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Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Performance Preview
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Date: Nov 19, 2007
Section:Processors
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Introduction and Specifications



Thirty million transistors on the head of a pin.  Think about that for a minute.  Where on earth can you fit 30 million of anything in that amount of space?  It used to be that 30 million transistors was a good-sized chip.  These days, in a 45nm Hafnium-based High-K process, it almost seems like we (OK, OK, Intel...) can defy the laws of physics.  We're talking rocket science here people. Actually, it's probably a bit more complex than rocket science.  Titanium (Ti), Zirconium (Zr), Gallium (Ga), heck we've even heard of Rubidium (Rb), but Hafnium?  Is someone at Intel just making this stuff up?


Processors using Intel 45nm Hafnium-based High-k Metal Gate transistor technology - 30 Million such transistors fit on the head of a pin.
  - Source Intel Corp.

Whether you fancy yourself a scientist that can appreciate naturally occurring isotopes utilized in leading-edge manufacturing processes, or maybe you're a gear-head that knows four cores running at 3.2GHz is just "freakin' fast" - there is no denying that Intel is completely unstoppable currently, when it comes to semiconductor process and manufacturing R&D.  No other semiconductor company in the world is shipping anything in high volume at 45nm.  That's 45 nanometers or .045 micron if you prefer.  Sure, 45nm has been "demonstrated" by the likes of IBM, TSMC, and Charter Semiconductor but getting to volume is a completely different ball of wax altogether.  Few companies have the resources and capital that Intel has to bring the technology to market first.  And when it comes to processors comprised of 800 million plus transistors, every tenth of a micron counts.

Let's do some quick math, since we're feeling all smart and scientific.  The new 45nm Intel Yorkfield processor that we'll be showing you today has a die size that measures about 214mm square and is comprised of about 820 million transistors.  Comparatively, AMD's Athlon 64 X2 6000+, that is built on a 90nm process, is comprised of some 227 million transistors and has a die size of 218mm square.  So we have a 45nm-built processor with four times as many transistors and 2X the number of cores on board, that is actually slightly smaller than the other with one quarter the number of transistors and half as many CPU cores.  Not to mention both of these processors have comparable power consumption and thermal profiles.

To coin a John Madden-ism, "speed kills".  And with processors, smaller die geometries simply bring lower cost and lower power consumption along with killer speed.  In the world of semiconductors and high-end desktop CPUs, it can be said that "process kills".  Today Intel is previewing the world's first 3.2GHz quad-core X86 processor.  Why?  Because they can.  Though the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 will not be available for sale until Q1 2008, we've had the chip in-house at HotHardware for the better part of a month.  In the pages ahead we'll show you how a 45nm quad-core processor can stretch its legs.  Scientists, Physicists and Gear-Heads take note, Intel is jacked up on Hafnium and is breaking out past the 40, heading for the end-zone.

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Processor
Specifications & Features

  • Core Frequency - 3.2GHz
  • System Bus Frequency - 1600MHz
  • TDP (Thermal Design Power) - 136W
  • Stepping -  6
  • Number of CPU Cores - 4
  • L2 Cache - 12MB (2 x 6MB)
  • Max processor input voltage (VID) - 1.360v
  • .045-micron manufacturing process
  • Shared Smart Cache Technology
  • PECI Enabled
  • Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology (EIST)
  • Extended HALT State (C1E) Enabled
  • Execute Disable Bit (XD) Enabled
  • Intel 64 Technology
  • Intel Virtualization Technology (VT)
  • Packaging -  Flip Chip LGA775
  • Total Die Size: Approximately 214mm2 (107mm2 x2) 
  • Approximately 820M Transistors
  • MSRP - $TBA

 
45nm Yorkfield Quad-Core


If you're familiar with the basic chip-level architecture of Intel's 45nm Yorkfield core quad-core processor that we showed you a few weeks back in our Core 2 Extreme QX9650 launch piece, then you've probably noticed that the new QX9770 model is simply a "speed bump" of sorts.  Although the QX9770 represents a speed bump on couple of levels, not just core processor speed.  Intel is taking the processor to 3.2GHz not by increasing the bus multiplier of the chip, rather they are raising the front side bus speed to 1600MHz, which in turn also provides additional system bus and memory bandwidth. 

