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Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Performance Preview

Date: November 19, 2007
Author(s): Rob Williams

We took a look at Intel’s first 45nm desktop offering a few weeks ago and already have a preview of it’s successor. The QX9770 is equipped with a 3.2GHz frequency and is the first Intel CPU to support a 1600MHz Front-Side-Bus. Read on to see how it compares to the rest of our fleet.



Introduction

If it seems like we just delivered our first 45nm processor review a few weeks ago, don’t worry, it was. The processor in that review brought a lot to the table, but we won’t touch on it all here since we did there. Please check back to that review and also our September IDF coverage if you want to know all about what’s new and upcoming.

Intel officially released their 45nm processor line-up last Monday, and most e-tailers have had a hard time keeping it in stock. I’ve been keeping an eye on a few of them for the past week and it seems as soon as an e-tailer has some in stock, it’s sold out. There are a few e-tailers that have hiked their prices due to demand, although a kind few have kept the price low (~$1,150 at the time of writing), while actually having it in stock.

Before we jump into a look at the new CPU, we should reiterate what makes Intel’s 45nm offerings special. Most important is the fact that the new processors are more efficient overall in every respect – power usage and temperatures are improved all around. Much of this added efficiency have the new High-K transistors to thank, which we explained in some depth last month.

Efficiency aside, there are new SSE4 instructions which can improve video encoding dramatically, as we saw in our QX9650 review and will see again today. Although SSE4 is still catching on, within the first few months of 2008, we should see many more consumer encoders utilizing the new instructions.

Another area where the new processors are improved is with the L2 cache, which has been increased 50% all around, resulting in 12MB on Quad-Core processors and 6MB on Dual-Core offerings, which will be released later.

The focus of today’s preview is an up and comer. The QX9770 offers 3.2GHz speeds with a 1600FSB, a first of it’s kind. This article is considered a preview for three reasons. First is the fact that our motherboard does not officially support 1600FSB processors, despite having a beta BIOS that is designed to add the support. Second is that the QX9770 is designed to launch alongside Intel’s X48 chipset, which we were unable to attain prior to this preview.

Last is the fact that we were unable attain DDR3-1600 RAM prior to testing. To understand how that RAM would help though, we have to understand what FSB does. As a primer, the FSB is what helps the CPU talk to the Northbridge, and when the RAM runs at equal speed to the FSB, it can talk just as fast to the Northbridge. So, by using modules at slower frequencies, we potentially bottleneck some performance in a few of our tests. We will be investigating into this more later. DDR3 has not caught on yet due to it’s price, so the speeds we are running today will be somewhat representative of modules you might have in your own PC

Due to time constraints and the fact that this is more of a preview, we will cut our introductions somewhat short and dive right into testing. First though, we will take a look at where the QX9770 lands into our lineup.

Model
Clock Speed
FSB
L2-Cache
TDP
Pricing
Release Date
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
3.0GHz
1333MHz
2x 6MB
130W
$999
Released
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770
3.2GHz
1600MHz
2x 6MB
136W
$1,399
Early 2008
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9775
3.2GHz
1600MHz
2x 6MB
150W
$1,499
Early 2008
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300
2.5GHz
1333MHz
2x 3MB
95W
$266
Jan 2008
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450
2.66GHz
1333MHz
2x 6MB
95W
$316
Jan 2008
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550
2.86GHz
1333MHz
2x 6MB
95W
$530
Jan 2008
Intel Core 2 Duo E8190
2.66GHz
1333MHz
6MB
65W
$163
Jan 2008
Intel Core 2 Duo E8300
2.83GHz
1333MHz
6MB
65W
$173
Jan 2008
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
3.0GHz
1333MHz
6MB
65W
$183
Jan 2008
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
3.16GHz
1333MHz
6MB
65W
$266
Jan 2008

As we’ve mentioned, the QX9650 has already been released, while the QX9770 is next up. However, that is not happening until at least “Early 2008” which will more than likely be sometime in the later half of January or early February. Prices have been leaked in the past as $1,399 in quantities of 1,000. Whether or not that will prove true upon release, we will have to see.

