At the end of last year, Intel introduced the world's first quad-core desktop processor that steals a little thunder from the amazing Core 2 Duo range. For a whopping $ 999, the new Core 2 Extreme processor would become Intel's new flagship.
Although the Core 2 Duo remained the best choice for most desktop users, the technological achievement was still there because AMD had no correct answer – and still is in some ways. Clocked at 2.66 GHz, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 essentially consisted of two Core 2 Duo E6700 processors glued together. This meant that the thermal design rated power was doubled from 65 watts for the E6700 to hot 130 watts for the QX6700.
In terms of performance, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 was a success, although it was more of a business-oriented processor. This was mainly due to the fact that games are only now becoming dual-core friendly and almost none are ready for quad-core processors. On the other hand, certain applications such as Adobe Photoshop and QuickTime Pro showed relatively strong increases in performance when using the quad-core Intel processor. Other more powerful applications such as 3D Studio Max and Pinnacle Studio Plus saw massive increases in performance when switching to the quad-core processor.
Now, about eight months later, little has changed. Dual core still offers the same gaming experience, while quad cores are slightly better for graphic design and video editing tasks. Since the introduction of the Core 2 Extreme QX6700, there have only been two other quad-core versions from Intel. The Core 2 Extreme QX6800 and Core 2 Quad Q6600 were released for $ 1199 and $ 851, respectively.
The new Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 processor we are testing today is the first Core 2 product to reach the magical 3.0 GHz marker, not with two but with four cores (double 4 MB L2 cache). Also new for the core microarchitecture is an increased front-side bus, which has been converted to 333 MHz QDR (Quad Data Rate – 1333 MHz), while earlier Core 2 processors all used a 1066 MHz FSB.
The Core 2 Extreme QX6850 is expected to be available again at $ 999, which will help to slowly lower the price of existing quad-core processors. Later this month, the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 will be reissued as the Core 2 Quad Q6700 around July 22nd. This new processor continues to run at 2.66 GHz, but uses less power than the QX6700. The Q6600 is expected to drop to just $ 266 at the same time.
With this emerging news, there's nothing new to report about the Core 2 Extreme QX6850, as it is very similar to the original QX6700 quad-core processor that we tested in November. It will be interesting to see how the additional 340 MHz affects performance compared to the QX6700 and whether the higher FSB makes a difference.