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Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 Wolfdale CPU
Date: Feb 29, 2008
Author: Chris Connolly
Overview and Specifications

Intel fans have been patiently waiting for the company to release their lineup of refreshed Core 2 Duo and Quad products. Intel started hyping these revised components late last year, and they were expected to hit the market in January of this year. While Intel technically hit that date with the release of one 45nm component, it was the ultra-expensive Core 2 Extreme QX9650, which sells for over $1,000. Not really the type of component that everyone can get their hands on. Nevertheless, the current generation of 65nm Core 2 products continued to fall in price, and with no real competition from AMD’s Phenom X4 lineup, there really hasn’t been too much of a problem with Intel’s delays.

In the meantime, Intel has been producing 45nm components and building up inventory, and the first wave of them is getting ready to finally hit the market. Intel’s 45nm technology will allow for this new lineup of Core 2 processors to have significantly smaller dies, allowing Intel to put more cache onto the processor die, which in turn helps them to achieve higher performance. The new manufacturing technology also improves power consumption and heat production, and will allow Intel to scale the processors to higher clock speeds, finally allowing us to break through the 3.0 GHz wall which the industry has been stuck at for some time.

Intel’s new 45nm Core 2 processors are members of the “Penryn” family, which has two sub-codenames as well. Intel has “Yorkfield”, their 45nm Core 2 quad-core processor design, along with “Wolfdale”, their 45nm Core 2 dual-core processor design. Today we’ll be looking at the fastest member of Intel’s first wave of “Wolfdale” processors, which will officially be sold under the name “Core 2 Duo E8500”.

While this new lineup of Core 2 processors does not showcase a huge architectural change for Intel’s flagship processor lineup, we do see a host of smaller changes all coming together for a product lineup which is, in reality, one of the most exciting processor releases in some time. “Wolfdale” chips have been receiving much more buzz than expected, and early adopters who have received them have been thrilled with their flexibility, performance, and environmental attributes.

Intel's Core 2 Duo E8500 processor and their new retail shipping box.

Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
Features & Specifications

  • 3.16 GHz Clock Speed, Dual-Core

  • "Wolfdale" Core Architecture

  • 45nm Manufaturing Technology

  • 128 kB L1 Cache (Data/Instruction)

  • 6 MB Shared L2 Cache (Full Speed)

  • 1333 MHz Front Side Bus Speed

  • Socket-775 Form Factor Design

  • 1.225V Default Core Voltage

  • Supports 32/64-bit Processing (EM64T)

  • Supports SSE / SSE2 / SSE3 / SSE4.1

  • Supports Intel Speedstep / C1E

  • Supports Execute Disable (xD) Bit

Core 2 Duo E8500 ES - Top

Core 2 Duo E8500 ES - Bottom

The Core 2 Duo E8500 processor, as we’ve mentioned, is based on Intel’s new 45nm “Wolfdale” design. This new design brings some significant benefits to the table in comparison to the previous generation 65nm “Conroe” design. Let’s run through a few of them.

First off, clock speeds. The previous generation Core 2 Duo lineup clocked up to 3.0 GHz at its peak with the E6850, whereas this new line of Core 2 Duo processors is hitting 3.16 GHz with its first release. The E8500 runs at 3.16 GHz, whereas we will also have the E8400 (3.0 GHz), E8300 (2.83 GHz) and E8200 (2.66 GHz) on the market soon as well. These chips all run at 1333 MHz front side bus speed by default, a feature which was only seen on the later models of the older Core 2 lineup. Keep in mind; Intel likes to nudge up clock speeds over time, so we are fully expecting that these new Wolfdale chips will be launched at speeds at ~3.5 GHz in time – especially judging from the overclocking results which we’ll show later.

Secondly, the new “Wolfdale” design improves power consumption. Intel’s previous lineup had TDP (Thermal Design Power) levels of 75W when hitting clock speeds of 2.6 – 2.9 GHz, whereas the new Core 2 Duo E8500 processor has a TDP level of 65W when running at 3.16 GHz. Lower TDP levels mean it’s consuming less power from your outlet and producing less heat, which means power supplies and cooling systems don’t have to work quite as hard. It also helps overclockability, as well. The Core 2 Duo E8500 “Wolfdale” component runs at a 1.225V core voltage level, compared to 1.325V of the prior generation.

