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Intel Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000, Mobile Penryn Speed
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Date: Jun 23, 2008
Section:Mobile
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Penryn Mobile Overview
When you consider notebooks are easily the highest growth segment of the PC industry, isn't it sort of odd that we don't hear more about new product refresh efforts from the major OEMs?  The simple fact of the matter is, that while we hear of new desktop and workstation technologies on a regular basis, core notebook architectures, more often than not go through more evolutionary enhancements, rather than revolutionary overhauls.  Perhaps this is because mobile architectures in general are derivatives of their desktop counterparts that are tuned for low power consumption.  Major players like Intel, AMD and NVIDIA currently take a top down approach, building high-end products for the desktop and then fleshing out product lines down through the mainstream and finally to mobile. 

Good, bad or indifferent, this is very much the tact that Intel has taken with their Santa Rosa notebook platform, utilizing the 965 Express chipset to enable 65nm Merom dual core processors over various clock speeds up to 2.8GHz, with the Core 2 Extreme X7900 currently sitting atop Intel's 65nm mobile chip offering.  Also, earlier in Q1 of this year, Intel drove their new 45nm Penryn dual-core offerings down through their notebook lineup with
Wolfdale-like derivatives from 2.1GHz to 2.6GHz and an 800MHz FSB with 3 - 6MB of L2 cache, depending on model number. 

Today we have a look at Intel's new top-of-the-line Core 2 Mobile chip, the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000.  At 2.8GHz with a full 6MB of L2 cache and a TDP of 44 Watts, this chip is currently Intel's fastest notebook CPU for the performance enthusiast, gaming, and multimedia  markets, aka the Desktop Replacement (DTR) crowd.  Our test vehicle was none other than
Dell's XPS M1730 killer mobile gaming machine.  A match made in heaven?  Perhaps.  Read on... 





  
Dell's XPS M1730 - Now Mobile Penryn Infused

Intel Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 Processor
Features & Specifications

  • 2.8GHz Clock Speed, Dual-Core

  • "Penryn" Core Architecture

  • 45nm Manufaturing Technology

  • 128 kB L1 Cache (Data/Instruction)

  • 6 MB Shared L2 Cache (Full Speed)

  • 800MHz Front Side Bus Speed
  • Socket-478 Micro-FCPGA Form Factor Design

  • 1.225V Default Core Voltage

  • Supports 32/64-bit Processing (EM64T)

  • Supports SSE / SSE2 / SSE3 / SSE4.1

  • Supports Intel Speedstep / C1,C2, C3, C4 and Intel Enhanced Deeper Sleep and Deep Power-Down states

  • Supports Execute Disable (xD) Bit

Model

L2 Cache

Frequency

FSB

TDP

Core 2 Extreme X9000

6 MB

2.8 GHz

800 MHz

44W

Core 2 Duo T9500

6 MB

2.6 GHz

800 MHz

35W

Core 2 Duo T9300

6 MB

2.5 GHz

800 MHz

35W

Core 2 Duo T8300

3 MB

2.4 GHz

800 MHz

35W

Core 2 Duo T8100

3 MB

2.1 GHz

800 MHz

35W

Intel 45nm Core 2 Duo Mobile Products



In the specs list above you can see that this new notebook chip from Intel shares nearly an identical features list to that of the higher-end Core 2 Duo desktop chips based on Intel's Wolfdale core.  However, Intel has also further enhanced this chip's power-savings capability by turning down FSB speeds to 800MHz and introducing various stages of Intel Speedstep C1 - C4 technology as well as Enhanced Deeper Sleep and Deep Power-Down states.  In the processor's Deeper Sleep state, all data that resides in L2 caches is dumped to main system memory and then the cache is powered down as well to conserve power.  L2 cache is high speed, low latency SRAM technology that consumers significantly more power than a standard DRAM cell.  Powering down the cache also allows the Northbridge memory controller to stop making requests thus offering this "deeper" sleep state since it doesn't have to wake the processor up looking for L2 cache data that isn't there anyway.
 
