Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 1
Introduction & Specifications
 
Core 2 ExtremeLaunched on the 12th November 2007 and built on a state-of-the-art 45nm manufacture process, the Intel Yorkfield series is largely a die shrink of Intel's enormously successful 65nm Core 2 processors. With a die size of just 214mm² and 820 million transistors, Intel has performed some significant shrinking in comparison to its 286mm² / 582 million transistor predecessor, the Kentsfield
 
Of course, just a die shrink was never going to be enough to raise the punters eyebrows. So Intel have also given the chip a 25% increase in cache, taking it up to a rather insane 12mb (6mb per die).
 
Also bundled on the chip are a total of 47 new SSE4 instructions designed to increase multimedia, floating point and general number crunching performance. This is further backed up by Intel's new "Super Shuffle" engine, which Intel claim to improve the performance of both SSE2, SSE3 and SSE4 instructions that have "shuffle-like operations such as pack, unpack and wider packed shifts" resulting in further increases in performance for content creation, imaging, video and other high-performance computing.
 
• 3.0 GHz, 1333 FSB, quad-core
• 45nm high-K metal gate transistor technology
• 12MB L2 cache
• SSE4 instructions
• 820M transistors
• Total Die Size - 214mm2
• LGA775 socket, 130W TDP, “C-step”
• Overspeed protection removed
• Supported by either Intel P35 or Intel X38 chipsets
 
high-KThe Yorkfield is also the first processor from Intel to use high-K: a technology engineered by Intel that replaces the polysilicon material used in transistors with a halfnium based high-K metal oxide. High-K reduces the power required to switch the flow of electrons through the transistor on and off while also reducing power leakage (flow of current outside the transistor). This reduction in power consumption has allowed Intel to maintain the same TDP (Thermal Design Power) on the QX9650 as its predecessor, the QX6850 while increasing the L2 cache memory from 8mb to 12mb.
 
As we've also come to expect from the "Extreme" series, Intel have removed the "Overspeed protection" from the QX9650 allowing enthusiasts to overclock the processor using only the multiplier settings in the BIOS. This combined with the Yorkfield's support for 0.5x increments in its multiplier settings gives enthusiasts a much finer level of control over their CPU overclock, and can remove a lot of the problems often associated with overclocking via the FSB.
 
Obviously the main reason we're here today is to find out whether any of the technological advances and extra features found on the QX9650 actually make it any better than its 65nm predecessors. So let's get down to business..


Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 2
Test Setup
 
To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
Processor(s)
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 3.0GHz 2x 6MB
Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 3.0GHz 2x 2MB
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 "G0" 2.4GHz 2x 4MB
 
Motherboard
• Asus Rampage Formula X48 DDR2
 
Cooling
• OCZ Vendetta 2 + Stock Fan

Memory
• 2x 1gb Cellshock PC2-6400 @ DDR2-800 (4-4-4-12)

Graphics Card
• Sapphire Ultimate X1950 Pro 256mb PCI-E

Hard Disk
• Hitachi Deskstar 80GB 7K80 SATA2 7200RPM 8mb

Operating System
• Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate (Latest Updates)
 
All testing was performed on a fresh install of Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 (32 bit) with latest updates. Both the chipset drivers and other motherboard related drivers were installed from the CD provided with the Rampage Formula motherboard. Drivers for the X1950Pro GPU were obtained directly from ATI's website and carried version number 8.3.57946 on the install package.
 
Under normal circumstances we would re-install the OS between changes of hardware to avoid any left-over drivers from previous hardware configurations. However, as the changing of processors has minimal effect on the operating system and no installation or removal of drivers is required, the same installation of Vista was used throughout the testing of the three CPU's.
 
The following benchmark utilities have been chosen to show both the synthetic and real-world performance differences in applications and games that either make full or partial use of Symmetric Multiprocessing:
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• PCMark Vantage

File Compression & Encoding

• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06

3D Games
• Quake 4
• Bioshock
• F.E.A.R
 
 
Overclocking
 
Intel chips just seem to get better and better at overclocking, and the Yorkfield core certainly isn't any different. Using only air cooling, the maximum overclock we could obtain from the chip was 4.27ghz - a massive increase of almost 50% for an already highly clocked CPU. As we can see from the graph below, the E6850 and Q6600 65nm process chips couldn't even come close.
 
QX9650 Overclocking
 
Being able to use upward 0.5x multipliers on the chip certainly gave an extra level of flexibility during our overclocking session, and alleviated a potential trade-off between CPU and Memory speed we would have normally hit using FSB clocking alone. In the end, the settings we settled for were 450FSB x9 with a 1.4500v vcore.


Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 3
Sisoft Sandra
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
Q9650 Sisoft Sandra
 
QX9650 Sisoft Sandra
 
QX9650 Sisoft Sandra
 
QX9650 Sisoft Sandra
 
QX9650 Sisoft Sandra
 
QX9650 Sisoft Sandra
 
While Sisoft Sandra results don't generally tend to have much of a bearing on real-world performance, the results for the QX9650 pretty much crush the rest of the chips used in this review. In both the CPU Arithmetic and Multimedia tests Sandra takes full advantage of the 12MB L2 cache and quad-core architecture of the QX9650, offering results at almost double of the slightly lower clocked dual-core E6850.
 