Thirdly, Intel has shrunk the size of the chip considerably. Previous generation dual-core processors were 143 mm2, whereas the new “Wolfdale” Core2 Duo processors are 107mm2 under the hood. This means Intel can make more of these chips per wafer, hopefully helping to drive down costs. So far, it seems to be working, as “Wolfdale” chips are actually selling for LESS compared to previous generation models at lower clock speeds. The smaller size also has let Intel up the amount of L2 cache on the processor die up to 6 MB per chip, compared to 4 MB with previous generation dual-cores. All applications can make benefit of additional cache, especially games, so this is definitely a good thing.

Intel has also thrown in the new SSE 4.1 instruction set with this new lineup as well, which helps with video encoding speeds especially. All of the other standard Core 2 goodies are there as well, like hardware virtualization acceleration, execute disable bit (xD), 64-bit processing support, and SSE-2/3 support. Not to mention, these new 45nm chips still run in the same Socket-775 form factor we’ve come to know and love throughout the past few years. Most newer motherboards which support 1333 MHz FSB will be compatible with this new lineup of Core 2 processors, although a large variety will need a BIOS update in order to support them fully. Every platform which we tested the chip on required a BIOS update of some sort in order to obtain full functionality. Luckily, all motherboards we tried already had BIOS releases out and readily available.

Power Consumption, Cooling and Overclocking

Intel ships their new Core 2 Duo E8x00 lineup of processors with an incredibly small aluminum alloy cooling unit, which tells volumes about the power consumption and heat production of the chip.  While the new cooling system follows the same basic design as prior generation Core 2 retail cooling systems, Intel has stripped away the copper core and cut the surface area by roughly one half. The new cooling system is all aluminum alloy and is about half the height, but the chip still runs at very low temperatures (under 100F in most cases) and the fan never needed to spin up to high levels.

The chip supports C1E/Speedstep as well, which allows the chip to clock itself down to 2.0 GHz (6x multiplier) when processing levels are low. When processing loads kick up, the chip runs at 3.16 GHz (9.5x multiplier). Some new motherboards don’t support the .5x multipliers by default, which is the cause of most boards needing a BIOS update. If your motherboard doesn’t support half-step multipliers, the chip will boot up and run at 3.0 GHz (9.0x), which will allow you to get running and obtain a BIOS update.

For our overclocking testing, we threw on a much larger cooling unit with a copper core, heatpipes, and a much larger fan in order to see what this new chip was capable of. Combine the factors of a new architecture, new manufacturing process, and low power consumption/heat production by default, and we should have a solid overclocker. While the chip which Intel supplied to us is an ES (Engineering Sample), which means it does not have a multiplier lock like the final shipping chips will, we did not use this function in our overclocking tests. We left the multiplier at 9.5x to simulate what you will be able to obtain at home. Here’s what we were able to obtain on air cooling alone.

Core 2 Duo E8500 - Stock Clocked @ 3.16 GHz

Core 2 Duo E8500 - Overclocked @ 4.3 GHz

Yep. There it is. 4.3 GHz on air. Mighty impressive, considering Intel’s 65nm Conroe architecture struggled to make it past 4 GHz. These are some of the first 45nm chips out of the gate, and getting beyond 4.0 GHz is actually pretty easy with these chips. We’ve been stuck in the ~3.0 GHz range for so long, that seeing a system boot up with 4.0 GHz+ clock rates is quite exciting. This particular chip maxed out at 4301 MHz at its absolute peak, although it was not 100% stable throughout all of our tests. The highest stable overclock we were able to achieve, which could pass all of our benchmarks and stress tests was 4250 MHZ (4.25 GHz), which frankly, is still pretty impressive. In order to reach this clock speed, we had to bump up the core voltage up to 1.4V. We’ve included a whole set of benchmarks in the following pages of the E8500 running at this clock rate.

