by Ilya Gavrichenkov
10/03/2008 | 07:52 PM
The front runners of the computer community including wealthy computer enthusiasts are all impatiently waiting for the Bloomfield processors from Core i7 family to come out. Intel understands this situation very well that is why they haven’t released any new Core 2 Extreme processors for a while now: they could hardly interest potential customers who were expecting something completely different from the processor leader – new-generation solutions on Nehalem microarchitecture.
At the same time, more thriftful users who usually buy solutions with reasonable price-to-performance ratio, express purely theoretical interest to upcoming launches. The relatively inexpensive new-generation processors aka Lynnfield and Havendale should start selling in H2 2009 the earliest. Therefore, Intel continues to refresh the mainstream processor segment with new Wolfdale CPUs based on the latest 45nm second generation core with Core microarchitecture.
Following the launch of a pretty expensive Core 2 Duo E8600, the company released two simpler CPUs: Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200. These processors are priced very affordably at $133 and $84 respectively; therefore, they will most likely be of great interest to many users out there. The first one expands E7000 processor family that includes CPUs with L2 cache memory reduced to 3MB. As you know, E7000 series came to replace E4000 series that included processors on 65nm Allendale core (Conroe variation). The second new CPU, Pentium Dual-Core E5200, brings to a new level the features of a reanimated Pentium family that has become a transitional stage between Core 2 Duo and Celeron families. So, the launch of Pentium E5200 retires all the previous Pentium Dual-Core E2000 models based on a cut-down Allendale core.
As a result, old 65nm cores remain only in the cheapest Celeron processors, because Intel hasn’t yet introduced a 45nm replacement for them. In all other market segments, older 65nm CPUs have more up-to-date analogues manufactured with finer 45nm process. We tried to illustrate this evolutionary process with the following table:
However, old 65nm processors from E4000 and E2000 series will not disappear from the stores until Q1 2009, although there will definitely be fewer of them available.
Nevertheless, the table above shows very clearly that new processor models are evidently superior to their predecessors in terms of features and functionality. Therefore, no wonder that 45nm CPUs will be preferable for a mainstream computer system. Our today’s review should back these statements up with some practical data. We are going to focus on two new processors, Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200. So, today we will deal with inexpensive dual-core processors with models numbers ranging from E1000 to E7000 and price within $80-$140 interval.
Core 2 Duo E7300 processor is hardy a wonder. After our review of Core 2 Duo E7200 a few months ago, the specifications of this new model are in fact quite expected. It uses the same Wolfdale-3M core with L2 cache memory reduced to 3MB and supports slower 1067MHz bus than a full-featured Wolfdale. Compared with the previous model, it has a new multiplier and clock frequency: Core 2 Duo E7300 works at 2.66GHz. The complete specifications of this new CPU look as follows:
Core 2 Duo E7300
Enhanced Intel Speedstep
Intel Virtualization Technology
SIMD instructions support
MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4.1
Note that compared with a fully-fledged Wolfdale E8000 series processor not only the L2 cache memory and bus speed were lowered. E7000 series CPUs do not support virtualization technology, which, however, is very unlikely to be a problem for mainstream computer users.
CPU-Z diagnostic utility reports the following about Core 2 Duo E7300:
As you can see from the screenshot, Core 2 Duo E7300 is based on M0 processor stepping. It is a cut-down modification of the regular Wolfdale C0 processor revision with a smaller die due to L2 cache half the size of a normal one. As a result, the die in Core 2 Duo E7000 series processors measures 82sq.mm, which is 23% smaller than the die of E8000 series CPUs.
I would also like to add that the new Core 2 Duo E7300 works at the same clock frequency as the youngest CPU in Intel’s high-end dual-core processor family - Core 2 Duo E8200. However, the newcomer will hardly be able to compete successfully against this model, because E8200 features a twice as large L2 cache and 1333MHz bus instead of 1067MHz. However, if we compare E7300 against the top processor from E4000 series, its superiority will be indisputable. Compared with Core 2 Duo E4700, our today’s hero - Core 2 Duo E7300 – offers higher clock speed, larger cache and faster bus, not to mention more advanced and power-efficient core manufactured with 45nm process.
