Core 2 Duo E6420, E6320 and E4400 Plus Another 15 Sub-$200 Dual-Core Processors

In about a month Intel is going to launch three new low-cost processors in the Core 2 Duo family and reduce the prices of the already existing dual-core CPUs. These upcoming events appeared the primary topic of our today’s discussion that will not only focus on the detailed performance testing of the newcomers but will also offer extensive comparison of 18 low-cost dual-core processors.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
03/18/2007 | 07:30 AM

We are very well familiar with the major advantages of the Core 2 processors that Intel has been shipping since last summer. No one will argue that these processors have pushed contemporary systems performance to a whole new level being quite economical at the same time. Moreover, Core 2 processors have also won the hearts of computer enthusiasts thanks to their excellent overclocking-friendly features. However, these processors have not only improved the consumer qualities of contemporary high-performance systems. The arrival of Core 2 Duo also brought a new wave of cut-throat price wars between eternal rivals, AMD and Intel, in the mainstream market segment. Trying to keep their older processors families, such as Athlon 64 X2 and Pentium D, on a competitive level, both CPU makers have dropped their prices significantly. Today you can buy CPUs with two computational cores for as low as $100, which is about half the price you had to pay a year ago.

 

Luckily, the prices on dual-core processors will continue falling. Intel is preparing some new steps that will make dual-core CPUs even more affordable. Of course, AMD will not keep us waiting either and will respond with adequate measures. As a result, we will very soon see a lot of interesting offers in the sub-$200 price range.

We all know very well what Intel is going to do next to cause new changes in the processor market. Firstly, they will reduce the prices on the existing dual-core processors in April and even offer a few new Core 2 Duo models with enhanced features and improved specifications. Secondly, in early Q3 we expect them to launch Core 2 Duo E6x50 with 1333MHz bus, which are also supposed to be priced very attractively.

However, Core 2 Duo processors supporting 1333MHz FSB still seem pretty ephemeral, as there is quite a bit of time left before they actually come out. Moreover, Intel will also have to introduce new x35 core logic series for these new CPUs to get adopted by the market successfully. At this time it seems much more acute to figure out the upcoming April changes in the Core 2 Duo processor line-up. This will be the topic of our today’s discussion. In this article we are going to introduce to you the upcoming new solutions, compare their performance with the already existing processors and offer a detailed comparison of all dual-core processors that will soon be available in the sub-$200 price range.

So, in April 2007 Intel will please us with three interesting newcomers. Two of them, Core 2 Duo E6420 and E6320, will be more advanced analogues of the existing Core 2 Duo E6400 and E6300: they will feature larger L2 cache – increased to 4MB. The third new processor, Core 2 Duo E4400, is none other but Core 2 Duo E4300 overclocked to 2.0GHz and featuring 800MHz bus and L2 cache cut down to 2MB. Note that the main attraction of these new solutions will be not their features but mostly their appealing price.

Once these three CPUs are launched, the prices on the already existing Core 2 Duo processors will evidently drop. As a result, Intel’s Core 2 Duo price list will then look as follows:

CPU

Clock frequency

Bus frequency

L2 cache

Price

Core 2 Duo E6700

2.66 GHz

1066 MHz

4 MB

$316

Core 2 Duo E6600

2.4 GHz

1066 MHz

4 MB

$224

Core 2 Duo E6420

2.13 GHz

1066 MHz

4 MB

$183

Core 2 Duo E6400

2.13 GHz

1066 MHz

2 MB

$183

Core 2 Duo E6320

1.86 GHz

1066 MHz

4 MB

$163

Core 2 Duo E6300

1.86 GHz

1066 MHz

2 MB

$163

Core 2 Duo E4400

2.0 GHz

800 MHz

2 MB

$133

Core 2 Duo E4300

1.8 GHz

800 MHz

2 MB

$113

Pentium D 935

3.2 GHz

800 MHz

2 x 2 MB

$84

Pentium D 925

3.0 GHz

800 MHz

2 x 2 MB

$74

As we see, all three upcoming CPUs are quite interesting. Core 2 Duo E6x20 processors offer larger cache memory at the same price point as the well-known Core 2 Duo E6400 and E6300. Core 2 Duo E4400, in its turn, can boast higher clock speed than Core 2 Duo E63x0 but at a lower price.

