Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 1
Introduction

If you're like me, you will have been watching all of the news and thread popping up around the Internet surrounding Intel's latest line of processors 'Core 2 Duo'. In particular, their latest core codenamed 'Conroe' for the LGA775 platform.

After months of waiting, and being teased by benchmarks from engineering samples, the Conroe chip is now available for purchase from most retailers including our friends over at SpecialTech.

So, what's so great about this CPU, why does it perform so well, and will you see a worthwhile performance improvement by upgrading from your current processor? All of these questions I plan to answer today by comparing the E6700 and X6800 'Conroe' chips against my trusty Pentium 4 630 chip clocked at a stock speed of 3ghz.


Test Setup

Intel were kind enough to send us one of their press kits containing some of their latest goodies...

- Intel D975XBX 'Bad Axe' Motherboard
- Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (2.66ghz)
- Intel Core 2 Duo X6800 (2.93ghz)

In order to get things up and running, I'll be adding the following components to the mix:

- Silverstone Zeus 560w PSU
- XFX 7900GT GPU @ Stock
- Kingston HyperX PC2-8500 (5-5-5-15)
- Stock Intel Cooler

And for a 'fair' clock-for-clock comparison, I'll be adding my very own Pentium4 630 running at a stock speed of 3.0ghz which is just a tad faster on the MHZ scale than the Core 2 Duo's that I'm looking at today.

Pentium4 vs Core 2 Duo



Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 2
The 'Bad Axe' D975XBX

One of the first Conroe compatible motherboards to hit the market was Intel's very own D975XBX motherboard. In an interesting turn from Intel's "no overclocking" rule, the board was actually aimed at enthusiasts and contained a whole plethora of overclocking options normally only found on boards manufactured by companies like Asus, Abit and DFI.

The initial reception from the overclocking crowd was a good one, with some highly respectable results being obtained without little to no modifications being made to the board.

Without further ado let's take a quick look at the board we are going to be using for todays comparison..

Intel D975XBX Intel D975XBX

First impressions of this board are good. The colour scheme is simplistic which is a nice change from the garish colours some boards sport. In addition to this, the ATX, EPS12v & PCI-E connectors are in good positions at the top of the board.

Intel D975XBX PWM Intel D975XBX PWM Sinks

From the images above we can see that the D975XBX has 5 phase power, which is pretty average for the latest generation of LGA775 boards. The caps are only slightly higher than the CPU socket which shouldn't cause any issues for most cooling solutions.

A welcome and rather 'snazzy' addition to the board is 5 blue aluminium heatsinks responsible for cooling the mosfets. It is worth noting that these are actually soldered to the motherboard and would prove quite difficult to remove. Users planning on water-cooling should also be aware that the popular Swiftech Apogee block will not fit this board without modification. At this point I am unsure if the Swiftech Storm block (which a shares similar layout to the Apogee) will fit.

Intel D975XBX NB Intel D975XBX SB

Both the NorthBridge and SouthBridge on the D975XBX are passively cooled by aluminium heatsinks, which is great news for those of us looking to get away from noisy NorthBridge fans. Under most circumstances the passive heatsinks provide ample cooling, however when overclocking or increasing the voltage on the NorthBridge the 975X chipset can produce a fair bit of heat. This would be better dissipated by the use of a single 40mm fan placed over the top of the NorthBridge heatsink, and may even help further overclocking potential.

Intel D975XBX SATA Intel D975XBX SATA

The D975XBX has a total of 8 SATA connectors onboard. In the left image we can see the 4 SATA ports provided by Intel's ICH7R SouthBridge controller. These ports are capable of SATAII (3.0Gb/s) speeds along with RAID 0, 1, 5 & 10.

The 4x blue SATA connectors pictured on the right are provided by Silicon Image's Sil 3114 controller and are only capable of first generation SATA (1.5Gb/s) speeds along with RAID 0, 1 & 0+1.

Intel D975XBX DDR2 Intel D975XBX Cards

The board's memory slots follow the colour scheme of the rest of the board and also assist in showing you which slots need to be populated to obtain dual channel mode. The D975XBX can take a total of 8gb of 240-pin DDR2 memory rated at speeds of up to DDR2-667. Obviously higher specification memory such as DDR2-1000 can also be used, but will only be necessary if you plan on overclocking.

Interestingly the board comes complete with 3 PCI-E (x16) slots. At present it is unclear exactly what the 3rd slot could be used for as no graphics card are capable of working as a 'threesome' at present. Many people have suggested that the slot could be used for a dedicated physics processor, but at this point in time the slot is essentially useless.

Intel D975XBX Connectors

Intel have decided to include a certain degree of legacy connectors on the back of the D975XBX. We can see from above that the user is provided with both Serial & Parallel ports along with the usual PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports.

Also included are 4x USB 2.0 ports, 1x IEE1394 port, 1x Gigabit Network port and Intel's own High Definition sound card with coaxial and digital outputs.