Power consumption is the other interesting variable which we were curious about. We tested using our standard methods of a hardware watt meter, with power loads tested with idle and full CPU load scenarios. Platforms remained identical, with the same components used across the board, with exception of the motherboard for Phenom comparison testing. Full CPU loads are tested while running the Cinebench R10 multi-core rendering test, which places 100% load on the CPU. C1E/Speedstep/power management was disabled for idle load scenarios, in order to eliminate this variable from the mix.

Our power consumption numbers show solid improvements for Intel’s new 45nm manufacturing process.  At idle, the new 45nm Wolfdale 3.0 GHz dual-core consumes 152 watts, compared to 177 watts of a 65nm Conroe 3.0 GHz dual-core, a difference of 25 watts. That extends to 30 watts under full load.   The E8500 chip consumes less power than most of the modern dual and quad-core processors in its price range. Even when it’s pushing 4.2 GHz+, the chip still consumes about the same amount of power as a stock-clocked Q6600 chip, which is surprisingly tolerable given the clock speeds we’re dealing with here.

Testbed and Synthetics

Test System Details
Specifications and Revisions

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 (3.16 GHz Dual-Core, 45nm)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (3.0 GHz Dual-Core, 45nm)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E8650 (3.0 GHz Dual-Core, 65nm)
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz Quad-Core, 65nm)
  • Intel Core 2 Exteme QX6750 (3.0 GHz Quad-Core, 65nm)
  • AMD Phenom 9600 Black Edition (2.3 GHz Quad-Core, 65nm) (TLB Patch ENABLED)
  • AMD Phenom 9500 (2.2 GHz Quad-Core, 65nm) (TLB Patch ENABLED)
  • eVGA Nvidia nForce 680i LT SLI Motherboard (For Intel Testing)
  • MSI K9A2 Platinum AMD 790FX Motherboard (For AMD Testing)
  • Kingston HyperX DDR2-800 Memory (4 x 1 GB, CAS 4-4-4-12)
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512 MB (169.74 Driver)
  • Western Digital Raptor 74 GB Hard Drive)
  • Plextor PX-755SA DVD+/-RW Drive
  • Corsair HX620W 620W Power Supply
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate Edition (32-bit, SP1)

Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks
SiSoft Sandra 2008 SP1

Our first round of synthetic benchmarks performed largely as expected.  The new “Wolfdale” dual-core chips outperform Intel’s prior generation of dual-cores in synthetic CPU tests, no doubt thanks to the additional cache which these new chips have.   Intel’s quad-core chips showcase better raw CPU performance, but that’s to be expected given they have double the amount of cores.   When overclocked, the Core 2 Duo E8500 puts up some staggeringly good numbers in comparison to Intel’s own quad-cores.

3DMark and Cinebench

Futuremark 3DMark06
Default Benchmark

Cinebench R10

Multi-Core CPU Rendering Test

These more specific synthetic tests showcase the Core 2 Duo E8500’s strengths and weaknesses.   In a gaming environment, like 3DMark06 demonstrates, quad-cores don’t have a huge advantage as most titles don’t take advantage of all their additional processing power.  In this case, the highly clocked, cache heavy “Wolfdale” dual-cores show excellent performance.  When overclocked to 4.2 GHz, our E8500 dual-core actually beats a 3.0 GHz Core 2 Extreme quad-core.

In a rendering environment, like Cinebench showcases, a quad-core will likely deliver better performance.  While the E8500 showcases better performance compared to prior generation dual-cores, it simply can’t match a quad-core in this arena.   It’s close when the E8500 is overclocked, but a highly clocked quad-core will still deliver better performance.

Crysis and Half Life 2 : Episode Two

Crysis Demo
Integrated CPU Benchmark, Average Of Five Runs

Half Life 2 : Episode Two
Custom Designed CPU Intensive Benchmark

Both of our gaming tests showcase the Core 2 Duo E8500 in an excellent light.  Games love the additional cache that “Wolfdale” brings to the table. The E8500 can deliver top tier gaming performance, right on par with high-end quad-cores.   When overclocked, the E8500 is a gaming beast – as shown by our Half Life 2 numbers.

