Late last year Intel unveiled the world’s first quad-core desktop processor, stealing a bit of thunder from the amazing Core 2 Duo range. For a whopping $999, the new Core 2 Extreme processor would become Intel's new flagship product.

Although the Core 2 Duo remained the best value choice for most desktop users, the technological achievement was nonetheless there as AMD had - and in a way still is - without a proper answer. Clocked at 2.66GHz the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was essentially two Core 2 Duo E6700 processors stuck together. This meant that the thermal design power rating was doubled from 65 watts for the E6700, to a hot 130 watts for the QX6700.

Performance-wise the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was a success, though it was more of a business-oriented processor. This was largely due to the fact that games are only now becoming dual-core friendly and almost none are ready for quad-core processors. In the other hand, certain applications such as Adobe Photoshop and QuickTime Pro showed reasonably strong performance gains when using the quad-core Intel processor. Then other more powerful applications, such as 3D Studio Max and Pinnacle Studio Plus, saw massive performance gains when moving to the quad-core processor.

Now some eight months later little has changed, dual-core still provides the same gaming experience while the quad-cores are somewhat better at graphic design and video editing tasks. Since the launch of the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 there have only been two other quad-core releases by Intel. The Core 2 Extreme QX6800 and Core 2 Quad Q6600, which were released at $1199 and $851, respectively.

The new Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor we are testing today is the first Core 2 product to hit the magical 3.0GHz marker, and it is doing it not with two but rather four cores (dual 4MB L2 cache). Also new for the Core microarchitecture is a bumped up front side bus which has been taken to 333MHz QDR (Quad Data Rate – 1333MHz), whereas previous Core 2 processors all used a 1066MHz FSB.

The Core 2 Extreme QX6850 is again said to begin life at $999 which will help slowly drive down the price of existing quad-core processors. Later this month the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 will be relaunched around July 22nd as the Core 2 Quad Q6700. This new processor will still be clocked at 2.66 GHz, but will consume less power than the QX6700. The Q6600 is additionally expected to fall in price to just $266 around the same date.

With those up and coming news in mind, there is nothing else new to report about the Core 2 Extreme QX6850 as it's very similar to the original QX6700 quad-core processor that we reviewed back in November. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact the extra 340MHz have on performance when compared to the QX6700, and if the higher FSB does make a difference.