Summary: With dual processing cores clocked at 3.33GHz, Intel's Core 2 Duo E8600 is a serious performer, but it's an even more impressive OC'er. Check out Brandon's thoughts on the CPU in our Core 2 Duo E8600 review!
While it has nearly been two years since the first quad-core CPU arrived from Intel, weíre still in a holding pattern waiting for more apps that are truly capable of taking advantage of all four cores: weíve certainly seen games with independent threads for physics, networking, AI, etc, but none of them have really made a profound case for upgrading to quad core. Quite frankly we say this because weíve seen a number of games make the case for quad-core ahead of their retail release, but when push comes to shove and the game actually ships, the final result hasnít matched up to the hype.
There are some exceptions to this however. Gas Powered Games Supreme Commander is one title that does scale fairly well across four cores, although it can be difficult to benchmark the exact impact in an actual gameplay scenario. In fact, the RTS genre as a whole has been the quickest to take advantage of multithreading so far.
Lost Planet is another game that scales quite well as you add 4 or more processing cores.
Of course, there are plenty of apps beyond gaming that do take advantage of more than two cores. Content creation apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, Pinnacle Studio, CyberLink Power Producer and Power Director, and professional applications like 3D Studio Max are all more than capable of pushing todayís latest quad-core CPUs.
On the other hand, if youíre the type of user who doesnít usually dabble in video encoding or content creation, none of this matters to you. All you care about is which processor is going to deliver the best blend of performance and price for your needs. Power consumption and overclocking may also be important criteria for some enthusiasts.
For these types of users, a quad core CPU like Intelís highly popular Core 2 Quad Q6600 probably wouldnít be the best solution. The Q6600 is clocked at just 2.4GHz with a 1066MHz FSB and Intelís older, less efficient 65-nm manufacturing process. Another downside of quad-core processors is that they donít scale as far as dual-core CPUs when it comes to overclocking.
Fortunately Intel has a solution for these users who crave performance, efficiency, and scalability, yet donít need four cores. Intelís solution? Wolfdale!
Intelís latest Core 2 Duo E8000 series CPUs are all built around Intelís Wolfdale core. Wolfdale is a card carrying member of Intelís Penryn family of 45-nm CPUs. If you recall, with Penryn Intel has incorporated a number of improvements beyond the smaller 45-nm manufacturing process. For instance, Penryn is Intelís first CPU to incorporate SSE4. In addition to compiler optimizations, SSE4 incorporates a number of ďapplication targeted acceleratorsĒ which are hard-coded onto the processorís die to improve performance in gaming, video encoding, 3D rendering, and photo imaging apps. Penryn also features a new 128-bit wide single-pass shuffle unit thatís designed to improve Penrynís performance with SSE2, SSE3, and SSE4 instructions that have shuffle-like operations.
Here are the specs on the Core 2 Duo E8600:
On paper, the E8600 boasts some formidable specs for a dual-core CPU. As we mentioned earlier its 3.33GHz clock is the highest of any Core 2 CPU, including Intelís vaunted Core 2 Extreme line. But all isnít perfect with the processor. Take a look at this image:
That, dear readers is the cooler Intel shipped with our E8600 sample. Intelís heatsink/fan unit is tiny, and doesnít even boast a copper slug to improve cooling, instead Intel relies on an all aluminum design with their standard fan. The heatsink itself measures just over half an inch in height!
While we donít doubt that the E8600 is more than capable of running just fine at stock speeds with this cooler, when you fork over $270 or more for a processor you obviously expect to get a better heatsink than this.
Obviously we ditched this cooler for our trusty all-copper Zalman CNPS9500 that we use for all our Core 2 reviews, including overclocking.
Intelís latest Core 2 Duo may also be its last. Based on leaked Intel roadmaps, itís been speculated by some that the E8600 may be Intelís last Penryn-based dual-core CPU before dual-core Nehalem-based CPUs arrive next year. The chip is also the first Core 2 Duo CPU to be based on Intelís new E0 stepping, previously Wolfdale processors relied on Intelís C0 stepping.
Over the years weíve seen some CPUs that were pretty serious OCíers, but weíve never seen anything like the E8600, this chip is just begging to be overclocked. Donít believe us? We hit 4.0GHz at default voltage with our E8600 chip! Thatís a 670MHz OC and we still havenít touched the CPU voltage setting in BIOS!
Weíre pretty sure we could have pushed the CPU even further if we were willing to go even higher on the voltage, but obviously considering this is a 45-nm processor we didnít want to kill the processor.
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700
Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
Intel Core 2 Duo E8600
ASUS P5E3 Premium
AMD Athlon X2 6400+
AMD Phenom 9950
ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe
ATI Radeon 4870 512MB
4GB Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C4
150GB Western Digital Raptor
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit w/Service Pack 1
Company of Heroes 1.71 (running DX9)
World In Conflict Ė Direct3D
Company of Heroes Ė Direct3D
Crysis Ė Direct3D
Lost Planet Ė Direct3D
Quake Wars Ė OpenGL
Penryn Architecture: Intelís new Penryn architecture incorporates a number of improvements that are designed to improve performance while also delivering greater power consumption and performance per watt. Weíll start with performance though.
Cooling: Intelís stock heatsink/fan unit is adequate enough if all you plan to do is run the Core 2 Duo E8600 at stock speeds, but any enthusiast is going to toss this cooler in the trash immediately. Itís a shame that such a fine CPU is paired with such a tiny cooler; we see lots of wasted space in our nationís landfills as a result.