Adobe Photoshop CS3

Adobe Photoshop CS3 Filter Benchmark
Cumulative Time Of CPU Intensive Filter Runs

Adobe Photoshop CS3 RAW Photo Processing Time
Processing Effects and Resizing of Canon RAW Photos

Photoshop CS3 does make use of multi-cores, although not across the board.  The Core 2 Duo E8500 shows solid performance in this application, although if you’re a dedicated Photoshop user, the quad-core is likely a better solution.  The E8500 is definitely no slouch, and when overclocked it can deliver quad-core level performance.

Divx Author and 7-Zip

7-Zip 4.43 File Compression Speed
Integrated Compression Benchmark

Divx Author 6.7 Video Encoding Speed
Encoding 30 Minute Show to Divx Format

7-Zip can use all four cores of a quad-core system, and as such, the E8500 chip falls behind the quad-cores at stock speeds.  Performance is still very good for the E8500, especially when overclocked. 

Divx video encoding is where Intel’s updated architecture really shines through.  Divx Author can take advantage of Intel’s new SSE4.1 instructions, which allow for very fast encoding performance.  Our 3.16 GHz dual-core E8500 chip is able to encode our 30 minute movie file two minutes faster than the QX6850 quad-core, which is roughly four times the price as our E8500.   When overclocked, that lead extends to over three minutes.  That’s huge – and gives this chip a huge performance lead over any other chips on the market today when used with the right applications.


If you took the time to read through our benchmark results, you would no doubt agree that Intel’s new Core 2 Duo E8500 is a powerful chip. Intel’s new “Wolfdale” architecture and its hefty 6MB of L2 cache bring excellent speed gains to the Core 2 lineup, and also offers dramatically improved overclockability and video encoding performance. Considering many thought that dual-cores would go end-of-life once quad-cores hit mainstream prices, the new Core 2 Duo lineup certainly proves otherwise. With its high core clock speed, this chip delivers nearly all the performance of a lower clocked quad-core with most applications, but without the drawbacks of power consumption and heat production.

Of course, the Core 2 Duo E8500 is not an inexpensive chip. While it has not hit the market in volume yet, most are expecting this model to sell in the high $200 to low $300 range, which is right on par with Intel’s low-end quad-core models, like the Core 2 Quad Q6600. In the grand scheme of things, $300 for a chip with this kind of performance is honestly a pretty decent value – although some may be swayed by the benefits of having two extra cores at lower clock speeds rather than a highly clocked dual-core. It’s a tough call, and what you should choose should depend on the applications which you’re running.

If you’re a gamer, the Core 2 Duo E8500 will deliver better performance compared to a low-end quad-core. Games benefit from the large amount of L2 cache coupled with low latencies and high clock speeds. If you’re looking for a workstation chip, we would likely opt for a low-end quad-core instead, as these chips can handle multi-tasking a bit better and can bring excellent performance if your application of choice is multithreaded. If you’re an enthusiast looking for the best bang for your buck, it’s a very tough call. Intel’s new 45nm Core 2 Duo lineup is far more overclockable compared to 65nm Core 2 quad processors, and they seem to be much more flexible and can handle 4.0 GHz+ clock speeds with relative ease. Comparing a low-end quad-core system to a 4.0 GHz overclocked dual-core “Wolfdale” system, we could honestly feel a large speed difference in Vista for the better with “Wolfdale”. Make no mistake, you still can have a blazing fast Vista system with a dual-core.

The market appeal for such chips may be limited, especially considering Intel’s mainstream 45nm Core 2 Quad processors are hitting the market soon as well, but this chip is perfect for those who want a highly clocked system with plenty of cache, while still remaining very tolerable in terms of heat and noise. The Core 2 Duo E8500 is a great chip, and while it’s a bit pricey at this point, it’s completely worth it in our opinion.

  • Excellent Performance
  • Dominates Video Encoding Tests
  • Low Power Consumption
  • Highly Overclockable
  • As Expensive As Some Quad-Cores
  • Falls Behind In Multi-Threaded Tasks
  • Not Widely Available Yet
  • May Require Motherboard BIOS Update

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