Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 - Quad-Core Assault

Article Index

Our Summary and Conclusion

General Benchmark And Performance Summary:
A recurring theme, that should be clear to many of you by now, is that Intel's Core 2 Quad architecture isn't going to offer any significant performance gain in legacy code-base applications.  This should not be a surprise as we've seen this scenario play out on other multi-core product launches and even dating back to Intel's HyperThreading technology launches.  Simply put, if an application isn't multithreaded, you know by now that those extra cores will sit idle most of the time.  This was the case in tests like our Office XP benchmark and even to a certain extent in our encoding test with Lame MT, which in fact is multithreaded but only provisions two threads at the present time. Here Kentsfield was only as fast as its dual-core counterparts. 

Conversely, we were extremely impressed with a few of our more demanding professional rendering applications like POV-Ray, where the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 offered incredibly strong performance that scaled up to 2X the performance of Intel's own Core 2 Duo line and was able to offer these gains in a single-chip footprint. Still, in other situations, like Sony Vegas, Cinebench and 3DMark06, we saw the QX6700 offer huge performance gains again, but also fall short of doubling Core 2 Duo results, with about a 70-75% gain overall.  

Gaming Performance:
Our gaming results were nothing to rave about, as we expected, frankly. Many of the current game engines on the market will simply not offer significant gains with multi-core systems, until such time as game developers are coding more with multi-core resources and multithreading in mind.  Future game titles, already in the pipeline, that are significantly better engineered for multithreading, are coming though.  Intel also provided some industry commentary on this topic in support of today's launch as well.  Since clearly Intel is targeting this processor series for the enthusiast, at least initially, we thought we would share some of the commentary with you here:

"Multi-core computing is the new standard for PC games, and we at Epic are thrilled to see Intel leading the industry forward with Core 2 Extreme.  Its four high-performance CPU cores enable a new level of realism in games, with realistic physics simulation, character animation, and other computationally-intensive systems."
- Tim Sweeney, Founder and President, Epic Games

"The introduction of Quad Core processor based PC's allows Remedy to create real next generation games as demonstrated by our "Alan Wake", a psychological action thriller to be published by Microsoft Game Studios. Dividing complex programming tasks into multiple threads is the way to exploit performance that allows us to create more realistic and dynamically generated environments - and thus enjoy fantastic game worlds like never before."
-
Markus Maki, Development Director & co-founder, Remedy Entertainment

"Gas Powered Games has had the opportunity with our Supreme Commander title to be on the leading edge of working with Intel's Quad Core.  The performance and experience enhancements we've seen implementing our multi-threaded architecture on Intel's multi-core systems has shown us that these technologies will represent the minimum bar for the future of advanced gaming."
- Kent McNall, President, Gas Powered Games Corp

"Gamers are asking for more and more realism and immersion, and this of course requires even more power and speed. To meet their expectations, we optimized our more demanding games for multithreading. In this way, Ubisoft can take full advantage of the architecture of multi core processors such as Intel Core 2 Duo and Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme"
-
Vincent Greco, World Wide Production Knowledge Mgr & Technical Coordination, Ubisoft

"Quad-core will change every aspect of PC gaming.  It will change how we create our games, how we provision our service, and how we design our games.  The scalability we've seen in graphics over the last few years will now extend to physics, AI, animation, and all the systems which are critical to moving beyond the era of pretty but dumb games."
- Gabe Newell, president and co-founder of Valve.

So with the game industry fully behind quad-core and multi-core architectures (don't forget consoles have all gone multi-core as well), and with the obvious advantages a quad-core system has in virtually all future multithread capable applications, its clear that 2007 will line-up to be the year of the quad-core.  Or perhaps we should generalize a bit and say simply the year of the "multi-core" processor.  Intel's Kentsfield Core 2 Extreme QX6700 launch today marks a major milestone in computer processor architecture history.  The company is the first to market with a single chip integrated quad-core X86 processor and as expected, it more than lit up a few of the benchmarks and applications that could take advantage of it. 

AMD's 4X4 dual-socket architecture is waiting in the wings as we're sure many of you are aware.  Though the solution isn't going to be as neat or elegant as Intel's single-socket, single-chip product offering, the big question is how will 4X4 scale versus the Core 2 Quad?  Will we see the benefits of AMD's HT serial direct connect architecture offer an edge over the aging Intel QDR bus?  Or will Intel's obvious higher IPC core CPU advantages be too much for a pair of Athlon 64 X2 processors to overcome?  We'll try to provide better clarity for you and answer these questions directly in the weeks ahead.  

Keep in mind also however that, Intel has historically gone from an MCM (multi-chip module) design like we've seen here with Kentsfield, to a full fledge monolithic architecture with shared caches.  We've seen this with their Presler core Pentium D architecture, which then migrated to the Core 2 Duo's monolithic approach. Intel is likely to take this path again with their 45nm process-based product roadmap, including things like SSE4 and a single large cache pool.  So, as they say, there is always another train coming it seems.

Though it's going to carry a hefty price tag at $999 currently, availability is almost immediate (11/6) for those early adopters who dare to step up to Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700.  If you can contain yourselves long enough (we know many of you, like us frankly might not), mainstream Core 2 Quad Q6600 processors and perhaps other speed bins will ship around January of '07.  For now, Intel keeps bringing on the hurt for AMD, turning up the pressure on performance significantly, and introducing to the world the first quad-core X86 processor for the desktop.  With this processor launch, Intel's Quad Core assault feels a bit more like a mugging. Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

  • Up to 2X the performance of Core 2 Duo, clock for clock
  • Fastest multi-threaded performance
  • Runs relatively cool
  • Power consumption appropriate
  • Pricey!
  • Less than 2X performance scaling in certain scenarios
  • Shared FSB

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