Memory Bandwidth results also see the QX9650 take a significant lead, with the Q6600 taking last place this time mostly due to its slower clock speed and the way Sandra calculates memory throughput.
 
 
PCMark Vantage
 
PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks.  Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
 
QX9650 - PCMark Vantage
 
The QX9650 flies ahead of both the Q6600 and E6850, beating them both by around 1000 points. Interestingly, the Q6600 and E6850 fight it out for second position despite the Q6600's two core advantage. This is quite possibly down to the brute-force performance of the E6850 with its 600mhz per-core advantage over the Q6600.
 


Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 4
ViMark
 
ViMark is designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, and produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.
 
QX9650 ViMark
 
QX9650 ViMark
 
QX9650 - ViMark
 
QX9650 - ViMark
 
With the E6850 matching the performance of the QX9650 in both the GIF, AVI and Quicktime benchmarks, it's clear to see that these specific encoding routines do not  support symmetrical multiprocessing. Windows Media on the other hand shows significant performance increases for both the QX9650 and the Q6600 over the E6850, with the increased clock speed and cache of the QX9650 allowing it to take quite a substantial lead.
 
 
7-Zip
 
7-Zip is an open source winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 
QX9650 - 7-Zip Compression
 
QX9650 - 7-Zip Decompression
 
Yet again the E6850 and QX9650 are on similar ground, quite possibly indicating that 7-Zip isn't multi-threaded. However, even with the 7-Zip not making full use of the processing power available, the extra cache and other optimizations of the QX9650 allow it to gain a significant lead over the other processors in the compression benchmark.


Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 5
Cinebench
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to gauge the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
QX9650 - Cinebench Rendering
 
QX9650 - Cinebench Rendering
 
QX9650 - Cinebench OpenGL
 
As expected, the QX9650 leads the pack throughout the three benchmarks with the E6850 taking 2nd place in the single core Rendering and OpenGL results. However, as soon as the Rendering test is re-run with multi-core support the E6850 gets left for dead, with the QX9650 coming close to doubling its 5895 point score.
 
 
3DMark053DMark06
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
QX9650 - 3DMark05
 
QX9650 - 3DMark06
 
3DMark05 is certainly starting to show its age with very little difference being exhibited between the three CPU's. However, re-running the benchmarks on 3DMark06 puts the QX9650 firmly in the lead with the E6850 and Q6600 trailing a few hundred points behind.


Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 6
Quake4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768 for maximum stress on the CPU. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
QX9650  - Quake4
 
Quake4 certainly produced some strange results with the Q6600 only managing an average of 55FPS despite SMP being enabled in the benchmark options. Regardless of this, the QX9650 still managed to pull some decent numbers,  beating the E6850 by 4FPS.
 
 
F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results.
 
QX9650 - F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R gave pretty equal results across the board,  possibly pointing to a GPU bottleneck - even with the relatively low resolution and texture filtering settings used.
 
 
BIOSHOCK
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
QX9650 - BIOSHOCK
 
After taking into consideration the margin for possible error on a FRAPS benchmarked game, there really is no difference between each of the three processors. As with F.E.A.R this is quite possibly down to a GPU bottleneck, so it would certainly be interesting to re-visit this chip with a much more powerful graphics card.


Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 Quad Core CPU Page: 7
Conclusion
 
Penryn Wafer ... mmmmmm
Despite Intel currently having "one up" on AMD, they certainly haven't been resting on their laurels. Rather than just simply taking the QX6850, slapping an extra 4mb cache on top and calling it a new processor, Intel has given the chip a complete overhaul; replacing the aging polysilicon material used in most processors with their own "high-K" technology. This combined with moving to the 45nm manufacture process has left us with a processor that consumes less power than its predecessors and paves the path for greater bumps in performance in the future.
 
Coming from the "Extreme" lineup, the QX9650 is also an amazing overclocker.  Even on fairly budget air cooling, we were able to take the chip all the way up to 4275mhz by utilizing a 9.5x multiplier along with a 450mhz FSB. This certainly wasn't the limit of the chip either, with heat being the only obstacle in our way. Users of water cooling or even more extreme methods of cooling should easily see 4.4ghz and beyond.
 
We could at this point talk about the eye watering £640 price tag that the chip carries. But let's face it: everybody knows that Intel's top-end chips carry a premium price tag and there really is no need to be looking at the QX9650 unless you absolutely must have the best, or you're an overclocker who needs that unlocked multi to squeeze every last MHZ out of the chip.
 
 
The Good
• Cooler and more energy efficient.
• An overclocking monster.
• New SSE4 instructions.
 
The Mediocre
• Software is still way behind unleashing the full potential of this chip.
 
The Bad
• The price...and the fact that I want one!
 
 
Overclock3D Performance Award
 
 
Planning on splashing out on this or any of Intel's latest 45nm chips? Let us know in the forums.