Now let’s take a closer look at the new processors.

Core 2 Duo E6420 and Core 2 Duo E6320

From the technological standpoint Core 2 Duo E6420 and E6320 do not have any new features at all. They are the same CPUs on Conroe core with 4MB L2 cache memory. Their clock speeds are 2.13GHz and 1.86GHz respectively. They support 1066MHz FSB. In other words, their only difference from the Core 2 Duo E6400 and E6300 is the large L2 cache. And since they cost the same as their predecessors, Core 2 Duo E6420 and E6320 will eventually oust them from the market.

The detailed specifications of the Core 2 Duo E6420 and E6320 prove that these processors are analogous to the top CPUs on Conroe core. Only the clock speeds are different:

Core 2 Duo E6420

Core 2 Duo E6320

Processor core

Conroe

Nominal frequency

2.13 GHz

1.86 GHz

Bus frequency

1066 MHz

Multiplier

8x

7x

L2 cache

4 MB

Packaging

LGA775

Manufacturing process

65 nm

Core stepping

B2

TDP

65 W

Vcore

1.187-1.325 V

Enhanced Halt State (C1E) Technology

Yes

Enhanced Intel Speedstep

Yes

Execute Disable Bit

Yes

Intel EM64T

Yes

Intel Thermal Monitor 2

Yes

Intel Virtualization Technology

Yes

As you can see from the table above, the core stepping of the new processors is the same as that of the top Core 2 Duo models. They are also based on the same B2 Conroe core stepping.

The diagnostic CPU-Z utility also reports this fact proving that the new younger Core 2 Duo models and the top members of this processor family are related.

However, if you take a closer look at the screenshots you will notice that the popular CPU-Z utility is not yet quite familiar with the Core 2 Duo E6x20 processors mistakenly recognizing them as Core 2 Duo E6x00.

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.

Core 2 Duo E4400

Since the youngest Core 2 Duo processors from the E6000 series will acquire twice as large cache-memory and fully-fledged Conroe core, Core 2 Duo E4000 family will remain the only CPUs with smaller 2MB L2 cache. Some time ago we discussed Core 2 Duo E4300 processor. It was the first CPU on Allendale core, which has only 2MB L2 cache on the physical semiconductor die. This was what allowed Intel to reduce their production cost and set very attractive prices for these processors.

Core 2 Duo E4400 processor that will come out together with the Core 2 Duo E6420 and E6320 will be the second CPU in the today’s youngest processor line-up on Core micro-architecture. Just like Core 2 Duo E4300, the new Core 2 Duo E4400 will feature not only smaller 2MB L2 cache, but also 800MHz system bus. As for the clock frequency, this newcomer will run 200MHz faster than E4300: at 2.0GHz.

The detailed processor specs are given in the table below:

Core 2 Duo E4400

Processor core

Allendale

Nominal frequency

2.0 GHz

Bus frequency

800 MHz

Multiplier

10x

L2 cache

2 MB

Packaging

LGA775

Manufacturing process

65 nm

Core stepping

L2

TDP

65 W

Vcore

1.225-1.325 V

Enhanced Halt State (C1E) Technology

Yes

Enhanced Intel Speedstep

Yes

Execute Disable Bit

Yes

Intel EM64T

Yes

Intel Thermal Monitor 2

Yes

Intel Virtualization Technology

None

As we see, unlike the CPUs from the E6000 family, Core 2 Duo E4400 is based on a different core stepping: L2. As far as we know, the overclocking potential of this core stepping is slightly worse than that of the “fully-fledged” B2 core stepping. Among other distinguishing features we should definitely mention the absence of Intel Virtualization Technology support. However, this technology is hardly ever used in desktop systems of regular computer users, so its absence is not that much of a loss in the end.