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Vital Signs, Power Consumption And Overclocking
Our first order of business was to see what the new Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 was made of.  With the help of Dell's XPS M1730 and its performance enhanced BIOS with features that you typically do not find in the average notebook, we were able to begin monkeying around with processor speeds, feeds, and features right out of the box.  Because this is an "Extreme Edition" mobile CPU from Intel, clock multipliers can easily be manipulated.
 




One additional notable of the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 is that Extreme Edition CPUs do not support independent core clock gating, otherwise known as Intel's "Dynamic Acceleration" technology.  As such, even if one of the cores is inactive, both cores will run at the same clock speed regardless.  However, if neither processor is under sufficient load, standard SpeedStep and Sleep state operational modes will be engaged.

Overclocking The Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000
The Fastest Notebook Chip To Date...

We then took a look under this new mobile chip's hood with the help of CPU-Z.  As you'll note, the model, stepping and revision numbers listed are identical to that of Intel's Wolfdale core architecture.  However, CPU-Z only recognizes this new chip as a "Penryn" core and technically that is not an incorrect designation.


   
Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 Processor - Stock 2.8GHz and Overclocked @ 3.2GHz


As you can see, the processor's multiplier is relatively high.  At stock speeds, a multiple of 14X is applied to an 800MHz quad-pumped 200MHz bus speed.  By turning up the multiplier to 16X, we were able to achieve a completely stable 3.2GHz clock speed without the need of a core voltage increase, though the M1730's fans were spun up to unbearably loud levels.  We'd recommend a quieter 3GHz overclock, which didn't require a fan speed increase for stability.  Also, though a 17X multiplier was available in the BIOS for a 3.4GHz clock speed, the system wouldn't remain stable for extended periods of testing and benchmarks.

With the system plugged into a wall-plug power meter, we measured total system power consumption at stock and also at various overclocked speeds all the way up to 3.4GHz.  You may be surprised with the results, especially in comparison to one of our reference systems.

  
  Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 Processor - Full Load





At its stock speed and with the ability to invoke the various stages of its power savings features, the M1730 system, with the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000, has significantly lower power consumption versus our standard Core 2 Duo E6600 test system. And frankly our test systems are stripped down comparatively, without an LCD panel drawing power from the same connection like the notebook is limited to.  This speaks clearly for those of you concerned about "Green Computing".  Want to really cut down on your carbon footprint?  Simply go the way of the notebook.  Or better yet, go with a low power 45nm mobile CPU in that notebook as well.


For our overclock-enabled tests, you'll observe that since the processor's multiplier has been hard set, clock gating doesn't occur under either load or idle conditions.  Regardless, even heavily overclocked, the Dell XPS M1730 with the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000, relatively speaking, consumes a lot less power than a similarly configured desktop system.  Though you might want to keep this humdinger of a notebook tethered to the wall because battery life time is only around an hour and 15 minutes or so.
 
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Test Systems and SANDRA Synthetics

How We Configured Our Test Systems: When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board 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) with 5,5,5,15 timings,  DDR3-1333 with 7,7,7,20 timings (Intel desktops) or DDR2-667 5,5,5,15 (Intel notebooks). 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 then ran all of the tests.

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

System 1:
Core 2 Duo E6850
(3.0GHz - Dual-Core)
Core 2 Duo E6600
(2.40GHz - Dual-Core) 

Asus P5E3 Premium
(X48 Chipset)

2x1GB Corsair DDR3-1800
CL 7-7-7-20 - DDR3-1333

GeForce 8800 GTX
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD740 "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows Vista Ultimate
NVIDIA Forceware v163.75

System 2:
AMD Phenom X3 8750
(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

System 3:

Dell M1730 w/ Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000

2x1GB PC2-5300 - DDR2-667MHz

2xGeForce 8800M GTX, SLI

Seagate Momentus 5400.4 250G

Windows Vista Ultimate
NVIDIA Forceware v174.31

Notebook Comparisons:
(Vantage Testing Only)

