Where are the quads?

Quad-core desktops are still a rare breed

The number of quad-core desktops sold to this point is infinitesimal when compared to, say, the overall number of units sold in the fourth quarter of 2006. Intel unveiled its Core Extreme QX6700 quad-core in November. Although most brand-name PC makers offer the quad-core extreme chip in their desktops, I couldn’t find a consumer desktop with a Core 2 Quad--Intel's mainstream quad-core processor--inside when checking online at sites such as Hewlett-Packard’s hpshopping.com. I found the same with Dell’s XPS line and its Alienware subsidiary. Where are the quads?

I did find that Dell is offering the Core 2 Quad in its Precision 390 workstation. Of course, it will take time for quads to work their way into the mainstream of the PC market. Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini, recently said the quad core won’t be a mainstream processor until it can be made available in notebook PCs. He didn’t put a timeframe on it. But that will probably take a while. I predict two more years.

Even PCs equipped with dual-core chips are still relatively few and far between, when again considering the total number of desktops and notebooks that shipped in the fourth quarter. Dual-core processors were prevalent in certain segments, such as high-end desktops and notebooks. However, they were absent from most low-end desktops and notebooks. Those models rack up the largest numbers of sales.That’s begun to change. Lower-prices from Advanced Micro Devices and Intel are making it possible for manufacturers to offer dual-core chips in lower-priced PC models. AMD has once again lowered list prices on its dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors, some of which were lowered by more than $200 each. The company appears to have lowered them in part to prepare for the arrival of its new 3GHz Athlon 64 X2 6000+ model. Newegg, for one, has already listed the 6000+ chip for sale.

PC makers are passing on the cost-savings by offering dual-core processors in more affordable desktops. Hewlett-Packard, for one, just refreshed its Pavilion desktop PC lineup, making dual-core processors the standard offerings in its Pavilion 1750 line, which starts at $599. Pavilion a1750e desktop now comes standard with an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and a DVD burner for $549. The Intel Pentium D-based Pavilion a1750y is $50 more, but comes standard with a 250GB hard drive and a low-end graphics card.