Intel D975XBX BIOS Intel D975XBX BIOS

The BIOS is somewhat bare in comparison to other overclocking orientated boards, with most overclocking options (including Vcore and Multipliers) being hidden from the user unless an Extreme Edition CPU is used. Thankfully there is a small jumper on the board that can be shorted using a conductive pen which allows full access to all of the overclocking options for any CPU.

Listed below are the available voltage selection options present in the BIOS:

DDR2 Voltage: 1.8v - 2.2v
Vcore Voltage: 1.275v - 1.600v
MCH Voltage: 1.525v - 1.725v
FSB Voltage: 1.271v - 1.395v

For processors running on lower vcore (such as the Conroe), most of these options should be sufficient. The only area that really lets the board down is the DDR2 voltage selection, which only goes up to 2.2v. This is the default voltage for some DDR2 modules and means that overclocking of some memory modules may not be possible.



Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 3
The Core 2 Duo 'Conroe'

With the AMD Athlon series holding the performance crown for several years in most benchmarks, Intel knew that they needed to come up with something seriously special to fight back. In order to do this some radical changes needed to be made - bye bye Pentium, bye bye Netburst and bye bye Hyper-Threading...

The Conroe is manufactured in 65nm process that provides the processor with better performance per watt compared with the previous Pentium4 series processors. Using only 65 watts of power (+10w for the Extreme edition), the Conroe is significantly more efficient than the likes of AMD's FX-62, which consumes a total of 125w. Watt (sorry for the pun) does this mean for you? In short: lower temperatures, longer battery life for portable devices and in general - better 'overclockability'.

Intel Smart Cache

Other improvements of the Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' series over its predecessor include a massive 4mb of shared cache between the two cores of the processor. Sharing of cache may sounds like a negative point, however it is quite the opposite. By sharing cache, the two cores have direct access to each others information thus avoiding the need for one core to copy the information in its cache up to memory and then down to the other cores cache. It is also worth noting that L2 cache latency was reduced from 27 clocks (in the Pentium4) to 14 clocks to further improve performance.

Intel Core 2 Duo SMA

One of the major performance advantages of AMD processors was down to the integrated memory controller on the processor. Intel has managed to find a work-around to reduce the latency from having their memory controller located on the northbridge, and have called it "Smart Memory Access". Smart Memory Access keeps the pipeline full of data at all times for greater processing efficiency.

Intel Core 2 Duo SSE

Intel Advanced Digital Media Boost is an enhancement to the SSE instruction set. Previously 128-bit SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions were executed in two clock cycles. Core 2 processors equipped with this new technology are able to execute the same 128-bit SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions in a single clock cycle thus improving performance.

Intel Core 2 Duo Conroe Intel Core 2 Duo Conroe

The pictures above show our E6700 and X6800 Conroe chips. On the surface both of these processors look exactly the same right down to the number of caps on the underside of the processor. Lets have a look at their specs...

  E6700
X6800
Core Speed
2.66ghz 2.93ghz
FSB Speed
1066mhz 1066mhz
Multiplier
x10 x11
L2 Cache
4mb 4mb
EMT64
* *
Execute Disable Bit * *

The only visible difference between these two processors is the multiplier, so why the massive price difference of over £400 and the use of 'Extreme' in the chips name? Well to cut a long story short the X6800 has a totally unlocked multiplier (both up and down). This means that higher overclocks are easily achievable without the need for a motherboard capable of high FSB's and without needing to upgrade your memory or run it on a divider.

Enough of the talking. Lets run some bencharks!



Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 4
Super PI 1m & 32m

SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers. It's lightweight to download and can quickly give a good indication as to how fast your CPU & Memory are in comparison to other systems. Lets see how the Conroe performs...

SuperPI 1m

With in excess of 20 seconds difference between the Pentium4 630 and the E6700 the Core 2 Duo's are clear winners in the SuperPI 1m benchmarks. Up until recently, most overclockers could only dream of a sub 20 second 1M SuperPI bench but the Conroe achieves this at stock settings with ease.

SuperPI 32m

Performing a full 32m SuperPI took the Pentium4 630 a total of 37 minutes 15 seconds to complete. This result was yet again completely overshadowed by the Core 2 Duo's, finishing the test almost a full 20 minutes earlier!

This shows the efficiency of the C2D architecture. Getting rid of the long pipelines in Intel's Netburst architecture has really helped the Core 2 Duo, with the SuperPI benchmark really showing how fast the C2D's are.

Sisoft Sandra

Sisoft Sandra is a synthetic benchmark utility capable of reporting and benchmarking a wide range of system components.

Sisoft Processor Sisoft Processor

Sisoft Memory Sisoft Memory

In the Processor Arithmetic and Multimedia benchmarks we can see that the Conroe's enhanced feature set and Dual Core technology clearly has a major advantage in Sisoft Sandra, produces scores 2-3 times higher than the Pentium4.

