As our benchmark results and power consumption tests have shown, Intel’s Core 2 Quad Q9300 represents a solid upgrade over the Core 2 Quad Q6600, which we’ve come to know and love. Even though the Q9300 has a decreased cache size and only meager improvements in terms of clock speed, all in all, performance is improved, especially in video encoding tasks, and power consumption and heat production are reduced by substantial margins as well.
In our eyes, the Core 2 Quad Q9300’s biggest competitor comes from Intel itself. Intel is starting to begin mass shipments of the rest of their quad-core lineup, including the highly anticipated Core 2 Quad Q9450 processor, which has double the amount of L2 cache as the Q9300 and slightly higher clock speeds for a meager price increase. Given the massive difference in cache, we’d expect that enthusiasts will target this chip rather than the Q9300 as a starting point for a new system. Of course, AMD’s new Phenom X4 processors also represent a substantial threat, something we couldn’t say about AMD’s first generation Phenom processors. With their TLB issues worked out, clock speeds boosted, and prices at a very competitive level, AMD is definitely competing once again in the more mainstream market segments. Currently, AMD's top of the line Phenom X4 9850 Black Edition is about $50 less expensive than the Q9300, and is more widely available at the time of this writing.
We would recommend this chip for those who want an inexpensive and low-power quad-core option for desktop or workstation usage. For gamers, we would recommend opting for a higher-clock speed dual-core model like the Core 2 Duo E8500, which can deliver better stock performance compared to the Q9300 in a gaming environment. If you want quad-core and top-notch gaming performance, we would recommend opting for one of Intel’s higher-end quad-core models with a full 12 MB of cache, like the Q9450 and up.
All in all, a quad-core chip which runs cool and is overclockable to over 3.3 GHz with simple air-cooling at a ~$270 price point is a product which is undeniably attractive. With more and more applications being coded with true multi-core support, along with the steep processing requirements of Windows Vista, there is no doubt that these chips will be popular. We wish Intel would have just gone with a solid 12 MB of cache across the board for this new Core 2 Quad lineup, but we certainly won’t harp on this point. The Q9300 is an excellent chip and we are hard pressed to find any major fault with it.