We've published a number of articles relating to Intel's Core microarchitecture, Core 2 Duo and Extreme family of processors, Penryn, and Intel's 45nm manufacturing process in the past here at HotHardware.  For more detail or a refresher on the technologies employed in these products, we suggest taking a look at the following related articles. 

The Intel 45nm Fab Process and Penryn previews above are probably most valuable material if you want to get familiar with the new technologies employed in the Yorkfield core that is at the heart of the new QX9770.  These articles will give you a solid background for understanding the underlying technologies of the new Intel processor we'll show you in the pages ahead.

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X48 Chipset Sneak Peek

 

As we noted previously, Intel has increased the Core 2 Extreme quad-core's clock speed by incrementally increasing front side bus speed.  Along with this FSB boost, they've decided to revise the existing X38 chipset in an effort to better support the higher front side bus speed of the chip.  Here's where the new X48 Express chipset comes in.  That's not to say that existing X38 boards won't also support the higher 1600MHz FSB of the new Core 2 Extreme QX9770.  The product will be supported on a case-by-case basis, depending on the motherboard model, manufacturer and BIOS revision.  In fact, all of the benchmarks you'll see here today were taken from an X38 chipset-based motherboard from Asus (P5E3 Deluxe) and things were completely stable at stock 1600MHz FSB speeds and higher.  

Intel X48 Express Chipset
High Level Block Diagram

The Intel X48 Express chipset is based on the original X38 design, but is tweaked slightly to better support overclocking, high memory and FSB speeds.  As such, it will command a premium in the channel with all manufacturers but for those who want to push their systems and maintain better stability, the X48 will be a better chioce.

 

As we see here, the X48 chipset is partitioned with its various high speed serial links and local and external IO, identical to what is found on the X38 chipset as well.  In addition, Intel pairs the MCH Northbridge up with the same ICH9R Southbridge.  Dual X16 PCI Express 2.0 slots are available for graphics and those slots are also backwards compatible, auto-negotiating down to PCIe 1.1 speeds as required.  In addition, the MCH still supports up to 4 channels of DDR3 memory but the only difference between this chipset and the X38, is that the MCH now officially supports 1600MHz memory and a synchronous 1600MHz FSB to the processor. 

In fact, the new Core 2 Extreme QX9650 is listed in the above block diagram of the X48 chipset.  Of course this CPU can also run at the higher 1600MHz bus speed and obviously Intel is actually recommending it here, though the chip was launched with a 1,333MHz FSB as it standard specification.  End-users just have to drop the multiplier of the CPU if they want to keep the chip running at its stock core frequency.

As we noted above, all testing for the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 was done on an X38-based P5E3 Deluxe motherboard from Asus.  Unfortunately we didn't get the new Asus X48-based P5E3 Premium in house in time for testing in this performance preview of Intel's new high end chip.

    
Asus P5E3 Premium Motherboard - X48 Express Chipset

 
Asus P5E3 Deluxe - X38 Express Chipset

If you compare the two boards above, you'll note that they are virtually identical, in terms of layout and features.  The only thing that distinguishes the new X48-based Asus P5E3 Premium between its X38-based sibling, is the model name ("Premium" versus "Deluxe") and the newer board's blue color chipset heatsink covers.  However, under the hood, the new X48 Express chipset breaths a bit more FSB and memory headroom.  Incidentally, clock-for-clock, the X38 will perform nearly identical to the X48 chipset, with only a minor advantage in performance at very high overclock speeds (think the 1800MHz+ range), due to slightly better signal integrity of the chipset in extreme high speed corner cases.  Again, the primary benefit of the X48 chipset is stability at high bus speeds.