The memory based benchmarks show us the major advantage of having a processor with Intel's Smart Memory Access incorporated. Reducing the memory latency by 26ns and increasing the bandwidth by around 500-600 mb/s, the Conroe shows a significant advantage over its predecessor. This is an area where previous Intel chips where falling far behind AMD, however with the change to the core architecture, Intel have managed to play catch up.



Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 5
3DMark05

3DMark05 is a benchmark that relies heavily upon DX 8 and DX 9 shader paths. 3DMark05 is very useful benchmark to give us numbers to compare systems. It does give a decent indicator of gaming performance, and includes a couple of CPU benchmarks.

3DMark05 High 3DMark05 Low

As you can see the Core chips really shine here. With the rest of the system remaining the same and just the processor changing, the difference in score is greatly noticeable. In benchmark terms upgrading from Pentium 4 to Core2Duo is akin to upgrading your graphics card to a higher model. Where the P4 was very much lacking in gaming performance, the Core chips really make this up. Once again the shorter pipeline and more efficient memory access on the Core processors really helps give them a "kick" in gaming performance.


3DMark06

As with 3DMark05, 3DMark06 is a good reference examination for a gaming PC. With a couple of very tough CPU benchmarks and graphics tests heavily relying on DirectX 9.0x features, this really is a test for your gaming system. Remember that the lower resolution tests give the CPU more of a workout as the GPU gets loaded less.

3DMark06 High 3DMark06 Low

Here, again, Core shines through. The P4 just cannot keep up in gaming and benchmark tests with Conroe. The past has seen AMD as being "King of the Hill" where gaming is concerned, but as we have seen in various articles around the web, Core outperforms even AMD's flagship processor. Here we really can see the architecture change benefits - in a word: impressive.


Counter-Strike Source

Counter Strike Source is a popular online FPS (first person shooter) coded by Valve. The graphics detail levels are very scalable and can be adjusted to suit both high and low end systems. We'll be running the following benchmarks with graphics settings all set to their highest, and at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1024x768.

Counter Strike Source Low Counter Strike Source High

At both low and high settings the two Conroe chips share almost identical results. This is most likely down to the graphics card being the bottleneck in the system. With a more powerful card (7950GTX or X1900XTX) I'm confident that we would see these results much higher.

The P4 630 showed that gaming wasn't its strong point and ended up lagging (no pun intended) behind the other chips by between 40-140fps which goes to show just how much performance can be gained by a processor upgrade.

The Core chips also produced a much smoother gaming experience. There were no visible dips in FPS where there were with the P4. This made for a generally more enjoyable experience. Certainly our own gaming performance improved when using the Core chips.



Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 6
HDTach

HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access.

HDTach

Very little difference was observed in the hard disk burst speed, which was to be expected as all tests were performed with the same hard disk and controller.

A small difference can be seen in the CPU utilisation during the tests, with the Core 2 Duo's performing 1-2% better than the Pentium4.


Cinebench 9.5

Cinebench is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using cinebench carry significant weight when analyzing a computer’s performance in everyday use.

Cinebench CPU Cinebench OpenGL

Looking at the CPU benchmark above, we can see that only a minimal performance increase was observed when Cinebench made use of HyperThreading on the Pentium4. However, when Cinebench made use of both cores present on the Conroe processors, the results more than doubled, leaving the Pentium4 for dust!

The OpenGL graphics benchmarks were more closely matched, with the Pentium4 scoring around 600 points lower in all tests.


Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' E6700 & X6800 Benchmarks Page: 7
Conclusion

Intel have certainly done their homework with the Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' processor, resulting in quite possibly the biggest advancement in processor performance we've seen in a few years. With benchmark results completely annihilating Intel's last generation of processor, and reports of mid-ranged Conroe chips taking on the high end chips from AMD, the Conroe is set to be a big success.

As always though, there is a downside - price. Despite the mid-range Conroe chips actually being very reasonably priced, the new architecture will mean a new motherboard and possibly graphics card & memory depending on your previous platform, which could result in quite an expensive upgrade.

In terms of overclocking, you may wonder why we didn't push any of these chips to their limits. Well needless to say we DID have fun overclocking the Conroe's all the way up to 4ghz (and maybe even beyond), but at the end of the day these are 'Engineering Sample' chips, and are notorious for their overclocking success. Retail chips will under most circumstances not yield as high results, and for this reason we decided not to give you false hopes of how far you may be able to overclock your next purchase.


Pro's
+ Improved memory bandwidth and lower latency.
+ Cache sharing improves performance between the cores.
+ New architecture greatly improves gaming performance.
+ Lower power consumption ensures cooler running.
+ Very very fast!

Con's
- Requires a new motherboard and DDR2 in most cases.
- X6800 pricing is far too high to be considered by most.


Editors Choice

Thanks to Intel for providing the motherboard and processors for review.

Intel Core 2 Duo 'Conroe' processors and motherboards are now available for purchase from SpecialTech and many other reputable online retailers.

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