CPU-Z utility recognizes the core stepping as L2:

By the way, the electronic components located at the bottom of the CPU also indicate that it belongs to L2 core stepping. Take a look:

Conroe B2 stepping (left), Allendale L2 stepping (right)

Clock Frequency vs. FSB Speed and L2 Cache Size

One of the main attractions of the Core 2 Duo E4400 processor is its price. The thing is that this processor working at 2.0GHz clock speed is at the very bottom of Intel’s price-list, below all Core 2 Duo E6000 processors. In other words, it costs even less than Core 2 Duo E6320 with lower clock frequency of 1.86GHz. Looks like Intel believed that 800MHz FSB and 2MB L2 cache would make Core 2 Duo E4400 slower than Core 2 Duo E6320.

However, we have our concerns regarding this. To prove one way or another we decided to compare the performance of the Core 2 Duo E4400 and Core 2 Duo E6320 in the popular applications:

Core 2 Duo E4400
2.0GHz, 2MB L2, 800MHz FSB

Core 2 Duo E6320
1.86GHz, 4MB L2, 1066MHz FSB

3DMark06

5830

5771

3DMark06, CPU

1663

1594

PCMark05

6079

6084

PCMark05, CPU

5039

4726

Word 2007 (Document Compare), sec

57

57

Excel 2007, sec

20.5

16.3

7-Zip 4.44, Compressing, KB/s

2605

2841

7-Zip 4.44, Decompressing, KB/s

19719

18455

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

28.68

28.36

H.264 Encoding, Apple Quicktime Pro 7, sec

531

564

mp3 Encoding, Apple iTunes 7, sec

168

178

Adobe Photoshop CS3 (ps7bench 2.0), sec

112

117

Windows Photo Gallery (Print), sec

34

35

Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, sec

259

269

Windows Movie Maker, sec

113

113

3ds Max 8 (Space Flyby), sec

283

297

CINEBENCH 9.5, Rendering

643

609

POV-Ray 3.7

775.2

722.8

Quake 4, 1024x768 High Quality

77.2

85.51

F.E.A.R., Medium Quality

89

98

Unreal Tournament 2004, 1024x768

71.5

71.6

Company of Heroes, 1024x768

106.1

108.2

Valve VRAD map build benchmark, sec

358

381

Valve Source Engine particle benchmark

28

31

Fritz 9 Chess Benchmark

2856

2734

The obtained results turned out pretty ambiguous. Core 2 Duo E6320 cannot boast any indisputable advantage over the cheaper Core 2 Duo E4400. There still are a lot of tasks where “pure” computational power of the CPU plays depending on its clock frequency the most important role. Among these tasks we can list image, sound and video editing applications as well as final rendering. In other words, Core 2 Duo E6320 is only faster than Core 2 Duo E4400 in office tasks and 3D games.

So, if you are looking for a low-cost dual-core processor from the Core 2 Duo family, you may face a relatively difficult task: you need to determine what type of applications you’ll be running most often on this system and what type of performance will be most critical for your needs. However, since Core 2 Duo E4400 is $30 cheaper than Core 2 Duo E6320, your choice may stay with the former even though it is not that fast in gaming applications.

Testbed and Methods

Massive price reduction and launch of the new low-cost Core 2 Duo processors are two remarkable events that can change the situation in the corresponding market segment dramatically. Therefore, we decided to perform a full round of benchmarks in the new Microsoft Windows Vista OS when Core 2 Duo E6420, E6320 and E4400 hit our lab. We will look at all dual-core processor models that will be priced below $200 this coming April. As a result, the complete list of our today’s testing participants included 18 processors from Athlon 64 X2, Core 2 Duo and Pentium D families, including Core 2 Duo E6600 and Athlon 64 X2 5000+, although their price is a little higher than the 200-dollar maximum we set.