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Our Test Systems and SANDRA

intel_logo.jpg

How we configured our test systems:  When configuring our test systems for the upcoming series of benchmarks, we first entered each respective system's BIOS and set the motherboard to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set memory timings for either DDR2-1066 (AMD systems) with 5,5,5,15 timings or DDR3-1066 - 1600 with 7,7,7,20 timings (Intel systems). The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

 HotHardware's Test Systems
 Intel and AMD - Head To Head 

System 1:
Core 2 Extreme QX9770
(3.2GHz - Quad-Core)
Core 2 Extreme QX9650
(3.0GHz - Quad-Core)
Core 2 Quad Q6600
(2.40GHz - Quad-Core) 
Core 2 Duo E6850
(3.0GHz - Dual-Core)
Core 2 Duo E6600
(2.4GHz - Dual-Core) 

Asus P5E3 Deluxe
(X38 Chipset)

2x1GB Corsair DDR3-1800
CL 7-7-7-20 - DDR3-1600

GeForce 8800 GTX
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
Intel INF 8.3.1.1009
NVIDIA Forceware v163.75
DirectX Redist (November 2007)
 

System 2:
AMD Phenom 9700
(2.4GHz)
AMD Phenom 9600
(3.0GHz) 
AMD Athlon X2 6400+
(3.2GHz) 
AMD Athlon X2 4600+
(2.4GHz)

Gigabyte GA-MA790FX-DQ6
(AMD 790FX Chipset)

2x1GB Corsair PC2-8500
CL 5-5-5-15 - DDR2-1066

GeForce 8800 GTX
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
NVIDIA Forceware v163.75
DirectX Redist (November 2007)
 

System 3:
AMD Athlon 64 FX-74
(3.0GHz x 2)

Asus L1N64-SLI WS
(NVIDIA nForce 680a SLI)

5x512M Corsair PC2-6400
CL 4-4-4-12 - DDR2-800

GeForce 8800 GTX
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
nForce Drivers v15.08
NVIDIA Forceware v163.75
DirectX Redist (November 2007)

 Preliminary Testing with SiSoft SANDRA XII
 Synthetic Benchmarks

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA XII, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran six of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA XII suite with the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, Multi-Core Efficiency, Memory, Cache, and Memory Latency).  All of the scores reported below were taken with the processor running at its default clock speed of 3.2GHz with a 1600MHz FSB and 1600MHz DDR3 memory at CL7 timings.


 
C2E QX9770 @ 3.2GHz
CPU Arithmetic

 
C2E QX9770 @ 3.2GHz
Multimedia

 
C2E QX9770 @ 3.2GHz
Multi-Core Efficiency

 

C2E QX9770 @ 3.2GHz
Memory Bandwidth

 

C2E QX9770 @ 3.2GHz
Cache and Memory

 

C2E QX9770 @ 3.2GHz
Memory Latency


In terms of overall processing throughput (ALU, FPU and Multimedia SSE), the new Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is the fastest single-chip processor in SANDRA's reference table, only bested by the octal-core dual Xeon 5345 system.  Other than that, the QX9770 leaves all others in its wake.  Looking at the efficiency side of the equation, inter-core bandwidth and latency are also off the charts for the QX9770.  The only test that sort of put a wrinkle in our brow was the Memory Bandwidth test.  SANDRA's reference database shows the QX9770 and X38 chipset at 1600MHz FSB and memory speed, with slightly less bandwidth versus the P35 with 1GHz DDR3.  Don't let this mislead you however, as it did us.  It would seem, in order to hit that sort of memory speed, that the bus speed and multiplier of the CPU had to be altered, thus raising overall bandwidth.  This test can be dramatically influenced with a higher FSB.  Remember, the QX9770 is running at stock speeds and not overclocked in any of these tests.  Let's move on to more "real-world" testing.

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PCMark Vantage

  intel_logo.jpg

For our next round of benchmarks, we ran a few of the modules built into Futuremark's PCMark Vantage test suite.  Vantage is a new benchmarking tool that we've incorporated into our arsenal of tests here at HotHardware.  Here's how Futuremark positions their new benchmarking tool:

"The PCMark Suite is a collection of various single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics and HDD test sets with the focus on Windows Vista application tests. Tests have been selected to represent a subset of the individual Windows Vista Consumer scenarios. The PCMark Suite includes CPU, Graphics, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and a subset of Consumer Suite tests."
 