Dell M1730 w/ Core 2 Extreme Mobile X7900, RAID 0

Toshiba Satellite X205-SLi4 w/ Core 2 Duo T8100

Asus C90, Core Duo E6700

Test Methodology Note:  We should provide a bit of explanation on our test methodologies before you dive into the numbers in the following pages.  As you'll note, there are a number of desktop component-based test systems listed above, as well as three notebooks.  For our PCMark Vantage testing, since a more system-wide test suite is employed, we compared our Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000-based Dell XPS M1730 scores to three other notebook configurations from Dell, Toshiba and Asus.  Then for the rest of our CPU performance-focused testing, we provided you comparison reference numbers from competitive Core 2 Duo E6600 and E6850, as well as AMD Phenom X3 8750 desktop test systems.  These various reference points should give you a solid picture of how this new mobile CPU performs in terms of raw compute power, as well as a high level view of loosely how it performs in a notebook configuration.  It should be noted however that the notebook configurations listed above are not identical specifications between the group, so notebook comparison data is provided as a frame of reference only.
 


We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA XII, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. We ran three of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA XII suite with Intel's new Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 processor, (CPU Arithmetic, Multimedia, and Memory Bandwidth)
.  All of the scores reported below were taken with the processor running at its default clock speed of 2.8GHz, with 2GB of DDR2-667 system memory.


   
Left to right - SANDRA CPU, Memory and Multimedia Tests

The performance levels SANDRA is reporting here are pretty much on par with what we expected from a combination of this new notebook chip and its relatively modest motherboard and system memory architecture.  Though the X9000 has a clock speed and cache advantage over some of the chips listed in the test reference system list, the M7130's Intel 965 Express chipset and DDR2-667 memory hold back some of its performance.  Relatively speaking though, performance of the system is solid, easily placing these numbers at the top-end of notebook system performance.
 

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PCMark Vantage Testing

We ran three competitive notebooks, including another Dell XPS M1730 with a RAID 0 array and a Core 2 Extreme Mobile X7900 CPU, along with a Dell XPS M1730 with a single drive and the X9000 chip, through Futuremark‚Äôs latest system performance metric built especially for Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage runs through a host of different usage scenarios to simulate different types of workloads including High Definition TV, movie playback and manipulation, gaming, image editing and manipulation, music compression, communications, and productivity.  Most of the tests are multi-threaded as well, so the tests can exploit the additional resources offered by a multi-core CPU.

Futuremark PCMark Vantage
Simulated Application Performance

 

It's a little difficult to draw definitive conclusions from the above graph, since PCMark Vantage tests take into account virtually all aspects of system performance, from the CPU to system memory, graphics and the storage subsystem.  However, two bars in the graph do stand out in favor of the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000, the Gaming and Memories tests.  The gaming test shows favoritism more-so as a result of the GPUs enabled in our notebook test system that is powered by a pair of GeForce 8800M GTX GPUs in SLI.  However, the Memories test, which is particularly processor dependent, shows a specific advantage to the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000.  Here, where applications like image manipulation and Video Transcoding, require large amounts of memory bandwidth, the X9000 pulls ahead, most likely due in-part to its larger 6MB of L2 cache. 

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Lame Multithreaded and Kribibench

Next we journeyed on to what are generally considered more traditional CPU intensive tests with a multithreaded version of LAME MP3 encoding and our usual run of Kribibench software 3D rendering.


LAME MT
Audio Encoding

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.


 


The 2.8GHz dual-core Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 shows itself to be significantly faster than a 2.4GHz tri-core Phenom in MP3 encoding with LAME.  We should note however that at this point in time this test only supports up to two threads concurrently.  Also, what's perhaps a bit more interesting is the fact that our 2.8GHz mobile CPU actually keeps tight pace with the 3GHz Core 2 Duo E6850, once again flexing its 6MB cache muscle versus the 4MB of L2 resources available on the desktop Conroe core-based chip. 


Kribibench v1.1
CPU-Bound 3D Rendering

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.


 


Since Kribibench is multithreaded and heavily SSE optimized, the numbers fall in line more with respect to core clock speed and available multi-core resources.  The tri-core Phenom is the fastest of the group, followed by the 3GHz Core 2 Duo and the rest of Intel's offering, including the X9000, respectively. 