Pentium DC E5200 is a much more interesting processor. The thing is that it represents a completely new processor generation, there haven’t been any CPUs like that in the market before. All previous processors sold as Pentium Dual-Core were based on 65nm Conroe cores with severely limited functionality. The new model in this line-up has not only a significantly higher processor model number, but also uses a 45nm core from Wolfdale family. However, Pentium DC is still positioned as an intermediate solution between high-performance Core 2 Duo and low-cost Celeron processors. Therefore E5200 functionality is seriously limited compared with any contemporary Core 2 Duo from E7000 as well as E8000 series. Pentium DC E5200, as well as all other models in this family that will come out later, features smaller 2MB L2 cache and supports 800MHz system bus.
It should be noted that Pentium DC E5200 is significantly more advanced than the previous processors sold under the same brand name. Its predecessors from E2000 series not only work at lower clock speeds, but also feature cache-memory of half the size. Moreover, 45nm Wolfdale core used in Pentium DC E5200 CPU has a number of microarchitectural enhancements. As you already know, it supports SSE4.1 instructions, features Fast Radix-16 Divider unit accelerating the division and square root calculations, features Super Shuffle Engine mechanism speeding up processing of those SSE instructions that require shuffling. It also works with memory using optimized algorithms.
The complete list of formal Pentium Dual-Core E5200 specifications is summed up in the table below:
Pentium Dual-Core E5200
Enhanced Intel Speedstep
Intel Virtualization Technology
SIMD instructions support
MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3
Note that Wolfdale-2M core with three times smaller L2 cache memory is a pretty exotic solution for Pentium DC E5200 processor. Nevertheless, it is not the only CPU that is built on a core like that. Its close relative is a recently released quad-core Core 2 Quad Q8200 processor that uses two Wolfdale-2M cores within single packaging.
You can get additional info on Pentium DC E5200 from the report by CPU-Z utility:
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that it is based on M0 processor stepping, the same as by Core 2 Duo E7000 series processors. It means that Pentium DC E5200 is based on the same semiconductor die as Core 2 Duo E7000 from the next processor family in the hierarchy. In other words, Intel decided not to design any new cores with 2MB L2 cache, but uses cores with a 3MB L2 cache, one third of which is disabled. It is a pretty logical approach, considering that Wolfdale-2M is not that widely spread and there are very few processors using it.
Besides, there is one more peculiarity that draws our attention: Pentium Dual Core E5200 doesn’t support SSE4.1 instructions. It is not a mistake in the CPU-Z report. Although this processor formally belongs to Wolfdale family, it doesn’t support these instructions. Intel simply disabled the corresponding feature in its low-cost dual-core CPUs.
We decided to test Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200 processors together, because they are positioned very close to one another, so they will have almost the same competitors in the market. For example, it would make sense to compare Core 2 Duo E7300 against the youngest fully-fledged Wolfdale – Core 2 Duo E8200; the previous Core 2 Duo E7200 model and the top solution from the line-up that will be replaced by the new series - Core 2 Duo E4700. As for Pentium Dual-Core E5200, the closest alternatives for it would be not only its predecessor – Pentium Dual-Core E2220, but also the already mentioned higher-end Core 2 Duo E7200 and Core 2 Duo E4700.
Moreover, we shouldn’t forget about AMD solutions, as well. Despite their relatively low performance by today’s standards, they still can compete against inexpensive Intel processors based on cut-down Wolfdale core modifications. Therefore, we have also included the results for two mode CPUs: the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 6000+ and triple-core Phenom X3 8750 from the same price range.
As a result, the complete list of hardware we used to built our testbed looked as follows:
SYSmark 2007 is an integral benchmark that reports the scores basing on the systems performance in applications solving typical tasks. Therefore, the results can be regarded as a certain characteristics of the general processor performance. According to these results, the new Core 2 Duo E7300 processor performs extremely close to Core 2 Duo E8200. However E8200 does in fact justify its positioning and higher price by outperforming the newcomer due to larger cache and higher processor bus bandwidth.
