Hardware / CPU/Chipset

Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Preview from Taiwan

Date: June 6th, 2006
Topic: CPU & Chipset
Manufacturer: Intel
Author: Anand Lal Shimpi & Gary Key

A few months have passed since our original foray into the world of Conroe, and official naming has been announced for the processor.

A few months have passed since our original foray into the world of Conroe, and official naming has been announced for the processor. What we've been calling Conroe is now known as Core 2 Duo, with the Extreme Edition being called Core 2 Extreme. Initial availability of the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors remains unchanged from Intel's original estimates of "early Q3".

At this year's Spring IDF Intel made the unusual move of allowing us and other press to spend some quality time benchmarking its upcoming Conroe processor. Unfortunately we were only allowed to benchmark those games and applications that Intel loaded on the system, and while we did our due diligence on the system configuration we still prefer to benchmark under our own terms.

We're happy to report that we gathered enough parts to build two systems while in Taiwan for Computex. We managed to acquire a Socket-AM2 motherboard equipped with an Athlon 64 FX-62 and a P965 motherboard equipped with a Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93GHz at our hotel, along with two sets of 2x1GB of DDR2-800 (only 5-5-5-12 modules though), a pair of Hitachi 7K250 SATA hard drives, and two NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GTXes (one for each system) - it helps that all the major players have offices in Taiwan. Of course we happened to pack some power supplies, monitors, keyboards and mice in our carry-on luggage, as well as copies of Windows XP, Quake 4, F.E.A.R., Battlefield 2, SYSMark 2004 and Winstone 2004.

When faced with the choice of testing Conroe or sleeping , we stayed up benchmarking (we'll blame it on the jet lag later). The stage was set: Intel's Core 2 Extreme vs. AMD's recently announced FX-62, and while it's still too early to draw a final verdict we can at least shed more light on how the battle is progressing. Keep in mind that we had a very limited amount of time with the hardware as to not alert anyone that it was missing and being used for things it shouldn't be (not yet at least), so we weren't able to run our full suite of tests. We apologize in advance and promise we'll have more when Conroe launches, but for now enjoy.

The Test
In case we weren't clear: we acquired, built, installed and tested these two test systems entirely on our own and without the help of Intel.

cpu.jpg

Memory Latency and Bandwidth

We've never been able to look at some of the low level characteristics of Intel's Core architecture, and although we didn't have enough time to do a thorough run of low level benchmarks we were able to run ScienceMark 2.0 in order to get an idea of how the Core 2 Extreme stacked up against the FX-62 in terms of memory latency and bandwidth.

We had seen Conroe performance results that showed the new architecture being able to offer fairly competitive memory access latencies to AMD's architecture, without the need of an on-die memory controller. Our ScienceMark 2.0 results confirm just that:

cpu1.png

While AMD still offers lower memory latency, the Core 2 Extreme X6800 is very close in comparison - especially considering that it has no on-die memory controller. With lower clock speeds than its Pentium D siblings and a faster FSB, memory access latency is reduced tremendously with Conroe. On a larger scale, through a very effective cache subsystem as well as memory disambiguation, Conroe can offer significantly improved memory performance compared to its predecessors, including the Athlon 64 X2/FX.

cpu2.png

ScienceMark's memory bandwidth results offer a very telling story, showing us the bandwidth limitations of Intel's FSB architecture. While the FX-62's peak theoretical bandwidth is not achieved in real world, you can see how AMD's Direct Connect architecture offers higher limits for chip-to-chip communication.

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