One thing that makes the QX9770 special is that it’s brother, the QX9775, is what will be used in Skulltrail, the high-end enthusiasts platform that we will learn more about in the months to come. The QX9775 has identical specs, except it requires an LGA771 socket, that of a server platform. Why the price increases between the two, or the TDP for that matter, I’m unsure.

X48 Chipset

We mentioned that the QX9770 was designed for the X48, but where is it? This chipset will be the successor to X38, which was launched last month. It will not improve a great deal on X38, but it’s marketed strictly at enthusiasts. There will be no X48 chipset-based motherboard for the mainstream consumer.

In terms of specs, X48 will be native 1600FSB, include support for unlocked bus ratios and Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility. While X38 was lenient of the fact that DDR2 still existed, X48 will be DDR3-exclusive. There are two reasons for this. The first is that Intel is looking forward, and would love nothing more than for everyone to pick up on DDR3 so that they have one less thing to worry about. Second, in order to run your PC with a ratio of 1:1 between the processor and RAM, DDR3 is required. DDR3-1600 is also the only official profile that Intel currently offers on XMP modules.

Like X38, X48 will once again offer dual 16x PCI-E slots, so ATI Crossfire is definitely in the “cards”. While Intel’s Skulltrail chipset will be based off of X48. it will offer support for NVIDIA SLI as well, thanks to added support on their official motherboard.

Without further ado, we will jump right into our benchmarking methodology and our performance reports, to see what the QX9770 is made of. The benefits of a huge FSB can be argued, and I’m right there with everyone, so we will be evaluating the benefits more once we have an X48 motherboard in our labs.


Testing Methodology

Regardless of the OS we are running or product being reviewed, there are a few conditions that are met to assure accurate, repeatable results.

All testing between processors is done on the same hardware. Our configuration is below:

For our processor reviews, we use three different operating systems: Windows XP, Windows Vista and Gentoo Linux. Although Vista has been out for close to a year, we’ve encountered numerous issues with our benchmarking, so we use it only where necessary, which at this time is only for PCMark Vantage.

In last months review of Intel’s QX9650, we were pleased overall with the results from our synthetic and real-world benchmarks, but one area we didn’t see much of an increase was with gaming. Intel touts both F.E.A.R. and Half-Life 2: Episode Two as being two games that will see benefits, but that’s due to both titles being far more dependent on the CPU than most other games available.

Because this is a “speed bump”, we cut down on the number of games used for testing. For this review, we decided on both F.E.A.R. and Half-Life 2: Episode Two for the reasons above, as well as two newcomers: Call of Duty 4 and Crysis. Both of those games really push the boundaries on our GPUs, but our goal is to see if a beefier CPU will help us out as well.

No timedemos were used in this review. Each level was manually played with the Minimum and Average Frames-Per-Second captured with the help of FRAPS 2.9.2. Each play-through lasts between four and six minutes. Because no timedemos are used, the average FPS will vary in between runs, even on the same CPU, due to changing circumstances in the game. FPS fluctuation is normal, but our goal is to see if big benefits will be seen on better processors. We tested each game at both 1280×1024 and 2560×1600 for the sake of seeing if the benefits were greater with either.

Below, you can view all of the games we will be using, as well as the settings used.

Specification
1280×1024
2560×1600
Call of Duty 4

Crysis

F.E.A.R.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

All other non-game benchmarks will be explained along the way.


System: SYSmark 2007, PCMark Vantage

There is no better way to evaluate a system and its components than to run a suite of real-world benchmarks. To begin our testing, we will use two popular benchmarking suites that emulate real-world scenarios and stress the machine the way it should be… by emulating tasks that people actually perform on a day to day basis.

