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Core 2 Duo Cache Memory and Performance

Since new Core 2 Duo E6x20 processors with larger L2 cache memory will be priced just as the Allendale based CPUs working at the same frequencies (this core is the same Conroe core with reduced L2 cache), it will be extremely interesting to find out how the performance of CPUs on Core micro-architecture depends on the size of the L2 cache. Therefore, we decided to compare the performance of the Core 2 Duo E6420 and Core 2 Duo E6400 side by side in the most popular applications. The obtained results are given in the table below:

Core 2 Duo E6420
4MB L2

Core 2 Duo E6400
2MB L2

Performance Hit

3DMark06

5948

5928

0.3%

3DMark06, CPU

1797

1774

1.3%

PCMark05

6673

6582

1.4%

PCMark05, CPU

5196

5174

0.4%

Word 2007 (Document Compare), sec

51

54

5.9%

Excel 2007, sec

14.4

18.4

27.8%

7-Zip 4.44, Compressing, KB/s

3023

2789

8.4%

7-Zip 4.44, Decompressing, KB/s

21076

20983

0.4%

MPEG-4 Encoding, AutoGK 2.4/Xvid 1.2, fps

32.16

30.91

4.0%

H.264 Encoding, Apple Quicktime Pro 7, sec

493

498

1.0%

mp3 Encoding, Apple iTunes 7, sec

156

157

0.6%

Adobe Photoshop CS3 (ps7bench 2.0), sec

105

107

1.9%

Windows Photo Gallery (Print), sec

31

32

3.2%

Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, sec

245

246

0.4%

Windows Movie Maker, sec

102

103

1.0%

3ds Max 8 (Space Flyby), sec

263

265

0.8%

CINEBENCH 9.5, Rendering

694

693

0.1%

POV-Ray 3.7

829.1

820.1

1.1%

Quake 4, 1024x768 High Quality

90.01

83.24

8.1%

F.E.A.R., Medium Quality

104

98

6.1%

Unreal Tournament 2004, 1024x768

79.9

76.8

4.0%

Company of Heroes, 1024x768

115.4

112.6

2.5%

Valve VRAD map build benchmark, sec

335

336

0.3%

Valve Source Engine particle benchmark

34

31

9.7%

Fritz 9 Chess Benchmark

3106

3078

0.9%

The results we obtained in 22 popular applications prove that cache size does have significant influence on the system performance. Although the average advantage of the Core 2 Duo E6420 over Core 2 Duo E6400 equaled only 3%-4%, the actual performance gain depends a lot on the type of workload.

Office applications and games stand out among all other benchmarks. In this type of applications cache poses the biggest influence on the system performance. In both: contemporary games as well as typical office tasks, Core 2 Duo E6420 can be as much as 6-8% faster than Core 2 Duo E6400. There are even greater examples of the practical value of the large L2 cache. For instance, Valve Source Engine particle benchmark that shows the processor performance when calculating the physical model of the gaming world demonstrates a 10% performance advantage of the newcomers over the older processor models. But the most impressive result of all can definitely be observed in Excel 2007. The CPU with 4MB L2 cache hit the impressive performance gain of 27.8% during typical statistical operations.

However, there are also some applications where L2 cache memory has very little influence on the results. Here we could list final rendering tasks as well as some sound, video and image editing procedures.

Nevertheless, we should give due credit to Intel for the introduction of fully-fledged Conroe core in the younger models from the Core 2 Duo E6000 series without increasing their price. 4MB L2 cache memory makes Core 2 Duo E6420 and E6320 processors even more attractive for the end-users than Core 2 Duo E6400 and E6300. 
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