 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
 Synthetic Benchmarks

The PCMark Vantage "Memories" suite includes the following tests:

Memories 1 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU image manipulation and HDD picture import

Memories 2 - Two simultaneous threads, GPU image manipulation and HDD video editing

Memories 3 - Video Transcoding: DV to portable device

Memories 4 - Video Transcoding: media server archive to portable device


 

When it comes to image manipulation and video transcoding, at least according to PCMark Vantage, it's all Intel currently.  Specifically, the QX9770 completely obliterates anything from AMD, save perhaps for the dual-socket Athlon 64 FX-74 3GHz system, where it still overtakes the best AMD has to offer in this test by about 20% and with a lot less power consumption as you'll see later.  The QX9770 is only about 3% faster than the QX9650, though it has roughly a 6+% clock speed advantage.


The Vantage HDD suite includes the following tests:

HDD 1 - HDD: Windows Defender
HDD 2 - HDD: game HDD
HDD 3 - HDD: importing pictures
HDD 4 - HDD: Windows Vista start-up
HDD 5 - HDD: video editing
HDD 6 - HDD: Media Center
HDD 7 - HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player


 

Since our hard disk subsystem was so similar between each of our test systems, the above results for Vantage's HDD test suite come as no surprise.  Our group test systems all clocked in on top of each other in this test, largely because we used the identical hard drives across all test beds.


Vantage Communications suite includes the following tests:

Communications 1
- Three simultaneous threads, Data encryption: CNG AES CBC, Data compression, Web page rendering: graphics content, 1024x768, windowed

Communications 2 - Three simultaneous threads. Web page rendering: open various news pages from IE 7 Favorites in separate tabs, close them one by one, Data decryption: CNG AES CBC, HDD: Windows Defender

Communications 3 - Windows Mail: Search

Communications 4  - Two simultaneous threads, Data encryption: CNG AES CBC, Audio transcoding: WMA -> WMA - to simulate VOIP


 

When we looked at things like data encryption and decryption throughput, as the PCMark Vantage Communications suite shows us, our results varied tremendously.  When you're processing 128-bit  or 256-bit AES keys, you tend to separate the men from the boys so to speak.  The higher the clock speed and the greater number of cores, the better your results.  It's that simple.  Both the QX9650 and QX9770 burn past all processors in this test but the FX-74 dual socket quad-core system puts up a solid fight, though it is still about 8% behind Intel's fastest architecture, clock for clock.  The new Phenom quad-cores simply couldn't keep up with their relatively low clock speed, or even versus a Core 2 Duo at the same clock speed; the difference most likely being cache again, with Core 2 Duo's 4MB of L2 and the Phenom's 2MB of L2 and 2MB of higher latency L3.


Vantage Productivity suite includes the following tests:

Productivity 1 -
Two simultaneous threads, Text editing, HDD: application loading

Productivity 2 - Two simultaneous threads, Windows Contacts: search, HDD: Windows Defender

Productivity 3 - HDD: Windows Vista start-up

Productivity 4 - Three simultaneous threads, Windows Contacts: search, Windows Mail: Run Message Rules, Web page rendering: simultaneously open various pages from IE7 Favorites in separate tabs, close them one by one

 

For general Windows Vista performance, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 once again posted the fastest score of the group, edging out the QX9650 by abotu 5%.  Again AMD's 3GHz FX-74 rig keeps pace but the more power and cost-efficient Phenom core systems performed only at the level of their quad-core Intel counterparts at the same clock speed.

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PCMark Vantage (Continued)

  intel_logo.jpg

We continue our test coverage with a few more modules from the comprehensive PCMark Vantage suite of benchmarks.