Both SYSmark and PCMark are hands-free, using scripts to execute all of the real-world scenarios, such as video editing and image manipulation. Each one of these suites output easy-to-understand scores once the tests are completed, giving us a no-nonsense measure of seeing which areas our computer excels in.

SYSmark 2007 Preview

SYSmark, from Bapco, is a comprehensive benchmarking application that emulates real-world scenarios by installing popular applications that many people use every day, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Sony Vegas and many others.

SYSmark grades the overall performance of your system based off of different criteria, but mostly it will depend on how fast it could complete certain tasks. Once the suite is completed, five scores are delivered, one as an overall average and the others for each of the four categories.

Windows Vista used to act as our backdrop for our SYSmark testing, but over the course of the past few months, we’ve encountered many show-stopping errors and odd behaviour which we believe to be directly linked to Vista. With this review, we are moving back to Windows XP, as we’ve yet to encounter an error there.

Our QX9770 is kicking things off to a great start, storming past the QX9650 with a 6% performance increase overall. This is to be expected as the processor is 6.66% higher in frequency. This is a theme we will see throughout all of our testing.

PCMark Vantage

The most recent recruit to our testing suite is PCMark Vantage, an application that proves to be far more than a simple upgrade from a previous version. Vantage is a completely overhauled application, and this was evidenced by the fact that it took more than two full years to produce. Rather than having a PCMark that could complete in 15 minutes, Vantage’s entire run will take around 90 minutes, testing seven primary areas, such as high-definition video, image manipulation, music conversion, et cetera.

Like SYSmark, PCMark delivers simple scores once completed, one for each of the seven main categories and an overall “PCMark Suite” score, which is what most folks will use for comparisons. I left out two suites due to irrelevancy and to keep the graph a modest size.

Common logic would tell me that since our QX9770 scored better than the other processors in each and every test, then it would also receive the highest PCMark Suite score… but that’s not the case. Due to tight deadlines, I was not able to re-run Vantage twice on each CPU, however I did run only the PCMark Suite twice on the QX9770-both times receiving the same result. My assumptions are that the QX9650 had a “better than average” day, and if re-run, it would fall back into place.

PCMark mysteries aside, the QX9770 scales well with all of the other processors. Not exactly a 6.66% increase in performance as the frequency boost would insinuate, but our results might change in our real-world testing, which just so happens to be up next.


Multi-Media: DivX 6.7, TMPGEnc 4.4

It’s time to get our hands dirty with manual benchmarks… true real-world tests! To start off our battery of multi-media tests, we will be taking a look at two video encoding applications that both benefit from SSE4, DivX and TMPGEnc.

DivX 6.7

The DivX encoder has supported SSE instruction sets to some degree in the past, but beginning with 6.6.0, SSE4 support has been added in the form of “Experimental Full Search”. Although I have been unable to see quality differences between the original encoding method and this new algorithm, I am told that overall quality should prove better with the newer method. The downside is that the newer process takes longer than a standard process, but that’s where the benefits of SSE4 come into play.

When using DivX 6.6.0+, you will notice the Experimental Full Search option available under the Codec tab, which is left at Disabled by default. This, as we found out, is a good thing since it does indeed take longer overall. If you are a media enthusiast who cares a lot about quality and doesn’t mind the extra wait, then this might be the route to take. The end result may vary depending on certain factors, such as original video codec, original video quality and video length.

Using the default options, the differences are small. Our QX9650 did prove faster overall (over the QX6850), but it was just over 4%. We decided to stick with our Experimental Full Search testing here, since we have a Nero Recode test coming up with takes care of a similar “stock” option.

For our testing, we are using a 0.99GB high-quality DivX .AVI of Half-Life 2: Episode Two gameplay. The video is just under 4 minutes in length and is in 720p resolution, which equates to a video bit rate of ~45Mbps, not dissimilar to standard 720p movies. We converted the video two different ways.

