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CES 2008: New Intel quad-core CPUs take the high-end, but the midrange is still up for grabs.

New quad-core CPUs from Intel


Here's what we find most interesting about Intel's new additions to its Core 2 Quad line later this quarter. Of the three new quad-core desktop chips it announced this morning, only the 2.5GHz Core 2 Quad Q9300 has a low enough price at $266 to compete with AMD's Phenom 9500 ($251) and 9600 ($283). True, Intel's previous generation Q6600 ($266) will likely drop in price, and it's faster than either current Phenom, but it wasn't quite the crushing blow to AMD's 2008 hopes we thought we might see.

Intel has dominated AMD at the high-end for a while now, and even after AMD squares away its higher-end Phenom issues, it's likely that Intel will hold its performance lead. That leaves AMD to rely on price drops to stay competitive. And while quad-core CPUs are still by no means mainstream, they're getting there, simply because of pricing. You've been able to buy a quad-core desktop for less than $1,000 for almost six months.

Despite the pricing listed above, if you look online, you'll find a Phenom 9500 for around $200 in real world pricing. We have to believe the desktop vendors are getting deals as well, which makes it easy for Gateway, HP, and others to look to AMD to bring quad-core PCs into Best Buy. If Intel's pricing doesn't get more competitive, consumers might come to think of AMD as the quad-core leader, simply because its chips are in the most affordable quad core systems, the ones that non-enthusiasts might actually buy. And it's not like Phenom is a bad CPU, it's just not as fast as Core 2 Quad. But if you can get a Phenom for significantly less, it starts to look more appealing.

Of course we like this kind of competition. It puts powerful technology into more hands because of lower prices. But it seemed like with the expansion of its Core 2 Quad 9000-series, Intel had a chance to really dominate the quad core market. But as long as AMD can avoid dropping prices too low (thus completely killing its profits), it could hold onto its bang-for-the-buck prize a bit longer.