With the recent introduction of Intel’s quad-core “Kentsfield” core, and AMD’s new quad-core 4x4 platform, the CPU choices at the $500+ price point are quite intriguing. There’s the obvious dual-core processors like the Core 2 Duo E6700 and Extreme X6800, as well as the new quad-core platform as an option.
First let’s discuss the pros and cons between Intel’s latest Extreme processors.
On one hand, you’ve got the current performance champion in most gaming benchmarks, the Core 2 Extreme X6800, and on the other end is the quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX6700.
The QX6700 runs 266MHz slower than the X6800, but that can easily be made up with a little bit of overclocking. In fact, with very little effort the QX6700 can be overclocked to 2.93GHz, and if you’re willing to crank up the voltage a bit, speeds beyond 3.4GHz. In comparison, the X6800 seems to overclock a little further, 3.6GHz and up isn’t uncommon (and we’re being conservative with these figures).
So basically we’d have to give the edge in clock speed to the X6800. Both chips overclock well though.
What the X6800 can never make up however is the QX6700’s two extra processing cores. In benchmarks that are designed to take advantage of multi-core, the QX6700 holds a decisive lead over the X6800. The problem is the dearth of multi-core apps out there right now, particularly on the gaming side. The only gaming benchmark currently available that takes advantage of the QX6700’s quad-core architecture is Valve’s multi-core particle simulation benchmark. This is a synthetic benchmark though, not a real, shipping game.
We’ll see plenty of multi-core capable games ship in 2007 however. The first title will likely be Gas Powered Games beautiful RTS, Supreme Commander which should begin shipping in the first few months of 2007. After that, Valve’s Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Crysis from developer CryTek should appear. Other games that take advantage of multi-core include Unreal Tournament 2007 (and any game based on Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 game engine) as well as Remedy’s Alan Wake.
With so many multi-core aware games right around the corner, we can’t really recommend you spend $1,000+ on a Core 2 Extreme X6800, despite its clock speed and overclocking advantages. Unless you really intend your next CPU purchase to be a short-term upgrade, the X6800 just isn’t very practical. Instead you’d be better off buying a Core 2 Duo E6700 and overclocking it. You’d be giving up a little bit of clock speed and overclocking headroom, but that’s definitely the more cost-effective way to go.
Because of this, we’re going to give two choices at this price point, the Core 2 Duo E6700 for most of you, and for those of you with a much larger, $1,000+ budget, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700.
Core 2 Duo E6700
Core 2 Extreme QX6700