First, we encoded the video at the same resolution but a lower quality, so as to achieve a far more acceptable file size (~150MB). The second method is encoding of the same video, but to a 480×272 resolution, similar to what some mobile devices use. This last method is not entirely realistic as it’s unlikely the exported video would work on such a device, but the test is to see the benefits of SSE4 in general. Though DivX is the only popular codec to utilize SSE4 at this time, many more should offer support in the new year, making these results relevant.

It’s tests like this that show the true benefits of a Quad-Core processor. The Dual-Core CPUs fall so far behind, it makes the decision on whether or not a Quad-Core is worth the money a whole lot easier. As expected, the QX9770 performed 5% faster than our QX9650.

TMPGEnc 4.4 Express

TMPGEnc XPress is a great application for being able to take a variety of video types and convert them to numerous different file formats for use elsewhere, such as DivX, H.264, QuickTime and HDV. Like DivX above, TMPGEnc 4.4 and onward supports SSE4.

In our QX9650 review a few weeks ago, we mentioned that the developers of TMPGEnc told us that 4.4 Express would not be available for customers until 2008. They have since scrapped that idea, as the program is now available for purchase and upgrade on the official website.

Since we’ve tackled DivX AVI already, for this test we will be taking a 1:16 video which weighs in at 1GB and export it to an MPEG file at 1440×1080 resolution, 29.97fps.

SSE4 is a huge leap for video encoding, which can be seen when comparing the two new processors to our QX6850, which was top-of-the-line just this past summer. Through multiple runs, TMPGEnc on the QX9770 proved 6 – 8 seconds faster (I kept the average) than what the QX9650 could muster, which may be due to the faster FSB, but a lot more testing will need to be completed before concluding on that idea.

Next, we will be taking a look at more video encoders that do not take advantage of the new instruction set, Nero and After Effects.


Multi-Media: Nero Recode, Adobe After Effects CS3

Nero Recode

Where video conversion is concerned, one of the applications I’ve grown to enjoy over the years is Nero Recode. Though it’s export options are extremely limited, they offer high image quality and decent file weight. Nero 8 was released last month, but lacks support for SSE4.

In a recent meeting, we questioned whether or not we would see SSE4 support in a future update, but we were told that there is no immediate plans to implement it, although the “guys in the lab” are taking a look at it. Nero exhibits confidence that their application is optimized enough as is, and SSE4 is not needed.

For this test, we’ve first ripped our copy of our concert DVD, Killadelphia, by Lamb of God. The original DVD rip weighs in at 7.7GB, but we are using Nero to reconvert it to 4.5GB so that it will fit on a normal-sized DVD to use as a backup. Our “mobile” test consists of converting the main concert footage to the same resolution a Sony PSP uses (480×272) which results in a 700MB file.

Thanks to 45nm improvements, large gains are seen in some tests not affected by SSE4, including this one. Interestingly, the QX9770 was 15% faster than our QX9650, which I assume to be thanks to the FSB, as this result was duplicated twice. A simple 6.66% frequency boost shouldn’t make a 15% performance difference, so maybe a higher FSB can really play a role in multi-media work.

Adobe After Effects CS3

For our last video-specific benchmark, we will be using one of the leading video creation tools available, Adobe After Effects CS3. The test does not benefit from SSE4, however it will take advantage of a multi-core processor in general. Our test will include a workload that applies numerous filters to a variety of file types, ultimately exporting it as an AVI movie.

While we somehow experienced a 15% gain in Nero Recode’s DVD recode, our expectations are brought back down with our After Effects testing which shows our QX9770 as having a 6.5% advantage.


Multi-Media: Adobe Lightroom, 3DS Max 9

Adobe Lightroom 1.2

Years ago, you’d have to fork over many Benjamins in order to get a piece of great technology, but that’s not the case anymore. For a modest fee, you can set yourself up with some absolutely killer hardware. Luckily, one area where that’s definitely the case is with digital cameras. It’s cheaper than ever to own a Digital-SLR, which is the reason why they are growing in popularity so quickly. As a result, RAW photo editing is also becoming more popular, hence the topic of our next benchmark.