However the new E7300 is significantly faster than the previous generation Core 2 Duo E4300 processor. Although these two CPUs are priced almost identically, Wolfdale-3M proves significantly faster than the previous generation Allendale core. The advantage of Core 2 Duo E7300 over Core 2 Duo E4300 makes 5-20% depending on the type of tasks.
Pentium DC E5200 also demonstrated very decent results. It places Pentium Dual-Core family to a new performance level leaving the previous generation Pentium DC on average 12% behind. Even though the Wolfdale core it uses is cut down, the performance improvement it provides is enough for the new Pentium DC E5200 to successfully compete against the top triple-core AMD CPU - Phenom X3 8750. All this makes the new Intel offering the best choice in the considered price range.
Processor bus frequency and L2 cache memory matter a lot for the CPU performance in games. Therefore, any limitation on the original core functionality immediately slows down the gaming performance. As we can see, Core 2 Duo E7300 is far behind Core 2 Duo E8200, and Pentium DC E5200 is noticeably slower than Core 2 Duo E7200 even though these processor pairs work at similar clock speeds and use cores from the same Wolfdale family. As a result, Athlon 64 X2 6000+ competes successfully against Pentium DC E5200. However, Phenom X3 8750 proves fast only in Unreal Tournament 3 that knows to take advantage of triple-core CPU architecture.
As for our today’s newcomers (Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200) compared against their predecessors (Core 2 Duo E4700 and Pentium DC 2220), they prove beyond our expectations. And it was particularly pleasing that despite the significant performance improvement demonstrated by the new 45nm CPUs, they are sold at the same price as their 65nm predecessors.
As we all know, processor performance during media content encoding and decoding depends neither on the cache memory nor on the front side bus frequency. Nevertheless, it is not only the clock speeds that determined this particular positioning of the new Intel processors on the results charts. 45nm CPUs outperform their 65nm counterparts due to microarchitectural improvements: faster processing of floating-point numbers and, most importantly, of SSE instructions used in contemporary codecs. As a result, new-generation processors perform much better than their predecessors from the same price range.
Of course, the increased performance of the inexpensive Intel processors severely affected the marketing prospects for AMD CPUs. For example, Athlon 64 X2 6000+ now loses even to Pentium DC E5200 during video and audio encoding, which makes is far not the best choice for this type of work. However, triple-core Phenom X3 8750 can boast quite competitive results against Intel’s dual-core solutions. Codecs’ work can be easily slit into multiple parallel threads therefore the additional computational core of AMD Phenom X3 wastes no time.
The situation in rendering applications is very similar to what we have just seen during video encoding. The explanation is also the same. First, final rendering can be easily split into parallel threads, so a triple-core processor would perform pretty well here. Second, rendering tasks use a lot of floating-point operations, so CPUs on Wolfdale cores perform better than CPUs on Allendale cores.
The results obtained in a popular image editing application from Adobe are quite logical. The only thing we would like to point out here is that AMD processors fell significantly behind due to specific software optimizations.
Intel CPUs participating in our today’s test session occupied pretty familiar positions on the results chart. Core 2 Duo E7000 family outperformed Core 2 Duo E4700, while Pentium DC E5200 left no chances to the previous generation Pentium DC. So, this part of our test session once again proved how progressive Wolfdale core is: every CPU with this core performs faster. Moreover, Intel’s price policy makes new processors priced as low as the old ones, which will definitely please potential buyers who will be able to get higher performance for the same price.
However, the archiving test in WinRAR showed an unusual twist: AMD processors suddenly performed really impressive. It is the only test where Athlon 64 X2 6000+ outperforms both Core 2 Duo E7000 processors.
The user’s buying inexpensive processors like Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200 reviewed today, rarely rely only on their performance when making a buying decision. Trying to do the right thing they also pay due attention to the price point. Therefore, we decided to go past traditional performance benchmarks and provide an additional chart illustrating the price-to-performance ratio of the today’s testing participants. Especially since we have just tested almost all contemporary processors price between $80 and $160.
