The leading x86 processor manufacturers continue putting a lot of effort into introduction and promotion of dual-core architectures. Although both, Intel and AMD, have already carried out paper launched for their solutions with two computational cores, the actual dual-core boom is expected to happen in the fall, when the dual-core desktop processors will become widely available in retail. Nevertheless, you’d better start preparing for the dual-core CPUs in advance. That is why we are not waiting for the mass invasion of dual-core CPUs and are proud to offer you a detailed study of their features and performance now already. Last week, we introduced to you AMD Athlon 64 X2, and today we would like to tell you all the details about the dual-core Intel processors based on Smithfield core.
Before we pass over to the technical details, I would like to specifically mention the reasons that pushed the CPU developers to move their primary focus to dual-core solutions (multi-core in the general case). The thing is that the introduction of dual-core architecture is another pretty evident way of increasing the CPU performance. Because the processor performance in the general case is the CPU working frequency multiplied by the number of operations the processor can complete within a single clock cycle, the dual-core architecture can theoretically double this number, because the second core added to the CPU doubles the number of execution units. However, it is important to point out that these execution units should be used efficiently in both cores, only then the maximum performance can be achieved. And this is the task for software developers rather than for processor designers.
Since at the today’s technological level it has become pretty difficult lately to continue increasing the processor performance in a more traditional way by simply raising its working frequency, there are hardly a lot of options to choose from. Of course, a perfect illustration of the current “stagnation” is the fact that AMD has only managed to increase the working frequencies of its CPUs by 200MHz since last year, while Intel sped up its processors by only 400MHz. So, the development of dual-core architectures is the only possible booster for the current processor market, which could ensure that CPUs will continue reaching new performance heights.
When we discussed the dual-core AMD processors in our article called AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Dual-Core Processor Review, we saw clearly that the performance of Athlon 64 X2 was a way higher than that of single-core CPUs in many applications supporting multi-threading. In other words, this processor does prove up to the expectations we pinned upon it. The dual-core processors from Intel based on Smithfield core are slightly different from the competitor’s solutions. While Athlon 64 X2 processors work at the frequencies close to those the single-core solutions can reach today, Intel had to reduce the clock frequency of the dual-core processors significantly below the top rates its single-core CPUs can work at today. This way, AMD engineers increased the processor performance by simply adding the second core. Intel did a different thing: they decided to make us face the choice between real multi-threading and high working frequencies. This issue is actually the major intrigue of our today’s investigation. In case of AMD Athlon 64 X2 we could simply estimate the performance gain we get from the second physical core, while today we will have to sort out those applications that suit better for multi-core architectures and those that run faster on CPUs with high working clock frequencies.