Adobe Lightroom is an excellent RAW photo editor/organizer that’s easy to use and looks fantastic. For our test, we take 100 RAW files (Nikon .NEF) which are 10 Megapixel in resolution and then export them as JPEGs in 1000×669 resolution… a result that could be easily passed around online or saved elsewhere on your machine as a low-resolution backup.

Whether or not added FSB is able to improve performance in certain applications is becoming more difficult to understand. Lightroom exhibited a 6.25% decrease in export time, which is to be expected.

3DS Max 9

As an industry-leading 3D graphics application, Autodesk’s 3DS Max is one of our more important benchmarks. If there are people who will benefit from faster CPUs with lots of cores, it’s designers of 3D models and environments and animators. Some of these projects are so comprehensive that they can take days to render. At this time, the application does not support SSE4 and will likely not in the future due to irrelevant instructions.

For our test, we are taking a dragon model which is included with the application, Dragon_Character_Rig.max, and rendering it to 1080p resolution (1920×1080). For a second test, we render the same model, but all 60 frames, to a 490×270 resolution .AVI.

Increases are once again found, but they are right in line with what we should expect. What is impressive though, is that a great processor from last year, the E6600, rendered the single frame in 86 seconds. There is no comparison between Dual-Cores and Quad-Cores in these applications. It would be hard to imagine any pro-modeler today not equipped with a Quad-Core.


Multi-Media: Cinebench 10, POV-Ray 3.7, 7-Zip Archiving

Cinebench R10

Like 3DS Max, Cinema 4D is another popular cross-platform 3D graphics application that’s used by new users and experts alike. Its creators, Maxon, are well aware that their users are interested in huge computers to speed up rendering times, which is one reason why they released Cinebench to the public.

Cinebench R10 is based on the Cinema 4D engine the test consists of rendering a high-resolution model of a motorcycle and gives a score at the end. Like most other 3D applications on the market, Cinebench will take advantage of as many cores as you can throw at it.

The QX9650 came close to hitting the 12K mark last month, but the QX9770 pushed it out of its way and blew through that goal.

POV-Ray 3.7

POV-Ray is a ray tracing application which can render scenes with outstanding results. There are three major benefits of this application. First… it’s free. Second, it has a built-in benchmark that’s capable of stressing all of your processor’s cores and also scales well with frequency. Third, it’s available on a variety of platforms. There’s little doubt it’s an application that deserves inclusion in our processor reviews.

The QX9770 was the first CPU to break through the 12K mark in Cinebench, and now it’s the first to break through 2K in POV-Ray!

7-Zip Archiving

If you are a power-user and love free software (such as myself), then you no doubt have heard of 7-Zip. Although the application is similar to other compression applications on the market, such as WinZip and WinRAR, 7-Zip is completely free and lacks nothing that you need to effectively archive your documents.

For our test, we take a 4GB folder that’s complete with pictures, music, documents and other random files and compress it to a .7z file using both the LZMA and Bzip2 algorithms.

Bzip2 is my preferred algorithm as it’s faster thanks to multi-threadedness, but the drawback is that the resulting filesize is ~1% larger than what LZMA will export. Of course, whether or not that extra 1% is worth your extra time or not is a personal decision. We are using both algorithms in our tests since both are widely used.

You know that multi-core processors are finally catching on when even your archiver takes advantage of all four cores. The differences between our Dual-Core and Quad-Core results is staggering, with the QX9770 not surprisingly taking the lead.


Linux: GCC Compiler, Image Suite, Tar Archiving

GCC Compiler

When thinking about faster processors or processors with more cores, multi-media projects immediately come to mind as being the prime targets for having the greatest benefit. However, anyone who regularly uses Linux knows that a faster processor can greatly improve application compiling with GCC. Programmers themselves would see the greatest benefit here, but end-users who find themselves compiling large applications often would also reap the rewards.

