Exclusive PC World tests show that PCs equipped with Intel's new Core 2 Duo processors, formerly code-named Conroe, set a new record for desktop performance. The processors have helped Intel decisively reclaim the power desktop crown from competitor AMD.
AMD recently introduced aggressive price cuts, lowering the cost of its Athlon 64 FX-62 from US$1031 to $827, while mainstream chips like the 2.4-GHz Athlon 64 X2 4600+ dropped from $558 to $240. In response, Intel also lowered the prices of older desktop processors.
In our WorldBench 5 test suite, Intel's Core 2 Duo reference system outscored a matching system equipped with AMD's high-end Athlon 64 FX-62 chip by 17 percent. We also tested shipping PCs based on several chips in the Core 2 Duo family, including a water-cooled, overclocked ABS machine that posted a mark of 181 on our WorldBench 5 test--the highest WorldBench score we've ever seen.
All of our Core 2 Duo configurations performed impressively, and the higher-end models in particular should allow power users to handle demanding multimedia work on their PCs more quickly and to perform multiple computing tasks at once more efficiently. Gaming, too, will receive an impressive boost from systems equipped with the new chips.
Though its new products are good news for users, things are different for some Intel employees, as the company announced the layoff of 1000 management employees.
The Core 2 Duo line
The Core 2 Duo processor line ranges from the 1.86-GHz E6300 chip ($183) with 2MB of cache to the 2.93-GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 chip ($999) with 4MB of cache; all have a 1066-MHz system bus. (Intel leaves the "Duo" designation off of its X6800 CPU.)
Though Core 2 Duo chips use the same Socket 775 interface as current Pentium 4 and Pentium D chips, they require new chip sets, so you'll have to get a new motherboard--you can't just pop a Core 2 Duo chip into your existing Intel-based PC and reap the tremendous performance gains. The Core 2 Duo reference systems we tested used a motherboard with Intel's 975X Express chip set (boards using the P965 Express chip set will also be available); nVidia and ATI have their own Core 2 Duo boards as well.
The new processors and systems will be on sale from various vendors beginning July 27, with some configurations of Core 2 Duo machines checking in at surprisingly reasonable prices.