The diagram below contains all the official CPU pricing. Note that the current retail prices are not that much different from the official recommended prices, so they will hardly affect the conclusion.
The next diagram sums up the average performance our testing participants demonstrated in benchmarks today. We calculated this value as an arithmetic mean of the normalized test results.
The average performance values may be of interest “as is” to many users. Very often you buy a new platform for a variety of applications, rather than one particular type of tasks. This is where the average result may be important.
However, the next diagram may be of even more interest to you: it compared price and performance at the same time:
You see right away that the price of mainstream processors grows much faster than their performance. For instance, Core 2 Duo E8200 costs twice as much as Pentium DC E5200, but the performance difference between them is no bigger than 20%. It is so, because clock frequency still remains the primary factor affecting the performance within a family on the same microarchitecture. All Intel processors from the price range in question fall into the frequency interval from 2.4GHz to 2.66GHz. Intel’s attempts to change the CPU speed by changing the bus frequency or the size of L2 cache turn out not so efficient. So, looks like one of the cheapest processors, Pentium DC E5200, currently offers the best price-to-performance combination.
As for AMD processors, the company definitely needs to revise their pricing now that Intel launched another set of inexpensive processor modifications. For example, AMD Athlon X2 6000+ can’t offer the same attractive consumer functionality as Pentium DC E5200. However, the triple-core Phenom X3 8750 looks very good here. AMD chose the right strategy for promoting Phenom X3 as an alternative to mainstream dual-core competition. This seems to be the right role for Phenom X3 8750.
A lot of users are interested not only in performance of the new processors, but also in their overclocking potential. Especially, since Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200 look very promising from this prospective. They both use cores manufactured with the today’s most advanced 45nm production process. These cores are similar to the cores in Core 2 Duo E8000 CPU series that set remarkable overclocking records. Moreover, Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium Dual-Core E5200 have a significant advantage over more expensive processors: due to lower bus frequency they use relatively high frequency multipliers that allow pretty significant overclocking without increasing the FSB frequency to extreme levels. In other words, you can overclock these processors without expensive mainboards for computer enthusiasts and without tricky search for optimal North Bridge voltage, CPU VTT and CPU GTL voltages.
For our overclocking experiments with the today’ testing participants we used the same testbed as described above based on DFI LANPARTY DK P45-T2RS mainboard. The CPU was cooled with Scythe Mugen (Infinity) air-cooler.
The first CPU to undergo some overclocking was Core 2 Duo E7300. When we increased its Vcore from the default 1.15V (for our test sample) to a relatively safe level of 1.4V, the processor remained stable at 4.0GHz frequency.
At this peed the processor successfully passed a one-hour run in OCCT as well as Prime95. Unfortunately, we couldn’t push the frequency any higher at this Vcore. This suggests that the CPUs from the higher-end Core 2 Duo E8000 series overclock a little better than their less expensive modifications. Not only our today’s experiments, but also the overclocking results for the youngest model in the family, E7200, prove this.
I have to say that by increasing the processor Vcore up to 1.5V we could only push the clock frequency to 4.1GHz without losing stability.
As we have already told in our previous articles, we managed to overclock Core 2 Duo E8600 with the same settings to 4.6GHz. But that was a top dual-core processor based on the new E0 processor stepping. M0 processor stepping used in Core 2 Duo E7300 can’t do the same thing, as we see. However, the obtained result, overclocking by 1.5 times, is definitely not bad at all.
After Core 2 Duo E7300, we decided to check out the overclocking potential of another newcomer – Pentium Dual-Core E5200. Since this CPU uses the same core as Core 2 Duo E7300, we didn’t expect to see different results. However, the reality turned out a bit worse than we have expected: at 1.4V Vcore the CPU remained stable only at 3.8GHz clock speed.
If the frequency goes past that number, the system wouldn’t pass stability tests in OCCT as well as Prime95. Even 1.5V Vcore setting didn’t help us hit 4GHz mark. In this case the maximum frequency when the system remained stable was 3.95GHz.