Here is the list of all hardware including the full list of participating processors that was used in our test session:

We ran the tests with the BIOS Setup of the mainboards adjusted for maximum performance.

Performance

Futuremark: Synthetic Benchmarks

In the popular 3DMark06 test AMD Athlon 64 X2 and Intel Core 2 Duo show some parity. The CPUs from these similarly priced processor families perform equally fast with a slight advantage in favor of products on Core micro-architecture. As for the Pentium D performance, it proved surprisingly decent for solutions based on obsolete NetBurst micro-architecture. Although these CPUs are slower than Core 2 Duo, they offer better price-to-performance ratio than the Athlon 64 X2 processors.

Another test, Futuremark PCMark05, checks the general system performance, not just the gaming speed. This test demonstrated slightly different results. Core 2 Duo family takes the lead here leaving competitors from AMD far behind. Pentium D family also performs quite well here. These processors can even catch up with a few more up-to-date Core 2 Duo representatives in the CPU subtest.

Gaming Applications

The situation in contemporary games is quite logical. Core 2 Duo processors offer the best performance here. AMD CPUs from the Athlon 64 X2 family show much lower fps rate. As for the old Pentium D processor family, these guys can no longer compete neither with Core 2 Duo, nor with AMD rivals.

Besides a few real games, we have also included the results of two benchmarks based on Valve Source code that will be used for future games development. The first benchmark estimates how fast the testing participants cope with building the lighting maps, and the second – evaluates the performance during environmental physics processing.

Typical computational task, building lighting maps is performed faster on Core 2 Duo processors. As for physical calculations, the results are not so straightforward here. Athlon 64 X2 processors on the older 90nm core work as fast as the Core based CPUs. However, newer 65nm Brisbane core that finds its way into dual-core AMD processors cannot yet boast good results. Athlon 64 X2 based on Brisbane core is not fast enough because of its slower cache. By the way, we observe similar situation in regular gaming benchmarks, too, although this tendency stands out most vividly in Valve Source particle benchmark.

We have also included a chess benchmark on Fritz 9 engine into our gaming test session.

All in all, the situation here is hardly any different from what we have seen in 3D games. Core 2 Duo processor family ensures higher performance.

Office Applications

Unfortunately, complex benchmarks modeling the user behavior, such as SYSMark 2004 SE, do not work in Windows Vista. Therefore, we decided to estimate the typical office performance using the time it takes our test systems to resolve certain specific tasks. These tasks were the comparison of two versions of a large document in Microsoft Office Word 2007 and the calculation of a table with typical statistical operations in Microsoft Office Excel 2007.

Here Core 2 Duo processors perform phenomenally fast. Athlon 64 X2 can only compete against Intel Pentium D here, which by the way cost much less.

We have also tested the systems performance with the benchmark built into the 64-bit version of the 7-zip archiving tool. We looked at the archiving speed and data extraction from archives.

Two charts and two totally different pictures. Archiving is done best on Intel processors, while extraction of files from the archive is performed faster on AMD CPUs.

Audio and Video Encoding

During audio and video encoding with major codecs CPUs on Core micro-architecture prove fast enough to outpace K8 based CPUs from AMD price similarly. Note that even Pentium D processors on NetBurst micro-architecture can boast pretty decent performance level (in relation to their price point). As we remember, this micro-architecture was optimized specifically for work with streaming data.

Image Editing

Besides our standard Adobe Photoshop CS3 test session we have also checked the performance of our testing participants in Microsoft Windows Photo Gallery that was used to prepare a digital photo gallery for printing.

The performance results during image editing are not surprising. Core micro-architecture allows Core 2 Duo CPUs to easily outperform Athlon 64 X2, which can only compete with Intel Pentium D in this test.

Nonlinear Video Editing

We tested the performance during video movie rendering in Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 and during the preparation of the video movie for posting on YouTube using a standard Windows Vista application aka Windows Movie Maker.