 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
 Synthetic Benchmarks

Vantage TV and Movies suite includes the following tests:

TV and Movies 1 - Two simultaneous threads, Video transcoding: HD DVD to media server archive, Video playback: HD DVD w/ additional lower bitrate HD content from HDD, as downloaded from the net

TV and Movies 2 - Two simultaneous threads, Video transcoding: HD DVD to media server archive, Video playback, HD MPEG-2: 19.39 Mbps terrestrial HDTV playback

TV and Movies 3 - HDD Media Center

TV and Movies 4 - Video transcoding: media server archive to portable device, Video playback, HD MPEG-2: 48 Mbps Blu-ray playback

 

In the TV and Movies test suite, multi-threaded processing with a larger number of cores at work, leveled the playing field a bit more.  In fact, the Phenom 9700 and 9600 put up a solid performance and kept pace with a similarly clocked Core 2 Quad chip.  Regardless, the new 3.2GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9770 offers the best available performance in this test, besting AMD's fastest chip by a significant 15% margin.


Vantage Music suite includes the following tests:

Music 1 - Three simultaneous threads, Web page rendering – w/ music shop content, Audio transcoding: WAV -> WMA lossless, HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player

Music 2 - Audio transcoding: WAV -> WMA lossless

Music 3 - Audio transcoding: MP3 -> WMA

Music 4 - Two simultaneous threads, Audio transcoding: WMA -> WMA, HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player

 

Processing and transcoding audio content proved to offer similar results as the TV and Movies test but also favoring pure clock speed a bit more.  As you can see, a 3GHz Core 2 Duo offers better performance than a 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad not to mention the 2.4GHz quad-core Phenom 9700.  The new Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is some 38% faster than AMD's fastest single chip solution here and over 10% faster than the dual socket quad core Athlon 64 FX-74 system.


Courtesy, Futuremark:  "Gaming is one of the most popular forms of entertainment for all ages. Today’s games demand high performance graphics cards and CPUs to avoid delays and sluggish performance while playing. Loading screens in games are yesterday’s news. Streaming data from an HDD in games – such as Alan Wake™ – allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action. CPUs with many cores give a performance advantage to gamers in real-time strategy and massively multiplayer games. Gaming Suite includes the following tests: "

Gaming 1 - GPU game test

Gaming 2 - HDD: game HDD

Gaming 3 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU game test, Data decompression: level loading

Gaming 4 - Three simultaneous threads, GPU game test, CPU game test, HDD: game HDD

 


The  PCMark Vantage Gaming test needs little explanation, the numbers speak for themselves.  This test is basically a re-run of the Futuremark's 3DMark 06 engine, so the chips fall as expected.  At 6% more performance versus the QX9650 and 30% faster than the next fastest chip, the AMD Phenom 9700, the new QX9770 is easily king of the hill here.


The overall PCMark Vantage score is a weighted average of all of the modules in the Vantage suite calculated in total "PCMarks".  Here are the results:

 

The numbers do the talking here just fine.  You really don't even need us to provide commentary but of course we will anyway.  You want the fastest single-chip (or even multi-chip) desktop CPU on the planet right now?  According to PCMark Vantage, you need to look no further than the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770.

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LAME MT and Sony Vegas

  intel_logo.jpg

In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content.  LAME is an open-source mid to high bit-rate and VBR (variable bit rate) MP3 audio encoder that is used widely around the world in a multitude of third party applications.
 

 LAME MT MP3 Encoding Test
 Converting a Large WAV To MP3


In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a hallucinogenically-induced Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application in single and multi-thread modes. Processing times are recorded below, listed in seconds. Once again, shorter times equate to better performance.


Lame MT is multi-threaded but only supports up to two threads and as a result, the scores are reflective of clockspeed and overall IPC throughput between the CPUs.  However, on-chip cache also has a bearing on this test and as a result, the Yorkfield based QX9650 and QX9770, with 12MB of L2, show their muscle.

Sony Vegas Digital Video Rendering Test
Video Rendering Performance

Sony's Vegas DV editing software is heavily multi-threaded as it processes and mixes both audio and video streams. This is a new breed of digital video editing software that takes full advantage of current dual and multi-core processor architectures.