So, as we can see the overclocking potential of Pentium Dual-Core E5200 is slightly lower than that of Core 2 Duo E7300, even though they use similar cores. According to our results, the frequency difference between them during maximum overclocking makes about 200MHz.
However, even though Intel uses less overclockable cores for their low-cost CPUs than they use for top Wolfdales, Core 2 Duo E7000 and Pentium DC E5000 processors can conquer much higher frequencies than any of the 65nm Conroe or Allendale based CPUs. So, giving low-cost CPUs new cores has definitely had a positive effect not only on performance but also on overclocking.
To provide you with a complete picture, we measured the power consumption of the systems (without a monitor) based on the tested CPUs. The CPUs worked in their nominal modes. The system configurations were the same as in the performance tests. We enabled Enhanced Intel SpeedStep and Cool’n’Quiet technologies. The CPUs were loaded with Prime95.
Quite logical that the new Core 2 Duo E7300 and Pentium DC E5200 processors based on 45nm cores showed better results than their predecessors from E4000 and E2000 families, not only in the performance tests but also in power consumption tests. We have already demonstrated multiple times in our previous articles that Wolfdale is much more power-efficient than any of the 65nm CPUs. The same is true for AMD CPUs, too: they can’t compete against Wolfdale in power efficiency. Only when Phenom transitions to 45nm process in early 2009 the situation here may change.
In conclusion I would like to add that after the launch of these two new processors the title of the most power efficient desktop solution goes to Pentium DC E5200. Of course, it can’t compete in power consumption against a nettop Atom 330 processor, however, it provides a completely different performance level, has no problems playing HD video in any resolution and works fine in most contemporary games.
Overall, the results of our today’s test session are hardly unexpected. We have already come across processors on Wolfdale core in its full and limited modifications several times already, so the today’s new processors have in fact demonstrated pretty logical results.
Core 2 Duo E7300 has slightly increased the performance of Intel mainstream processors due to 133MHz higher clock speed than that of the previous model in the family. As a result, its power consumption has also increased a little. However, these are no qualitative changes: E7000 series is still slower than the youngest models from E8000 series, so the launch of E7300 will hardly affect the situation in the market that much. At the same time, even though E7300 has only half of L2 cache memory and 20% lower bus speed, the same clock frequency as of E8200 helps it catch up with the youngest model in the E8000 series. Core 2 Duo E7300 is on average only 6% slower than Core 2 Duo E8200.
Full-features Wolfdale also demonstrate their superiority over the modifications with limited functionality during overclocking. Since Core 2 Duo E7300 uses the same core as E7200 model, both these processors overclock similarly. And it means that a slight voltage increase and air cooling will allow both of them to work at frequencies of about 4GHz, but no higher than that – a little less than what the youngest models from E8000 lineup are capable of. However, the top models in the E8000 family using new E0 processor stepping overclock much better: their maximum frequency rests around 4.6GHz.
As for the other tested processor, Pentium Dual-Core E5200, it is a much more interesting newcomer. It starts a new processor family that will replace the old Pentium Dual-Core on 65nm cores. The E5200 model is based on a 45nm core with 2MB L2 cache, which will raise its performance to the level of Core 2 Duo E4000 processors little by little leaving the market. Pentium DC E5200, just like its predecessor, will be positioned in the sub-$100 price range, so it will be an extremely attractive solution from the price-to-performance prospective. Due to 2.5GHz clock frequency it is on average only 5% slower than a higher-end Core 2 Duo E7200 CPU. Although this difference may become more noticeable in some applications that are sensitive to bus speed and amount of L2 cache memory and may reach 10%.
I would also like to point out great power efficiency of the new Pentium DC E5200. It is one of the most power efficient dual-core desktop processors today that offer sufficient performance for the majority of applications.
Overclockers should also be pretty pleased with Pentium DC E5200. It is based on the same core as Core 2 Duo E7000 and can boast very similar overclocking potential, which will be enough to push its performance to the level of top dual-core solutions.