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Intel X6800 Core 2 Extreme Intel X6800 Core 2 Extreme: Intel's top dog shows up in our labs and makes a mess out of our benchmarks. What will the results show once we clean things up?
Date: October 31, 2006
Written By:

We have been critical of Intel with their recent launches in respect to enthusiast benchmark results. For the past few years, Intel had been a bit behind the eight ball in the gaming arena. For the most part, they were doing well from an application standpoint, and truth be told, the real money for most industries lies with business users and OEMs.

However, gaming and multimedia content creation is what gets all the press, and let's face it, nobody really buys the latest CPU exclusively to make Microsoft Word run faster. In some of our recent video card reviews, we've grumbled about the numbers and perhaps we were simply not using the right CPU. While performance users make up a small part of the pie, the "minority" do have a big voice, hence it was no secret Intel needed to come out big with the Core 2 CPUs.

Prior to the introduction of the Core 2 Duo and Intel Core 2 Extreme chips, aka Conroe, there were rumblings about how these new CPUs will change the processing landscape as far as Intel is concerned. Early benchmarks confirmed this as the new X6800 Core 2 Extreme easily surpassed many of AMD's high end gaming benchmarks. Any speculation was pretty much put to rest once the CPUs were formally introduced. We'll come right out and say that we will expect nothing less than good performance numbers, though what we are interested in seeing first hand is how good these numbers will be.

The Intel X6800 Core 2 Extreme

The X6800 Core 2 Extreme is based on the now familiar Land Grid Array 775 (LGA775, AKA Socket-T) and built upon a 65nm fab process. Physically, the chip looks the same as the Pentium CPUs before it, meaning the pins are not on the CPU, but on the motherboard. On the topic of motherboards, support for the X6800 is better than the previous Extreme Editions in that right out of the gate the Intel 965 and 975 (newer revisions) chipsets will support the CPU as well as the NVIDIA nForce 4 (again, newer revisions) and nForce 590 SLI. Below is a list of key features for the Conroe family:

· Dual Core Processing: This is pretty much a given as all of Intel's desktop CPUs are designed with two independent processing cores running at the same speed in one physical package. Up to 4MB of L2 cache is shared between the two and the front side bus speeds along at 1066MHz.

· Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology: Note that despite borrowing on Yonah's architecture, Conroe offer full support for 64-bit processing. Introduced with the 6xx series, the new processors feature Intel's Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T), which is not much unlike AMD's solution. There are two potential benefits to EM64T, provided you have the OS and software in place; a faster computer and more addressable memory.

Computing instructions are done in binary format (zero and one), and for 32-bit environments, each bit is capable of one binary instruction each clock cycle. Therefore, for previous Intel desktop processors, for each clock cycle, they were capable of 32 binary instructions. A 64-bit processor doubles that, so provided the environment is optimized for 64-bit computing, PCs should be much faster.

One of the greatest limitations of 32-bit processors is that they are only capable of addressing up to 4 GB of memory. In theory, a 64-bit CPU can process up to 16 exabytes of ram.

· Intel Wide Dynamic Execution: Each clock cycle does more work than before, making the processor much more efficient. Each core can execute up to 4 operations per clock cycle now.

· Intel Smart Memory Access: Basically, the memory subsystem is more more efficient by the improvements in prediction and pre-fetching.

· Execute Disable Bit: The Smithfield will be the third group of Intel desktop processors to support Execute Disable Bit (XD Bit). XD Bit isn't really new for Intel, as it was implemented for the Itanium processor in 2001 (for servers), the Intel Pentium 4 570J last year, followed by the 6xx series earlier this year.

How XD Bit works is certain memory pages are protected from buffer-overflow attacks. For most Intel desktop CPUs, the x86 architecture have no means of protection to malicious code writing themselves to these memory pages and executing. By enabling this in the BIOS and OS now, you can effectively shut the door on the code from taking over these memory pages.

· More Performance, Less Power: The latest Core 2 Duo processors will be much faster than previous Intel CPUs, and it will do so while consuming much less power. The X6800 Core 2 Extreme uses a mere 75W under maximum load, which is nearly half of the last generation of Extreme Edition CPUs.

Here is a table that sums up how the Core 2 launch CPUs fare against one another:

X6800 Core 2 Extreme
E6700 Core 2 Duo
E6600 Core 2 Duo
E6400 Core 2 Duo
E6300 Core 2 Duo

Sitting on top of the pack is the X6800 Core 2 Extreme. While this CPU is clocked the fastest, it is also the most expensive of the pack. Other than the clock speed differences, and at the lower end of the spectrum, the cache differences, the Core 2 Duo family share the same features for the most part. The only thing lacking from the X6800 is support for Intel's Digital Thermal Sensor. This feature monitors the processor's temperature and in conjunction with the Intel Quiet System Technology, introduced with the 965 chipset family, can adapt the system's cooling to enable a quieter system. Note that the non-Extreme CPUs only use 65W of power, which will make for a cool running chip.

Test Setup

Operating System: Windows XP Professional (5.1, Build 2600) Service Pack 2
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU X6800 @ 2.93GHz (2 CPUs)
Motherboard: Abit AW9D-MAX 975X
Memory: 2046MB RAM Corsair XMS2 PC2-8500
DirectX Version: DirectX 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Card name: NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT
Driver Version: 6.14.0010.9147

Comparison CPUs:

Test Software is as follows:

- Our standard synthetic suite gets an upgrade. We like to use Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) to collect some numbers as a base. The numbers collected are consistent and are easily comparable between systems during tests.

- A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is version 4.2, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.

- CDex v170b2 was used to convert a 440.5MB Wav file to a 320kbs MP3. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.

- We used an Animatrix file, titled , and a WAV created from VirtualDub. The movie was then converted it into a DVD compliant MPEG-2 file with a bitrate of 5000. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.

DVD Shrink - We ripped the War of the Worlds bonus feature off the disk at 100% and compressed the file from the hard drive to 70%. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.

- Photoshop is perhaps the defacto standard when it comes to photo editing tools. Given that it is so popular, we incorporated DriverHeaven's latest test into our review process. Lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.

- We run the full suite of tests offered by 3DMark06 at 640x480 and collect the total 3DMark score and CPU score.

Doom 3, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2004 @ 640x480, HQ Settings - While higher resolutions tax the video card, lower resolutions rely on CPU and subsystem speed. Higher scores are better.

All benchmarks will be run a total of three times with the average scores being displayed. Any system tweaks and ram timings were configured to the best possible for each platform.

SiSoft Sandra 2007 CPU

SiSoft Sandra 2007 MMX

SiSoft Sandra 2007 Memory

Right off the bat, we can see some significant jumps in scores with the X6800 over the 840 Extreme Edition.


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