 

Finally we see AMD's Phenom gain some sort of competitive equalization against the other quad-core Intel CPUs we tested.  However, the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 thrashes the Phenom 9700 with a 50% performance gain over the fastest Phenom AMD can muster currently.

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POV-Ray and Kribibench

intel_logo.jpg 
 

POV-Ray , or the Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer, is a top-notch open source tool for creating realistically lit 3D graphics artwork. We tested with POV-Ray's standard included benchmarking model on all of our test machines and recorded the scores reported for each.   We shoudl also note that we used the latest 64-bit beta build of the program.  Results are measured in pixels-per-second throughput.

POV Ray Performance
Details: www.povray.org

 

Our POV-Ray test methodology has proven itself to be hugely lopsided toward Intel processor architecture.  Again the AMD Athlon FX-74 system actually puts up a reasonable fight, going toe-to-toe with a a single Core 2 Quad Q6600 at 2.4GHz but in turn gets left in the dust by the new QX9770.  The Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is 74% faster than the AMD Phenom 9700 in this test.

Kribibench v1.1
Details: www.adeptdevelopment.com

For this next batch of tests, we ran Kribibench v1.1, a 3D rendering benchmark produced by the folks at Adept Development.  Kribibench is an SSE aware software renderer where a 3D model is rendered and animated by the host CPU and the average frame rate is reported.

We used two of the included models with this benchmark: a "Sponge Explode" model consisting of over 19.2 million polygons and the test suite's "Ultra" model that is comprised of over 16 billion polys.


 

If you're a CAD professional that spins wireframe models for a living occasionally, the chart above for our Kribibench test speaks volumes.  The recurring trend here is that the QX9770 is simply the fastest desktop or workstation processor on the planet right now, no matter what you throw at it.

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Cinebench R10 and 3DMark06

  intel_logo.jpg

Cinebench 10 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D. Cinema 4D from Maxon is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others.  It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of raw computational throughput.


 Cinebench 10 Performance Tests
 3D Modeling & Rendering Tests


This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each test system to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below, listed in seconds.


  

Cinebench is perhaps our most favorite "quick and dirty" test for gauging how fast a new CPU core is.  If you're looking for a general quick-take view of system performance and CPU power, Cinebench consistently gives results that we rely on here in our labs.  In the multi-threaded version of our this test, the QX9770 is 63% faster than the Phenom 9700.  And with only a 33% clock speed advantage over the new Phenom, obviously the new Intel core is significantly more efficient clock-for-clock with a higher IPC (instructions per clock cycle) throughput.

 Futuremark 3DMark06 - CPU Test
 Simulated DirectX Gaming Performance

3DMark06's built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded DirectX gaming metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance.  Calculations that are normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering.  The frame-rate generated in each test is used to determine the final score.

 

Got game?  Intel does that's for sure.  Though 3DMark 06 is a "synthetic" gaming test, results especially with its CPU performance module definitely scale proportionately with real world performance.  The  QX9770 is 6% faster than the 3GHz QX9650 and why even bother to compare it to the Phenom 9700.  Intel's new high-end CPUs are in a league of their own.  Gamers get ready.  We have real in-game performance data for you next.

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Gaming: Crysis and F.E.A.R.


For our last set of benchmark tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with F.E.A.R. and the fulll game version of the wildly popular title, Crysis from Crytek.  For testing processors with Crysis or F.E.A.R, we dropped the screen resolution to 800x600, and reduced all of the in-game image quality options to their minimum values to isolate CPU and memory performance as much as possible.  However, the in-game effects, which control the level of detail for such things as the game's physics engine and particle system, are left at their maximum values, since these actually do place some load on the CPU rather than GPU.

