It has been surprising and frankly somewhat satisfying to see the success to date of the "Wolfdale" core architecture in Intel’s Core 2 lineup of processors. "Wolfdale" is Intel’s first 45nm based dual-core design, and is an interesting product beyond first glance. When it was first announced, there was a bit of doubt throughout the industry of the chip’s viability in the market. The doubt was that it would be foolish of Intel put major weight behind a dual-core processor architecture, as the future is clearly quad-core processors and beyond. More cores are always better, right? Why would Intel continue pushing dual-core models when quad-core models are getting more and more cost efficient? That's a fair question.
Once we got our first “Wolfdale” chips in for testing, we realized that a modern dual-core processor can still bring exceptional performance for today’s high-end machines. While quad-cores definitely have more appeal for the heavy multi-tasking power user, dual-cores can typically accomplish most tasks with performance to spare, but can do so with much lower power consumption and heat production. In addition, if your application of choice is only coded to handle two processor cores, it can actually run faster on a highly-clocked dual-core compared to a mid-range clocked quad-core. While the wave of multi-core software is rising every day, we still haven’t seen truly compelling numbers in main stream applications showing that quad-core processors are worth their premiums for many average, everyday computing scenarios.
In any case, despite initial availability issues, Intel’s new E-series processors based on this new “Wolfdale” architecture ended up being a big hit, and chips are still in high-demand, months after their initial release. Now that the product line is beginning to become available in volume, we’re seeing Intel flesh out their Core 2 Duo product line with the entry of the first truly low-cost “Wolfdale” processor release to date, Intel’s Core 2 Duo E7200.
The Core 2 Duo E7200 is a bit of an anomaly on Intel’s dual-core product lineup, much like the Core 2 Quad Q9300 is the anomaly for the quad-core product lineup. Both the E7200 and Q9300 are the only models in their lineups which have half the L2 cache of other models in their families. In addition, both run at 2.5 GHz clock speeds and both are priced very competitively for the performance they offer. The E7200 is a based on a simple, modern dual-core design, whereas the Q9300 uses two of these processor dies to create a quad-core version . Beyond the raw core count, the chips are nearly identical. With the release of the Core 2 Duo E7200, it’s now possible to get a fast “Wolfdale” dual-core chip for about $130, about half the price of today’s high-end “Wolfdale” models. Let’s see if this newbie can live up to the high-bar set by preceding 45nm dual-core parts from Intel.