Intel Core 2 Quad - Kentsfield arrives with Four Cores

Intel is releasing their newest CPU today, the Core 2 Quad Q6700. It's just like a Conroe but comes with four cores.

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9 minutes & 11 seconds read time


Intel has never had such a cash cow as the Core architecture. When Intel released the Pentium brand name, Intel made a name for itself as the high point for computer processors. It wasn't till AMD's Athlon family hit the shelves and made us look at the chip giant.

Since then Intel has managed to make hit and miss products, Netburst was a definite miss, Bannis, Dothan and Yohna were definite hits. Intel has simply had to learn that its name isn't big enough to muscle the hardware industry anymore, it now has to compete with products that people are going to want, rather than telling the people what Intel wants them to buy.

Core architecture is Intel's biggest hit since Bannis made its debut to the mobile sector. Core architecture builds on what Intel learnt from Netburst and adds this to the architecture that the Pentium-M used so well.

Dual Core technology has also come a long way since Intel first released its Pentium-D and Pentium Extreme Edition processors. Intel's first attempts at dual core simply were not what the industry wanted or needed. Intel's way of core to core communication required requests to be made across the Front Side Bus, where AMD Athlon 64 X2's communicated across a dedicated interconnect on the CPU die that linked the two cores directly to the memory controller.

Core and Core 2 changed all this with the idea of the CPU's communicating across a shared L2 cache bus that connects the die's to a single L2 memory cache on the CPU die. This reduced the latency with core to core communication by over half, as no longer did they need to go across the FSB.

Today Intel has upped the ante with the first available Quad core CPU to hit the market. Today we test the Core 2 Quad Q6700.

Core 2 Quad in detail

Core 2 Quad up close

Intel's latest addition to the Core family is the Core 2 Quad series. This series uses two Conroe cores on a single package, that's a total of four cores.

The layout of the CPU under the Integrated Heat Spreader or IHS as it's known as. The Core 2 Quad is designed around the same setup that Intel originally used to create the Pentium D CPU's. There are two separate dies on a single package. The two separate cores are actually two Core 2 Duo E6700's with 4MB cache each - which is two cores in Die 1 and the last two dies on Die 2. The separate dies communicate with each other through the Front Side Bus. This is where Intel's weakness shows. Connecting the dies through the FSB requires all die to die communication to go back to the Northbridge and into the system memory.

The Core 2 Quad die itself under the X-Ray isn't that different from the Core 2 Duo, as it simply uses two of them on the same package.

Our CPU from Intel looks like any other Socket 775 CPU on the market. Our one is an engineering sample so there are only the Intel Confidential markings on the top of the CPU, no model numbers or whatnot.

While Intel did provide us with the Bad Axe 2 motherboard that is supposed to support Overclocking but this time we decided to go a different route. Gigabyte's P965-DQ6 board has proven to be an extreme overclocking powerhouse, and with the latest F6 BIOS added to the mix this board supports the Core 2 Quad without any problems. To this end we have elected to use this board and review the Bad Axe 2 later on.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Sandra

Test System Setup

Motherboard: Gigabyte P965-DQ6 with F6 BIOS (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1066 Corsair (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk: 500GB Seagate 7200.9 (Supplied by Seagate)
Graphics Card: nVidia GeForce 7800GT
Cooling: Gigabyte 3D Galaxy 2 (Supplied by Gigabyte)
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP SP2
Drivers: Intel INF, nVidia ForceWare 91.47 and DX9c

Today we are going to be testing out the Core 2 Quad Q6700 against the Core 2 Duo E6700.

Both processors are clocked at a default core of 2.66GHz. We then also did some overclocking where we managed to hit 3.2GHz on the Core 2 Quad and 3.22GHz on the Core 2 Duo. The results have been recorded for your reference.

So, do the extra cores on the new Core 2 Quad offer any tangible performance increases? Let's take a closer look at our results.

SiSoft Sandra

Version and / or Patch Used: 2007
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SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.

Here we can see that the Core 2 Quad has advantage at both stock and overclocked speeds in the CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia benchmarks, however, both score equal in memory bandwidth in stock and overclocked modes.

Benchmarks - PCMark


Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
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PCMark is a multipurpose benchmark, suited for benchmarking all kinds of PCs, from lapt22ops to workstations, as well as across multiple Windows operating systems. This easy-to-use benchmark makes professional strength benchmarking software available even to novice users. PCMark consists of a series of tests that represent common tasks in home and office programs. PCMark also covers many additional areas outside the scope of other benchmarks.

Again in synthetic tests the Core 2 Quad manages to gain lead in stock and overclocked situations.

Benchmarks - Super PI

Super PI

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1e
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Developed by some folks from the University of Tokyo (yes, Japan), Super PI is a small utility that does just as the name implies. It figures PI to a set number of decimal places. Since PI is an infinite number to the right of the decimal point, the utility measures the time it takes to figure a set number of places. It runs the calculations a set number of times and gives a time for the completion of the task. This is a simple and effective way to measure the raw number crunching power of the processor being used to compile the results.

