The introduction of the Core 2 Duo E7200 brings the entry point to Intel’s latest Core Duo technology down to around $130, which is a little more than $50 less than what was previously offered. As expected for a chip selling at this price point, its raw performance isn’t mind-blowing fast, but it certainly can hold its own and can be the basis of a very capable machine. The chip is definitely capable and powerful enough for a modern day Vista machine and for gaming/multimedia work, although for any serious workstation or gaming scenarios, we would recommend opting for a higher-speed version of Intel’s E-series “Wolfdale” chips. When compared to AMD, you could pick up a low-end Phenom X3 tri-core processor for about the same price. However, judging from our numbers, we would actually expect the Core 2 Duo E7200 to perform better in the majority of benchmarks.
While it’s also the most inexpensive, it’s also the most environmentally friendly Core 2 Duo chip to be released yet. Sporting a core design built on 45nm technology, a smaller amount of L2 cache (compared to previous generation Core 2’s), and lower clock speed and front side bus speeds, its friendly thermal and power consumption aspects aren’t entirely surprising, although they’re good to see. The chip runs at low temperatures, even with minimal cooling, which leads us to believe that you could build an exceptionally quiet system with the E7200 at its foundation. If you had a large enough passive cooler, it could even be possible to run this chip with no active cooling in a home theater environment.
HTPC’s and media boxes are likely the best fit for a chip like this, as most media playback software doesn’t require more than two processor cores and will likely benefit from the architecture’s SSE4 instruction enhancements for encoding purposes. In addition, the E7200's thermal characteristics mean that you could shove the chip into a cramped case with less than stellar cooling and it would likely manage just fine.
Should you decide to put a massive cooler on top of the chip as we did, you will be rewarded with excellent overclocking abilities. As we mentioned before, our sample chip was able to hit 3.8 GHz in our labs (3.5 GHz stable) with a simple (but large) air cooling system. Around the web, others who have chosen to push the chip harder with water cooling have been able to see clock speeds well into the 4 GHz range (some even into 5 GHz territory), so there is plenty of room to achieve a higher-performance platform if you’re willing to put some work into it.
All in all, the Core 2 Duo E7200 is a nice dual-core chip considering its price point. For a basic desktop or low-end workstation, it would make for a very nice system build considering how cool and quiet it will run. It’s not a beast in the benchmarks, but holds its own and will be the basis of some very capable budget-class dual-core systems in the market.