We always start off by talking about the CPU of choice. The debate between dual-core and single-core is over, but for the first-time in years, the debate between Intel an AMD has gotten much more interesting. In the last nine system builds, we've gone with AMD CPUs seven times
. We started out with the Athlon MP for our first workstation build and a Pentium 4 D/i875P motherboard in our second build. Once the AMD64 platform was released, there really was no contest – and we've been recommending AMD Opteron and AMD Athlon64 ever since. We even tried building a Pentium D but quickly decided that it was the wrong choice – it runs far too hot.
For our ninth system building article, we're going with the Intel Core 2 Duo (Conroe).
It's no secret that Pentium M architecture has been the solution to Intel's woes in the enthusiast market. Whereas the Pentium 4 and Pentium D would always lose to the equivalently spec'd AMD Athlon64's, the Pentium M always gave AMD a run for its money. With the new "Conroe" Core 2 Duo, AMD and Intel are now in a very tight race.
As you've seen in our earlier benchmarks
, the Core 2 Duo is currently the fastest platform on the market today. Intel has finally stepped up to the challenge of the Athlon64 and hit it head on. The 4MB L2 cache and proven underlying Pentium-M architecture (which in turn is based somewhat on the Pentium III architecture) of the Core 2 Duo gives Intel a potent competitor to the Athlon 64.
We like the E6600 because it offers the larger 4MB of L2 cache and still runs reasonably cool. However, the Core 2 Duo's weakness is in the platform. It's a lot easier to find a cheap dual-GPU compatible Socket 939/AM2 motherboard than it is to find a cheap dual-GPU compatible Socket 775 motherboard. These motherboard may negate some of the Core 2 Duo's price advantages. Indeed, at the time this article is being written, the ASUS P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe ($280) is the only readily available SLI motherboard supporting Core 2 Duo; in comparison the ASUS M2N32 SLI Deluxe WiFi is $200 and an ASUS M2N-SLI is only $140.
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600