I have to say that the performance of inexpensive Core 2 Duo and Athlon 64 X2 processors doesn’t differ as much in video editing applications as we have just seen in image editing tasks. However, Intel processors again prove faster than the AMD solutions priced identically.

Final Rendering

Final rendering is one of the few tasks where the performance of Athlon 64 X2 processors corresponds to their price. In other words, this is the type of tasks where Athlon 64 X2 will be able to compete successfully against Core 2 Duo and Pentium D even after the upcoming April price drop.

Core 2 Duo E6420, E6320 and E4400 Overclocking

Younger processor models are especially attractive for overclockers who strive to put together a high-performance system at minimal possible cost. Therefore, we couldn’t leave out the overclocking tests of the new processors.

For our experiment we put together a special testbed with a different mainboard. ASUS P5N-E SLI that proved not very efficient during our previous overclocking attempts was replaced with a more predictable ASUS P5B Deluxe, which is free from “FSB Hole” defect and is guaranteed to allow raising the FSB speed above 500MHz, which is very important for successful overclocking of younger Core 2 Duo processors. Our overclocking experiments were performed using Zalman CNPS9700 LED air-cooler. Also we clocked Corsair Dominator TWIN2X2048-8888C4DF memory synchronously with the FSB to avoid additional problems. The stability of the overclocked processor was tested with the ORTHOS utility that proved very reliable during our previous tests.

The first one to get into our testbed was Core 2 Duo E6420 CPU. This processor is remarkable for its 8x multiplier that makes it almost ideal for overclocking. With this multiplier you can overclock it practically to its maximum in most mainboards, because you will hardly need to push FSB beyond 500MHz in this case.

First of all we decided to find out what frequency our test Core 2 Duo E6420 will support without any Vcore adjustment. This processor runs at the nominal Vcore of 1.325V, which is the maximum possible setting by specifications.

In this case the maximum FSB frequency when the CPU remained stable equaled 370MHz. In other words, this CPU can run stably at 2.96GHz without raising its Vcore, which is a 40% increase above the nominal speed.

The second experiment was performed with the same CPU working at 1.6V Vcore. Core 2 Duo processors are known to be very tolerant to processor voltage increase, which leads to significant improvement of their overclocking potential. And this time, it was no exception: we could push the FSB frequency to 465MHz.

As a result, the overclocked CPU was working stably at 3.72GHz, which is 75% higher than the nominal. This is very good and impressive result, which makes Core 2 Duo E6420 a very attractive choice for overclockers.

We can conclude that Core 2 Duo E6420 processors can overclock as good as their elder brothers. And this is actually not surprising at all, because with the Core 2 Duo E6x20 the youngest CPUs on Core micro-architecture acquired fully-fledged Conroe core.

The second testing participant to undergo some overclocking was Core 2 Duo E6320 with the nominal multiplier of 7x. Note that this processor is harder to overclock because of the low clock frequency multiplier, which we have already mentioned before during our Core 2 Duo E6300 overclocking experiments. In order to achieve maximum frequencies for the Conroe core, the mainboard may need to allow raising FSB frequency beyond 500MHz, which far not every mainboard can do, even from a leading mainboard maker. Moreover, you are more likely to hit against the “FSB Wall” – the maximum FSB frequency for the given processor that is not connected with its clock speed.

As for the practical results, our Core 2 Duo E6320 with the nominal Vcore of 1.3125V could speed up to 3.29GHz without any core voltage increase. It is equal to 470MHz FSB.

Strange as it might seem, but raising the Vcore didn’t have any effect. Even when we hit 1.6V on the CPU (and the corresponding higher voltage on the chipset North Bridge, which is necessary for higher FSB speeds), our Core 2 Duo E6320 didn’t get not even 1MHz faster.