Even if you don’t use Linux, the results found here can benefit all programmers, as long as you are using a multi-threaded compiler. GCC is completely multi-core friendly, so the results found here should represent the average increase you would see with similar scenarios.

For our testing, we are using Gentoo 2007.0 under the 2.6.22 Gentoo-patched kernel. The system is command-lined-based, with no desktop environment installed, which helps to keep processes to an absolute minimum.

Our target is a copy of Wine 0.9.49 (with fontforge support). We are using GCC 4.1.2 as our compiler. 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.

Although our Q6600 has proven itself impressive in the past, the 3.0GHz+ chips really make an impression on our compiler. Though the 45nm benefits don’t effect anything here, the extra frequency on the QX9770 does.

Image Suite

Even though multi-core processors are not new, it’s tricky finding a photo application that handles them properly. Lightroom was one, Photoshop is another. In light of the fact that it’s difficult to write scripts for more popular image manipulation applications, we are going to test the single core benefit of ImageMagick and UFRaw, two command-line-based applications for Linux.

ImageMagick is a popular choice for those who run websites, as it does what it does well, and that’s altering of images on the fly. Maybe websites and forums use ImageMagick in the background, which is why it’s performance is included here. UFRaw on the other hand is strictly a RAW manipulation tool which includes both a command-line and GUI-based version of the application. The command-line version is ideal for converting many images at a time, which is why we use it here.

For our test here, our script first calls on UFRaw to convert 100 .NEF 10 megapixel camera files using our settings to JPEGs 1000×669 in resolution. ImageMagick is then called up to watermark all 100 new JPEGs and also to create thumbnails of each. This entire process is similar to how we convert/watermark our photos here. An example snippet is below.


ufraw-batch –exif –wb=auto –exposure=0.60 –size=1000,670 –gamma=0.40 –linearity=0.04 –compression=90 –out-type=jpeg –out-path=../files/ *.nef;
composite -gravity SouthEast -geometry 254×55+3+3 whitewatermark.png 001.jpg ~/Output/001.jpg;

The sad thing is that multi-threaded image manipulators seem to be rare in Linux (I haven’t seen any), so while these results scale well with each other, I can’t help but imagine how much better they would be if they took advantage of all the available cores.

Tar Archiving

To help expand our Linux performance testing, we are now including Tar as a benchmark, similarly to how we use 7-Zip for our Windows benchmarking. For our Tar tests, we are using the same 4GB /Archive/ folder found in our 7-Zip test, which is loaded to the brim with miscellaneous files and sub-folders.

Because both GZip and Bzip2 are popular solutions for Linux users, we are using both in our tests here. Default options are used for both compressors, with the simple syntax: tar z/jcf Archive.tar Archive/.

Gzip is an incredibly fast compressor – it proved 57% faster than our 7-Zip Windows archiving. Quite impressive, considering our Windows compressor was multi-threaded, while Tar/Gzip is not.


Gaming: Call of Duty 4, Crysis

Our two newcomers to our gaming arsenal is Call of Duty 4 and Crysis, two titles that are absolutely mind-blowing in both graphics and gameplay. It’s not too often that gorgeous games play well, but Infinity Ward and Crytek really know what they are doing. For precise settings used throughout testing, please refer to our testing methodology page.

Call of Duty 4

We have used Call of Duty 2 in our testing since its release, so it’s great to finally change the scenery a bit now that the fourth installment is available. I admit that I am not terribly fascinated with war-based games, but CoD4 does well to excite during benchmarking. It might be one title I will actually go back and play through, and that says a lot!

The level chosen for testing is The Bog, which begins you out among friends on a destroyed bridge in the heat of battle. This is a level to use in order to push your computer to the limits. The level is one of the most visually appealing I’ve seen (though dark), but has intense action that will stress both the processor and GPU.

