Intel Kensfield quad-core CPUs - another broadside against AMD

Summary:I've just come across the the first independent benchmarks for the quad-core Intel Kensfield CPUs, and if you thought that the results for the dual-core Conroe CPUs were impressive, then wait until you see these!

I've just come across the the first independent benchmarks for the quad-core Intel Kensfield CPUs, and if you thought that the results for the dual-core Conroe CPUs were impressive, then wait until you see these!

Disclaimer: These tests results are based on pre-production Intel hardware.  I've not seen the hardware myself or carried out testing myself, but the independent testing has been carried out by an individual with an excellent track record of delivering unbiased results.

It's a natural evolution for things to double.  For what seemed like forever, Intel will release the quad-core Conroe that's equivalent to or better than the pre-production unit and leap 12 - 18 months ahead of AMDwe had single core desktop CPUs.  Then along came the dual-core chips.  Now quad-core CPUs are on the horizon that are set to change the entire CPU playing field.  Both AMD and Intel have had plans for quad-core desktop CPUs for some time now, but it's Intel's efforts that are the first to fall into the hands of of enthusiasts for testing.

The CPU under scrutiny is the quad-core Conroe E6600 "Kensfield" CPU which runs at a stock speed of 2.4GHz and has 8MB of cache.  The tests were carried out on a system with a MSI 975X Platinum 2.b motherboard and 2 x Corsair DDR2 8000ul 512MB dual channel RAM.  The system was, rather surprisingly, air-cooled, using a Tuniq Tower 120 cooler.

Looking at these numbers (and everything I see suggests to me that they are genuine), I can see that the Conroe quad-core is going to give Intel a massive lead over AMD for some time to come.  It's already been shown that the dual-core Conroe CPUs have the power and overclocking capability to give AMD some headaches for some time to come.  These quad-core CPUs take that much further, virtually guaranteeing that Intel will have the advantage over AMD for the next 18 to 24 months. 

And like the dual-core Conroes I covered a few weeks ago, these quad-core chips lend themselves to being overclocked very well indeed - this test has shown that the CPU is capable of being overclocked to 3.2GHz, again just air-cooled.

Over the past few weeks it has become clear that Intel is again back on top form with their Conroe CPUs - these desktop versions of the Pentium M range of CPUs are now really showing that Intel has been playing its cards right; working on the 65nm technology and getting the power requirements just right.  By going back to basics, Intel have come up with a chip that has excellent stock performance combined with a massive potential for overclocking, pleasing both ends of the market in one stroke while also leap-frogging ahead of AMD.

I know that AMD has a lot of fans and that the previous statement I made won't make them at all happy, but the fact of the matter is that come July, Intel will launch a dual-core Conroe that will totally blow out of the water anything that AMD currently have to offer.  Then, six months later, Intel will release the quad-core Conroe that's equivalent to or better than the pre-production unit and leap 12 - 18 months ahead of AMD.(This is assuming of course that AMD don't have some super-secret, Area 51 project going on behind the scenes. If they do, I doubt they would have played the weak "4x4" card).  Still, AMD fans shouldn't feel too down-hearted about all this, price-cuts are on the way for most AMD chips and this is bound to stoke the fires of innovation over at AMD HQ.

Switching sides for a second, I have to say that I have a few reservations about quad-core desktop CPUs:

  • Heat
    A quad-core is going to put some hefty demands on the PCs cooling system.  From the images I saw on the XtremeSystems forum, I noticed that the motherboard for the Conroe testing was running outside of a case.  Place that CPU inside a case and air-cooling might not be as effective.
    Talking about heat, I'd like to see some data on how hot this CPU gets under load.
  • Scalability
    Going from one core to two didn't double the performance as there is always overhead in organizing the work between the two cores.  Doubling again to four cores and I would imagine that the overhead would also increase.  I'd like to see more figures relating to this.
  • Quad-core support
    When are we going to start to see quad-core support in games and other multimedia apps?  For rendering and encoding video, these quad cores are going to be awesome, but for standard desktop apps and gaming, the full benefits may take a while to be realized.

Reservations aside, the quad-core Conroe is going to make some serious waves when it's released in Q1 next year. 

[Updated: June 22, 2006 @ 11:21 am]

I've just come across prices for dual-core Conroes on the website of a vendor in the UK.  I've converted the prices to USD here.

Topics: Processors

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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