It looked like we hit against the so-called “FSB Wall” effect, which wouldn’t let us overclock the CPU beyond 3.29GHz. So, the overclocking potential of this model turned out not so exciting as those of the previous CPU. However, it would be unfair to draw any conclusions basing only on the results of one single processor overclocking. Moreover, FSB Wall is a very individual parameter, which may differ dramatically by different CPU samples. So, what we can claim is that Core 2 Duo E6420 has higher chances to overclock to the maximum, although Core 2 Duo E6320 can also be pretty efficient and has every chance to hit the maximum if the conditions allow.

As for the overclocking results for our third CPU, Core 2 Duo E4400, we didn’t pin a lot of expectations on it from the very beginning. This CPU is based on the “cut-down” Allendale core, which is known to be not as impressive as Conroe when it comes to overclocking. Even the relatively high clock frequency multiplier of 10x doesn’t help here (it is so high because the CPU supports 800MHz bus). If you remember, we managed to overclock a similar Core 2 Duo E4300 processor only to 3.42GHz. So, we expected the newcomer to perform at about the same level.

However, the actual results turned out even worse than we had expected. At the nominal Vcore of 1.2875V, this CPU could only run at 2.93GHz, i.e. at 293MHz FSB taking into account the 10x multiplier. By raising the Vcore to 1.6V, we could only push FSB frequency to 325MHz, not any higher than that.

So, the CPU could run stably at 3.25GHz maximum, which doesn’t look very impressive against the background of the previous two models. However, Core 2 Duo E4400 will hardly disappoint you with its performance even at this speed. Therefore, it is definitely far from failure.

However, as you can see from the results of all three younger Core 2 Duo models, the overclocking success is more of a lottery. There are too many factors that can negatively affect the final result. Here I have to mention “FSB Wall” effect, limited mainboard abilities when it comes to FSB frequency increase, and even insufficient frequency potential of the younger processor models, because they are often built on the cores that didn’t get selected for more expensive CPUs. In other words, the overclocking result on Core 2 Duo E6420, E6320 or E4400 will have a lot to do with simple luck.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, we have no information about the upcoming AMD’s pricing policy; therefore we cannot make any definite conclusions about the inexpensive dual-core processors from the price-to-performance stand point. However, there are a few things we are pretty certain of.

After the upcoming price drop and the launch of the new processor models, Core 2 Duo processors will finally be able to fit into relatively inexpensive computer systems. Since Core based processors used to sell for at least $200, they couldn’t enjoy vast popularity among budget and low-end mainstream users. However, this situation will very soon change. Especially, since their performance level will allow them to compete successfully against other inexpensive dual-core processors, such as AMD Athlon 64 X2 and Intel Pentium D.

There is the whole bunch of popular applications, such as office tasks, games, image editing and media content processing, where Core 2 Duo processors perform faster than Athlon 64 X2 from the same price range.

In this case, AMD will either have to put up with the loss of the mainstream price segment, or correct the price list accordingly. However, relatively high production cost of the 90nm dual-core processors on K8 micro-architecture as well as too slow adoption of the 65nm manufacturing process may hinder this correction.

The obtained results suggest that AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ should cost no more than $180, and Athlon 64 X2 4800+ and 4600+ - no more than $140, if they want to successfully compete with the new Intel CPUs. However, we doubt that a price cut like that will ever be possible.

However, inexpensive Core 2 Duo processors may face another problem on the way to the market: the absence of adequately priced feature-rich mainboards for them. Hopefully, the mainboard makers resolve this issue ASAP, or the effect from this great Intel offer will be completely ruined.

In conclusion I would like to say that Core 2 Duo processors have another very important advantage, which will be valued by hardware enthusiasts. All these CPUs feature pretty good overclocking potential. Even the slowest models can run at 3GHz speed with very little effort on the user’s part, which pushes their performance to the level of Core 2 Extreme and hence cannot be outpaced even by overclocked Athlon 64 X2 based platforms. This should definitely become another reason for the growing popularity of the Core 2 Duo family after the upcoming price reduction and the launch of the new CPUs.