While CoD4 is multi-core alert, it doesn’t do much to take advantage of the Quad-Cores, as the results here are pretty congruent all around. This is good news for those of you who own a first-generation C2D… it will suffice for this game.

Crysis

Do games this hyped really need an introduction? Crysis is one of the first games we’ve seen in a while that actually does a great job of pushing the highest-end computers to their breaking point. This is far from a joke. I would love to see a $10,000 e-peen PC run this game like butter at 2560×1600. Maybe next year, but I’d be hard-pressed to see that happen right now.

Because we just added the game to our fleet, the level used is the first one in the game. Instead of beginning right at the beginning when you jump out of a plane, we crated a save on the beach, where is where we begin each time. The manual playthrough ends after about four minutes, after the second area that requires the super-jump.

You are free to laugh heartily at our 2560×1600 results. It’s hard to believe that on a top-of-the-line Quad-Core processor and 8800GTX card, we muster only 15FPS. Not even! Despite that, it’s great to know that Crysis is a game we will be using for benchmarking for the next two years.


Gaming: HL2: Episode 2, F.E.A.R.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

Yet another game that needs no introduction, Half-Life 2: Episode Two was a proper sequel to Episode One, although the duration in which people had to wait between the two was a little questionable. Luckily for fans though, Episode Two proved to be more of what we love. It was a win/win. Introduced with this version were achievements as well, which let you know how much of a fan you really are.

We are using the Silo level for our testing, which is a level most people who haven’t even played the game know about, thanks to Valves inclusion of it in their Episode Two trailers over the past year. During our gameplay, we shoot down a total of three striders (their locations are identical with each run, since we are running a saved game file) and a barn is blown to smithereens.

Though differences can be seen with faster processors, multi-core has no effect here. At max resolution, ironically, our best run came from our slowest processor.

F.E.A.R.

Like Call of Duty 2, FEAR first hit our PCs in fall of 2005. When it did, it proved to almost everyone just how badly our computers needed upgrading. It was one of the first games to truly benefit from having 2GB of RAM installed, but of course also a massive graphics card. Even today, running a high-resolution FEAR is a visual treat.

The third level is our destination today, which begins us out beside two friends who send me off through various buildings, kicking some ass en route. I am unsure where the final destination is, as I’ve never explored that far, but throughout our five-minute gameplay we encounter four enemies, outdoor and indoor areas and even have a strange horror sequence occur.

F.E.A.R. shows slightly larger performance increases with faster processors than Half-Life does, but does it matter with 200+ FPS?


Temperatures & Power Consumption

As our processors become faster and more robust, power consumption can also increase. Thanks to the focus on efficiency though, current processors can use less power than models seen just two years ago. While our QX6850 and QX9650 had TDPs of 130W, the QX9770 is the first processor in a while to have a TDP that goes beyond that spec, at 136W.

We use a Kill-A-Watt in order to capture the wattages. At each setting, we eye the meter for around a minute in order to grab an average. Normally, the wattage will stay the same for the entire minute, once the computer either sits idle for a minute or two, or if the benchmarks are in full swing. Idle results are grabbed after the PC sits idle for two minutes, while the 50% CPU is with 50% of the available cores being stressed using Cinebench R10. This would simulate more intensive applications that wouldn’t make use of more than half of the available processing power.

Lastly, for a full load recording, we run a copy of Cinebenchs multi-thread test, effectively keeping usage at a constant 100%. After a minute of watching the meter, the highest wattage point reached is recorded.

When comparing the QX9650 to the QX6850, the differences are in favor of the newer processor. Good thing. More speed, more efficiency, lower power. Our QX9770 uses more power than the rest of the bunch, which might have to due with the fact that we needed to boost our NB voltage a fair amount. I’ll explain this better shortly.

Processor Temperatures

When you cram four cores under the same IHS that usually houses two, temperatures are bound to skyrocket. This really means one thing… that you do not want to use a cheap air cooler. A high-quality air cooler should suffice, but for the enthusiast, water-cooling is really the only way to go.

