Then and Now: Virtually 10 Years of Intel CPUs In contrast

It's hard to believe that 15 years have passed since I first tested the Pentium 4 series. At this point, I honestly don't remember many of my experiences with the P4 series, if not because of their age, then because it was a nice garbage series. However, I have many good memories of how I tested the Core 2 Duo series.

Six long years after the Pentium 4, we tested the first generation Core 2 Duo processors with the dual-core E6000 series and a year later the quad-core models. To date, the Core 2 Quad Q6600 is the most popular processor we have ever seen. In fact, almost all Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad chips were notoriously good overclockers, and many users still claim to use overclocked LGA775 processors.

Today we take a look back at the Core 2 CPUs and compare them with the parts of the current generation of Haswell Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7.

Along the way, we will test processors such as the Nehalem Core i5-760 and Core i7-870 2009/2010 as well as the Sandy Bridge chips Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2700K, which include Intel mainstream CPUs for almost 10 years.

year process Price Base / Turbo Cores / threads socket
Core i7-4790K 2013 22nm $ 339 4.0 GHz / 4.4 GHz 4/8 LGA1150
Core i5-4670K 2013 22nm $ 242 3.5 GHz / 3.9 GHz 4/4 LGA1150
Core i3-4350 2013 22nm $ 138 3.6 GHz 2/4 LGA1150
Pentium G3220 2013 22nm $ 64 3.0 GHz 2/2 LGA1150
Celeron G1820 2014 22nm $ 42 2.7 GHz 2/2 LGA1150
Core i7-2700K 2011 32nm $ 332 3.5 GHz / 3.9 GHz 4/8 LGA1155
Core i5-2500K 2011 32nm $ 216 3.3 GHz / 3.7 GHz 4/4 LGA1155
Core i7-870 2009 45nm $ 562 2.93 GHz / 3.6 GHz 4/8 LGA1156
Core i5-760 2009 45nm $ 205 2.8 GHz / 3.33 GHz 4/4 LGA1156
Core 2 Quad Q9650 2008 45nm $ 530 3.0 GHz 4/4 LGA775
Core 2 Quad Q6600 2007 65 nm $ 530 2.4 GHz 4/4 LGA775
Core 2 Duo E8600 2008 45nm $ 266 3.33 GHz 2/2 LGA775
Core 2 Duo E6600 2006

65 nm

$ 316 2.4 GHz 2/2 LGA775

The only missing mainstream processor series is the Ivy Bridge architecture, although we decided to skip it because the Sandy Bridge to Haswell jump in performance was not significant. Fifth generation Broadwell processors are also missing as they are not yet available. With Skylake arriving soon, this series seems to be skipped completely.

Obviously, today's processors will be faster than those that are almost a decade old. What we find interesting is to find out how much faster they are in modern applications like Photoshop CC, x264 HD coding and Excel workloads. We're also going to look at gaming performance, albeit with an unrealistically powerful discrete GPU that we could only dream of a decade ago.

At the end of the benchmark phase, we also compare the power consumption to determine how much more efficient modern CPUs actually are.

System specifications and memory bandwidth performance

Haswell system specifications

  • Intel Core i7-4790K (4.0 GHz – 4.4 GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-4670K (3.4 GHz – 3.8 GHz)
  • Intel Core i3-4350 (3.6 GHz)
  • Intel Pentium G3220 (3.0 GHz)
  • Intel Celeron G1820 (2.7 GHz)
  • Asrock Z97 Extreme6
  • 8 GB DDR3-2400 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 980
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Gold 750w
  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit

Sandy Bridge system specifications

  • Intel Core i7-2700K (3.5 GHz – 3.90 GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-2500K (3.3 GHz – 3.7 GHz)
  • Asrock Z77 Extreme9
  • 8 GB DDR3-2400 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 980
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Gold 750w
  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit

Lynnfield system specifications

  • Intel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz – 3.6 GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-760 (2.8 GHz – 3.33 GHz)
  • Asrock P55 Deluxe3
  • 8 GB DDR3-2133 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 980
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Gold 750w
  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit

Core 2 system specifications

  • Core 2 Quad Q9650 (3 GHz)
  • Core 2 Quad Q6600 (2.4 GHz)
  • Core 2 Duo E8600 (3.33 GHz)
  • Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4 GHz)
  • Gigabyte EP45T-Extreme
  • 4 GB DDR3-1066 RAM
  • GeForce GTX 980
  • Crucial MX200 1 TB
  • SilverStone Essential Gold 750w
  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit

The Core 2 series was not blessed with large memory bandwidths, and at that time AMD had one here via Intel with its Athlon64 range, which peaked at around 9 GB / s. As you can see below, we struggled to get 7 GB / s out of the Core 2 Duo E8600 and the Core 2 Quad Q9650.

The leap from the Core 2 series to the first Core i5 and Core i7 processors was enormous, as the i5-760 managed 17.1 GB / s and 19.2 GB / s for the i7-870. The Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 processors didn't improve this at around 18 GB / s.

However, when Haswell came on the market, Intel pushed well over 20 GB / s on this mainstream platform. This means that even the cheapest Haswell desktop processor has approximately four times the available memory bandwidth compared to the fastest Core 2 processors.

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