Intel Core 2

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Intel Core 2
  • Intel Core 2
  • Intel Core 2

Pros

  • Great all around performance

Cons

  • Nothing of note

Bottom Line

The Core 2 Duo is currently the fastest mainstream CPU family on the market and is perfect for most scenarios. Even the slowest Core 2 Duo will provide excellent performance for gaming, everyday computing, video editing, MP3 encoding and heavy multitasking.

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The Core 2 Duo family of dual core processors was introduced in July 2006 to supersede the aging Pentium 4 and Pentium D models. The Pentium 4 was last updated in February 2004 and was discontinued in favour of the dual-core Pentium D, which was introduced in May 2005, and consisted of two Pentium 4-based cores. PCs based on the Pentium D were relatively poor performers compared to PCs based on AMD's Athlon 64 range of CPUs according to our monthly tests of PCs (see Elite and Atlanta III Series, as an example).

The Core 2 microarchitecture - used in the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme range of CPUs - draws upon the Core microarchitecture, first introduced in the Core Duo series of notebook CPUs. The Core 2 microarchitecture adds 64-bit instructions, allowing the 64-bit version of Windows Vista to run on systems using this architecture.

Built using a 65 nanometre manufacturing process, they consume around 65W of power under a full processing load. Core 2 Duo CPUs come with with 2MB or 4MB of cache, which is shared across both cores. Unlike AMD's Athlon 64 X2 CPUs, each core has access to the full cache. This helps reduce the latency involved in searching for a piece of data in the cache, as both cores can access the same areas. Another feature of the Core 2 Duo's cache is that each core can be dynamically allocated a portion. For example, if one core is idle, then the majority of the cache can be dedicated to the other core.

Furthermore, the amount of data that can be processed in one clock cycle has been increased in the Core 2 microarchitecture. It allows each core to process up to four instructions at the same time, as opposed to three in the Netburst microarchitecture, which is what the Pentium 4 and Pentium D CPUs were based on. The ability of Core 2 Duo to process an extra instruction per core for each clock cycle, means it can process more data during a single clock cycle, which makes it a more efficient CPU than its predecessors.

The speed of each Core 2 Duo CPU can be quickly learned by looking at the model number. The higher the number, the faster the CPU frequency of each core. The models available are the E6700, which run at 2.66GHz and has a 4MB cache size; the E6600, which runs at 2.4GHz and has a 4MB cache size; the E6400, which runs at 2.13GHz and has a 2MB cache; the E6300, which runs at 1.86GHz and has a 2MB cache size. We tested all these CPUs except for the E6600, which we could not get our hands on in time for our deadline.

The bottom line is, there is an increase in performance between each model of around ten percent, but, they are all very fast! Except for three tests (Cdex, Office XP and the World Bench 5 multitasking test) the E6400 was faster than AMD's top-of-the-range Athlon 64 FX-62.

The E6300 was competitive beyond its relatively paltry 1.86GHz frequency and the E6700, judging by its performance and price is perhaps the best CPU to choose if you want excellent performance for multithreaded and single threaded applications, but don't want to pay an 'extreme' price. In saying that, it's over 50 percent more expensive than the E6400, but only offers around 20 percent better performance than that CPU.

For sheer performance, you can't beat the Core 2 Duo. If you base a new system on any of the models we have tested, you won't be disappointed. Pricing for these chips starts from around $300, depending on your dealer, but be sure to buy a motherboard based on the Intel P965 chipset, as this is the optimal chipset for Core 2 Duo CPUs.

Core 2 Duo E6300 Price: $300

Core 2 Duo E6400 Price: $360

Core 2 Duo E6700 Price: $800

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