For grabbing temperature information, I stick to using Everest 4.0, since it seems quite accurate. However, when bringing it up with Intel earlier this year, we were told that there is no way for any application to have a completely accurate reading for Quad-Core temperatures, Everest and CoreTemp included.

Quad-Cores utilize what’s called a Digital Temperature Sensor, DTS for short, which provides an offset from the Prochot trip temperature. If the processor is 12°C away from activating the TCC and Prochot, then the reported temperature, behind the scenes, will be -12°C. Intel states that the reason exact temperatures cannot be determined is because they have not defined the precise temperature at which the TCC is activated. How it’s activated at all, I am not sure.

Temperatures gathered with quad-cores shouldn’t be considered accurate with any application, which leads me to wish that Intel offered a tool for finding the precise temperature. If for whatever reason the CPU does get too hot, which I assume to be when the TCC and Prochot is activated, a reverse-EIST effect will occur, where the processor will automatically reduce the multiplier to 6 in order to reduce the clock speed and in turn, the temperature.



Room Temperatures
E6600 @ 68°F, Q6600, QX6850, QX9650 @ 70°F, QX9770 @ 74°F, E6750 @ 76°F

Because I perform testing in a room that has no temperature control, the room temp can change throughout the day. Since our testing occurred over the course of a few days (due to a total rerun of tests on all processors), temperatures changed a fair amount. Even still, at 74°F room temp, the QX9770 did not inch over 50°C.


Final Thoughts

Being such an early look on a new processor, it’s hard to walk away with a solid impression, besides having the obvious knowledge that the 6.6% increase in clock speed will improve those CPU-intensive tasks.

Regretably though, we were unable to test the QX9770 the way it was meant to be. As mentioned in the intro, 1600FSB CPUs are due to launch alongside Intel’s X48 chipset, and at this time, samples are -just- making their way out to reviewers. Even then, it is real early in the timeline to be making solid opinions. X48 is due in the new year, as is the QX9770.

The second problem we had was having no DDR3-1600 on hand. Whether or not our RAM became a bottleneck is not really known, but chances are good that we would have seen -some- improvements through certain benchmarks, most notably the video encoding applications. We will follow up on performance when we have both X48 and sufficient memory, which should be shortly.

Regardless of all of that though, the QX9770 is the fastest processor released. Ever. It offers all of the goods that came with 45nm, on top of four cores and the highest clock-speed that the Core 2 series has seen. Once released, this is going to be the drool-worthy processor to be eye-balling. Of course, that’s until someone throws together an incredible Skulltrail rig that pairs two equal LGA771 processors together for a staggering 8-Core machine.

Before I wrap up, I need to touch on overclocking, or the lack thereof. All performance was tested with the ASUS P5E3 Deluxe WiFi motherboard, with the latest 0601 beta BIOS, which opens up 1600FSB support. Even with that support, though, the QX9770 was unstable at all Auto settings on my machine. Before the PC could finish POST, it would lock up entirely. After many hours of tweaking, I found the reason to be the Northbridge voltage. I am unsure what the stock voltage is (since the motherboard hides that information), but once cranked up to a staggering (but still reasonable) 1.71v, the CPU was 100% stable.

I have a good feeling that with an X48 motherboard, the CPU would be stable without tweaking anything. Because I was using what seemed to be a hacked together BIOS, the performance was sketchy at best. Because of this, I was unable to overclock beyond 3.6GHz on that motherboard, and time didn’t allow a go on the Maximus Forumula. Further testing will be performed in the next month on an X48 board along with higher-frequency RAM, for more elaborate results.

When all said and done, the QX9770 is one killer processor. Intel has nothing to prove to AMD right now. Phenom is impressive, but Intel is still safe at the top. 3.2GHz of Yorkfield goodness is going to make friends envious. You know… if that’s your goal. Of course, you will have to wait until the new year to acquire one, but if you have a loose wallet, it will be worth the wait.

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