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Cinebench and 3DMark06

Cinebench R10 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 pure computational throughput.

Cinebench R10
3D Rendering

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.

 

 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 ekes out a multithreaded victory over all test systems, with nearly a 5% lead over the next fastest 3GHz Core 2 Duo E6850-based system and a commanding lead over the AMD tri-core Phenom.  Mobile Workstation types, this new Intel notebook CPU could very well have your name all over it.

Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

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.

 

As a gaming processor, at least according to 3DMark06, the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 is clock-for-clock as potent as its desktop counterparts at similar clock speeds.  Overclocked at 3.2GHz it was also the fastest of the bunch, but at stock speeds its performance fell right in between the 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo and 3GHz Core 2 Duo chips, fittingly.  More realistic game testing is next with Crysis and F.E.A.R.
 

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


For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with Crysis and F.E.A.R. For testing purposes, with Crysis or F.E.A.R., we drop the screen resolution to 800x600, and reduce all of the in-game graphical 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 the games' physics engines and particle systems, are left at their maximum values, since these actually do place some load on the CPU rather than GPU.

Low-Resolution Gaming: Crysis and F.E.A.R.
Taking the GPU out of the Equation


 

In what arguably can be thought of as the most demanding game engine to date, the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 CPU shows it has just as much fight in it, if not more than our dual-core desktop CPUs.  The 2.8GHz stock speed X9000 numbers clock in right next to the 3GHz Core 2 Duo chip and far ahead of the tri-core Phenom.  At 3.2GHz, this 478-pin mobile chip toasts the 3GHz desktop chip by a solid 20% margin.




F.E.A.R., on the other hand is more system memory and bus bandwidth intensive than the Crysis benchmark.  This time around the X9000 Core 2 Duo mobile chip drops back to line up more within its clock speed envelope.  With an FSB of 800MHz, its additional L2 cache doesn't offer much more in terms of performance offset.  Regardless, especially when you consider its power consumption advantages and 35 Watt TDP, gaming-wise, the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 lives up to its nameplate and then some.
 

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Performance Summary and The Final Word

Performance Summary:  As we've noted in our benchmark tests, the Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 proved itself to be as fast as its desktop counterparts in many scenarios, all the while consuming less power as a complete system in our Dell XPS M730 notebook testbed.  The new Intel mobile CPU offered its best showing under usage models like Cinebench 10, that took advantage of higher levels of multithreading, where cache coherency becomes more critical and larger amounts of L2 at the processor's disposal can pay off handsomely.




As we discussed in the opening remarks of this article, whether your pleased with the level of innovation offered in some of the latest mobile computing and notebook architectures or not, at least Intel is expending resources in an effort to continually refresh their entire Core 2 lineup in 45nm process technology, from workstation and performance-minded quad cores, to volt-sipping dual-cores for notebooks.  Now that we have some very solid 45nm CPUs at the ready, Intel's offering is ripe for a platform and chipset refresh as well, though unfortunately we'll have to wait a couple more months for Centrino 2, aka Montevina to hit, with a marketing launch expected in July and product rumored to be around the corner shortly after in August. 

On the other side of the fence, AMD's Puma platform, with the promise of its powerful IGP may certainly be poised to "pounce" on the mainstream notebook segment any day now.  But after being announced over
a year ago in May of '07, all of the talk, with only a hint of upcoming notebooks at this year's Computex leaves us speculating that it all just might be too little too late for AMD yet again.   We'll just have to wait and see.  In the mean time, you can find the new Core 2 Extreme Mobile X9000 in new products from Lenovo, HP, Dell and many others.  For now we'll take a queue from Cuba Gooding -- show us the money Intel and AMD.  We're also thirsty for new platform architectures to exploit all this CPU power.

  
  • Great mobile performance
  • Agressive power management
  • 6MB of L2 cache
  • Fastest notebook chip out there
  • Expensive - $350 up-charge from T9500 in Dell XPS M1730
  • Needs a new platform underneath it




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