideoCreation.
Nothing can prove the performance of a PC better than real-world benchmarks. The only downside to real-world tests is that it’s difficult to compare to a friends computer, unless they happen to have the same software and media files that you are encoding/converting. We can show direct differences though, since we run the exact same tests on each processor.
To test video encoding capabilities, we ripped our “Lamb of God – Killadelphia” concert DVD and then used Nero Recode to convert it into something that can be burned on a normal sized DVD. The direct DVD rip is 7.7GB, and Recode compresses it into a 4.5GB one.
The high-quality mode showed a definite improvement with the E6750, proving to be 11% faster than the E6600. Given the fact that the clock speed is 11% greater, it’s to be expected.
If there is one audience who can benefit most from additional cores and CPU frequency, it’s the multi-media crowd, and that’s where our 3D Studio Max benchmark comes into play. We take a model that consists of 406 objects and 106,000 vertices, and render it at a high 3200×2400 resolution.
Neither Dual-Core was a match for the Quad-Core, but the E6750 once again showed a nice increase over the E6600. This won’t make a large difference in small renders like this, but larger projects it could mean the difference of ten minutes, or hours.
Like 3D Studio Max, Cinebench emulates a similar scenario, where you render a high-resolution image. The nice thing about Cinebench though, is that it spits out a nice, clean number and also shows you your gain when moving to multi-threaded rendering.
According to the scores, the E6750 was about 13% faster over the E6600. It’s easily seen that the most beneficial path to take though is with the Quad-Core. There is just no comparison if the application can handle multi-threadedness.
While multi-media and 3D rendering covers a lot of the people who would care about extra CPU power, there is a slew of other people who would just as easy benefit from a faster processor. Those being programmers. While most hobbyist applications don’t take that long to compile, some more in-depth applications can take hours. When you are making constant changes to the code and need to re-compile often, having extra CPU power is a blessing.
I normally choose Gentoo for this testing, but I was having boot issues which may or may not have something to do with the P35 chipset. Fedora 7 came to the rescue and installed fine. So for testing I am using GCC 4.1.2 under the 2.6.21 Linux kernel. For single core testing, “time make” was used while dual and quad core compilations used “time make -j 3” and “time make -j 5”, respectively.
Going from the E6600 to the E6750 proved 10% faster in our multi-threaded tests and 11% faster in our single-threaded tests. Seen here again, our Quad-Core cleaned up house, showing that this is one scenario where extra cores is more beneficial than a slightly higher frequency.
As far as synthetic benchmarks go, SANDRA is by far my favorite. A large bonus is that it’s truly multi-threaded, so the resulting scores really show the capability a larger CPU has.
The results are expected, as they scale well with the frequency increase.
One area where benefit is immediately seen is with the memory bandwidth. Bumping up the FSB from 1066 to 1333 made a huge difference. Whether or not all this extra bandwidth can be put to good use, is hard to say.
With that, we will move into our final tests which include Futuremark, Half-Life 2 and Stalker.
Though Futuremarks products usefulness are often disputed, we like to include them because they somewhat accurately show how one CPUs power will compare to another by giving a single clean number. 3D Mark 06 stresses the CPU in such a way an actual game would, while PC Mark puts it through tests based on real-world scenarios.
One interesting thing to note is that the Quad-Core didn’t blow away the other two. Of course it performed better, but it was far from being 2x. It looks like PC Mark is due for a serious upgrade. As far as 3D Mark 06 goes, the results scaled to our expectations.
Both Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and STALKER were benchmarked at 1280×1024 resolutions with default graphics settings. With the help of our 8800GTX card, we remove any GPU bottleneck and leave the rest of the work up to the CPU.
Stalker is apparently far more GPU dependant than CPU dependant, so as long as you have a good GPU and CPU you should be fine. Half-Life 2 on the other hand is one of the most CPU dependant games on the planet, so faster clocks always mean higher FPS.
For those worrying about overclocking potential, we are taking care of that next, followed by our final thoughts.
No CPU review would be complete without a mention of overclocking, so we will touch on it now. We should first clear up what Techgage views as a maximum overclock. Our maximum overclocks are not posted unless it’s deemed 100% stable throughout a battery of tests. 4.5GHz might be nice on paper, but if it crashes with Super Pi 4M, it’s useless to you.
For an overclock to be considered stable, 3D Mark 06 is looped three times, followed by twelve straight hours of SP2004’s Small FFT test, one instance per core. The computer must also be turned on and off multiple times, to make sure that the motherboard is going to cooperate. As a final test, the computer is left turned off for at least a half-hour, then turned back on to make sure it performs normally.
Here’s where I am in a bind. My maximum stable overclock was 3.8GHz with 1.5Vcore, but I have a difficult time declaring this as an actual maximum. As mentioned in our review of the ASUS P5K3, the maximum FSB we could reach reliably was 475, precisely the FSB shown here. So we are at the maximum known FSB for our motherboard, with the CPU completely stable. Such a FSB is not low but I do wish 500FSB was possible, at least to push the CPU further.
Regardless of the lacking FSB, 3.8GHz stable on a sub-$200 processor is nothing short of amazing. Granted, the core temperatures were 65°C during testing, ambient temp 77°F, but it was very stable. For those who don’t wish to raise your CPU voltage, you have nothing to worry about as impressive overclocks are still possible.
When overclocking a CPU without raising the Vcore, we do raise the voltages for the North and Southbridges. In order to retain FSB stability at higher frequencies, voltage boosts are a must. To test stability here, we run three loops of 3D Mark 06, two instances of Super Pi 32M and finish off with SP2004 for an hour. Once all said and done, the stable overclock we found was 3.44GHz.
That type of overclock on such modest voltage is fantastic. The interesting thing is that even at the stock setting of 2.66GHz, the BIOS automatically sets the Vcore to 1.34v. So we found ourselves a 780MHz increase on less than stock voltage.
By now, you have all the knowledge that you need for when 1333FSB processors drop later this summer. Is there a good reason to be excited? Well, even though this is a mere speed bump, and one that many overclockers have already accomplished long ago, the reason most people have a reason to look forward is the price.
As mentioned on the first page, the E6750 is expected to retail for $189, but will likely cost closer to $200 on most e-tailers. Compare this to current E6700 processors that currently retail for $300+. It’s not hard to see the benefits here. Unless you need a processor for a new build right now, it would be wise to hold off until we see these launch.
Simply put, I don’t recall the last time I finished benchmarking a new CPU with the feeling of being this impressed by the $/performance ratio.
For the non-overclockers, you will still have the benefit of faster than E6700 speeds and also the ability to run 1:1 ratio with your DDR3-1333 memory, should you decide to buy some. If DDR3 prices don’t go down by the time these new processors launch though, it might be one of the rare times where the ram costs twice as much as the CPU.
For overclockers, $200 means a CPU that has the potential to reach 3.8GHz stable on a standard water cooling setup, or 3.44GHz while retaining stock voltage. I think that speaks for itself.
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