Here we see that the Core 2 Quad manages to eat at Super PI better than the Core 2 Duo thanks to its extra two cores and larger combined cache size.

Benchmarks - Media Encoding

MPEG2 to DivX Encoding with Power Director

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.0
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CyberLink Power Director produces video files for creating DVD, DivX, XviD and WMV files for use on your PC. Using the built in software we encode files from MPEG2 (DVD) format to DivX format and use the time taken, average FPS and CPU usage for our benchmarking usage.

In our rear world tests there is very little difference between the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad. A few minutes are all that separates them. There is even little difference in CPU utilisation.

Benchmarks - 3DMark05


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 120
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3DMark05 is now the second latest version in the popular 3DMark "Gamers Benchmark" series. It includes a complete set of DX9 benchmarks which tests Shader Model 2.0 and above.

For more information on the 3DMark05 benchmark, we recommend you read our preview here.

Our first synthetic game benchmark puts the Core 2 Quad just ahead of the Core 2 Duo, but not by a substantial amount.

Benchmarks - 3DMark06


Version and / or Patch Used: Build 102
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3DMark06 is the very latest version of the "Gamers Benchmark" from FutureMark. The newest version of 3DMark expands on the tests in 3DMark05 by adding graphical effects using Shader Model 3.0 and HDR (High Dynamic Range lighting) which will push even the best DX9 graphics cards to the extremes.

3DMark06 also focuses on not just the GPU but the CPU using the AGEIA PhysX software physics library to effectively test single and Dual Core processors.

With the higher stresses placed on the system we still see Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad pretty close despite the extra two cores that the Core 2 Quad has.

Benchmarks - PREY


Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2
Timedemo or Level Used: Hardware OC Demo
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PREY is one of the newest games to be added to our benchmark line-up. It is based off the Doom 3 engine and offers stunning graphics passing what we've seen in Quake 4 and does put quite a lot of strain on our test systems.

Our first real world benchmark does show that the Core 2 Quad does have a lead in the real world, but not a huge amount as you may expect for two extra cores.

Benchmarks - Quake 4

Quake 4

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
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Quake 4 is one of the latest new games to be added to our benchmark suite. It is based off the popular Doom 3 engine and as a result uses many of the features seen in Doom. However, Quake 4 graphics are more intensive than Doom 3 and should put more strain on different parts of the system.

The latest patch adds support for multi threading CPU's. With this new patch we see the Core 2 Quad makes a good impression.

Benchmarks - F.E.A.R.


Version and / or Patch Used: 1.08
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
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F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon) is an intense combat experience with rich atmosphere and a deeply intense paranormal storyline presented entirely in first person. Be the hero in your own spine-tingling epic of action, tension, and terror...and discover the true meaning of F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. doesn't notice much of a jump in performance because the graphics system is the bottleneck, this will be remedied with new cards in our test bed shortly.

Benchmarks - Far Cry

Far Cry

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
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While Far Cry is now one of our older benchmarking games, it is still able to put pressure on most computers systems. Utilizing PS2.0 technology with the latest versions supporting Shader Model 3.0 with DX9c and offering an exceptional visual experience, there is no denying that even some of the faster graphics cards get a bit of a workout.

Far Cry isn't designed to run multi cores which is why we don't see much of an improvement from going to quad cores.

Final Thoughts

Dual and Multiple cores are certainly the way to go. Speeds have hit a wall, going for a Gigahertz advantage simply isn't enough, Intel found that out with the Pentium 4, a pure GHz speed king.

Intel has been the first to market with its Dual Core processor with the Pentium D launching just before the Athlon 64 X2, and this was simply a disaster in terms of performance, heat dissipation and power requirements. The main problem with the Pentium D was the twp cores needed to communicate across the FSB.

Core 2 Quad is another rush job we feel from Intel. While it does perform reasonably well, it's still bottlenecked by the dies having to communicate across the FSB.

Intel has already indicated its next quad core will be four cores sharing 8MB of shared cache, with all cores connected to the same L2 cache module, rather than two cores on one L2 cache and the other two cores on a second L2 cache - this should prove to be a much better design when it comes to performance.

Overall the performance of the Core 2 Quad doesn't justify the price premium that is being put on this CPU. If you are just going for bling value of the four cores, then this is for you, if you want a cheaper alternative, Core 2 Duo with 4MB L2 cache performs pretty damn close to the Core 2 Quad right now.

As a matter of fact, we just got out of a meeting with Valve Software today and they indicated to members of the press that soon they will begin to implement multi-core CPU optimisations into the Source engine which will benefit all previous Source based games and new ones including Episode 2. Initially you will see improvements in frame rates but for Valve, that's just the beginning. They want to leverage the multi-core technology (and we're not just talking about four cores) and improve AI and the overall realism of the games to levels we've never seen before and they seem to be on track for doing it.

From a gaming prospective, is it really worth upgrading to Quad Core right now? Probably not! Is it worth waiting a little while and seeing what all the software and gaming developer companies do? Yes! Right now the hardware is ahead of the software - keep an eye out on patches for your favourite games or applications and decide for yourself if you really need four CPU cores inside your system at the moment.

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