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Since the release of Intel's Conroe micro-architecture, the company has been making waves, massive waves. In terms of performance, Intel washed away main competitor AMD, and they have continued to do so during the past three months with the success of their Core 2 Duo and Extreme processor series.
The only counter AMD has been able to come up with so far is to completely slash prices for all their existing processors, making them extremely tempting as well. Nevertheless, the performance of the Core 2 Duo processor range is so compelling, that even die-hard AMD fans have been taking notice.
The Conroe, or as it is better known, the Core 2 Duo, is a Pentium replacement, meaning we will now longer see any new Pentium branded processors. The Pentium 5xx, 6xx and D series are already becoming a thing of the past. So with Intel now focusing all their attention on the Core 2 series, you can expect it to expand quite rapidly.
Currently, there are four Core 2 Duo processors which were released at the initial launch (E6300, E6400, E6600 and E6700). There is also the Core 2 Extreme processor dubbed the X6800, though it offers very little in the way of performance over the E6700. There is said to be four new Core 2 Duo processors on the way that will run on a 1333MHz FSB and will all feature the larger 4MB L2 Cache. They are the E6650, E6750, E6800 and E6850, though we are not here to discuss these processors today. Rather, we are here to examine the new Kentsfield micro-architecture which is based on a quad-core 65nm design.
Step aside dual-core, it is now the time of the quad-core and you better believe it. The new quad-core series consists of the Core 2 Quad Q6600 and the Core 2 Extreme QX6700. Both feature a dual 4MB L2 cache, operate on a 1066MHz FSB, and have a thermal output of 130 watts. However, the Core 2 Quad Q6600 is not scheduled for release until early next year, and so today we will be looking at the more powerful Core 2 Extreme QX6700 version, which Intel had promised to make available this month, humming along to the tune of just 2.66GHz using a cool 1.34 volts of power.
Easily the biggest downfall of the dieing breed of Pentium processors was its thermal output, which was getting quite ridiculous. Therefore the new Kentsfield and Conroe cores were designed not only with performance in mind, but also power consumption and heat output.
Probably the biggest question on the mind of those that have recently upgraded to Intel Core 2 processors is compatibility, will the new Kentsfield processors work with your existing platform? Well the good news is yes, they will. Worst case scenario a BIOS update may be required to support these new desktop processors, according to Intel. These are great news for current Intel users, and it is good to see the continued use of the LGA775 platform, which is still relatively new anyway. The downside in the other hand, and a quite expected one, is that quad-core processors will start selling at well over $800 each, with today's review item, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 going for a cool $1000 per processor.
The Core 2 processors quickly became the fastest in Intel's camp once released, and there were a number of good reasons for this, such as the Smart Cache and Wide Dynamic Execution technologies. Then there is the virtualization technology which is designed to maximize the processors' multi-tasking performance. This is done by splitting the computer into numerous virtual systems, all of which can run different applications. This technology is so powerful that in theory it could be possible to play a game on one, watch a movie on the other, host a web server on a third, run a database from a fourth, and surf the Internet on another.
The very same technologies that made the Conroe so powerful are all included in the new Kentsfield architecture. In fact, there are no new additions, so it is merely a quad-core version of the Conroe, but of course this is hardly a bad thing. Given the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 shares the same specifications as the Core 2 Duo E6700 minus the extra two cores, you should not expect it to offer dramatically better gaming performance than the E6700, as the current line up of PC games have shown are not too susceptible to the number of processor cores as they are perhaps to increases in clock frequencies.