Benchmarks with Crysis SP Demo and F.E.A.R. v1.08
DirectX 9 and 10 Gaming Performance




The fastest single processor for gaming from the AMD side of the house, generally speaking  according to these two tests, is the Athlon 64 X2 6400+.  Again, that's according to the game engines at work in Crysis and F.E.A.R.  The fastest processor of Intel's offering is obviously the QX9770, which looks to be 6 - 8% faster than its 3GHz counterpart, the QX9650.  In general though, the AMD systems are easily outperformed by the Intel-based setups, in some cases by a large margin.

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Power Consumption


We have one final data point we'd like to cover before bringing this article to a close. From the perspective of performance-per-watt, we felt it was important to give you an idea of how much power each of the system configurations we tested consumed while at idle and running under load.

Power Characteristics
Processors and Platforms

Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption here at the outlet, not just the power being drawn by the processors alone.  In this test, we're showing you a ramp-up of power from idle on the desktop to full CPU load.  We tested with a combination of Cinebench R10 and SANDRA XII running on the CPU.

 

The best performance-per-watt metric also belongs to the new Yorkfield core Core 2 Extreme QX9XX series of processors.  Our 2.4GHz Phenom system actually consumed more power than either our QX9650 or QX9770-based systems, whether at idle or under loaded conditions.  We spoke of how "process kills" in the opening section of this article.  A 65nm-built processor, even with half the number of transistors (820M in the Yorkfield core versus ~450M in Phenom) can't compete with one built on a 45nm process.  Again, think about this.  AMD's Phenom consumes more power at a clock speed that is running 800MHz slower, with half the number of transistors on chip.  Game over.  

In addition, to be honest, we're a little suspect of the power reading we took on the QX9770.  Intel informed us that we should expect the new processor, with its 3.2GHz core speed and 1600MHz FSB, would of course consume significantly more power but we didn't expect it to be as dramatic as we're showing here.  We're looking into whether or not our X38 chipset-based motherboard was enabling Intel SpeedStep or C1E correctly.  We're going to look at this test setup a bit closer in the coming weeks and will update this section as appropriate.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary:
The new 3.2GHZ Core 2 Extreme QX9770 processor offered performance that was generally 5 - 8% faster than the previously announced Core 2 Extreme QX9650 at 3GHz, across most usage models and test conditions we explored.  These gains were largely realized due to the simple increase in core clock speed but also as a result of the increase in system bus speed, in conjunction with a synchronous memory interface speed at 1600MHz.  All told, the new Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is the fastest desktop processor we've ever tested to date, bar none. 

Intel is once again poised to bring to the world the fastest X86 processor on the planet.  Though the chip is actually not available for sale just yet, we are told that an imminent release of Q1'08 is on the horizon.  AMD's Phenom 9700 is slated for release during this time frame as well, as the fastest quad-core CPU the company has too offer.  However, the price-point variance between the two is staggering.  AMD has noted that the Phenom 9700 will hit around the $300 or less range.  On the other hand, Intel's QX9650 is currently listed with an MSRP of $999, so you can expect the QX9770, when it is released, will retail for at least that much, maybe even more like the $1200 range.  Putting it mildly, only those with virtually limitless budgets need apply for this level of performance.

Now if we look at things purely from a dollars and cents perspective, the Core 2 Quad Q6600 at 2.4GHz retails currently with a street price around $300 in round numbers.  It just so happens, that AMD's Phenom 9700 performs about on par with the Core 2 Quad Q6600 and that's perhaps being generous.  Now let's consider things from a die size and cost/profit margin perspective.  With a die size that is actually larger than Intel's new Core 2 Extreme QX9770 that you've seen a performance preview of here today, the picture is just plain painful for AMD.  Granted Phenom is still in its infancy but with Intel releasing more and more cost and power efficient CPU architectures like the Yorkfield core, it's going to be a long uphill battle for AMD. 

In any event, if you're in the market for the fastest quad-core processor money can buy, it may cost you an arm and a leg but the Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is it -- by a long shot.

 
  • Fastest X86 Processor available now
  • 12MB on-chip L2 cache
  • 1600MHz FSB
  • Relatively low power
  • "E" is for REALLY expensive
  • Make sure your motherboard is up to the 1600MHz task



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