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Intel Core 2 Duo - First Take

Intel's Core 2 Duo line marks the end of AMD's run of dominance through the dual-core desktop-processor landscape. Not only are Intel's new chips fast, efficient, and well designed, but they're also aggressively priced and sure to send ripples though the desktop PC industry. If you are buying or building a new computer, we recommend that a Core 2 Duo chip be at its center.

You will need to excuse Intel if it's seen gloating over its new Core 2 Duo processors. Ever since dual-core desktop processors arrived on the scene last year, Intel has taken a backseat to rival AMD. Our own tests proved it, and it wasn't hard to find other Web sites reporting the same thing: the Athlon 64 X2 chips were clearly superior to Intel's Pentium D 800- and 900-series chips. Well, AMD's dominating run has come to a screeching halt with today's release of the Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

We've tested the top two chips, the 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 and the 2.67GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, and were blown away by the performance they turned in. Rounding out the line are the 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo E6600 ($316), the 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo E6400 ($224), and the 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo E6200 ($183). Like the top two chips, the E6600 features 4MB of unified L2 cache; the bottom two chips serve up a single 2MB block. All five chips feature a 1,066MHz frontside bus and operate on the Socket LGA775 interface.

The $530 Core 2 Duo E6700 looks especially sweet; it won our Editors' Choice award for delivering near the performance of the $999 Extreme X6800 for roughly half the cost. Compared to AMD's Athlon 64 FX-62, the Core 2 Duo E6700 turned in better or near equal results on all of CNET Labs' benchmarks. AMD price cuts are expected soon (we'll update this page accordingly once they are announced), but for now, the E6700 offers the best price-performance ratio of any desktop chip on the market.

Core 2 Duo should also put to rest another criticism lobbied against Intel: that its chips are power-hungry, heat-generating behemoths. System builders had to go to great lengths--more cooling fans, larger heat sinks--to keep the chips safely running. Borrowing from Intel's laptop chips, the Core 2 Duo desktop processors require less power to run and, therefore, put out less heat. You can read more about the improved thermals in either of the full reviews, where you'll also find performance charts that show how the Core 2 Extreme X6800 and the Core 2 Duo E6700 stack up against AMD's two top chips, the Athlon 64 FX-62 and the Athlon 64 X2 5000+.

We expect to see similar performance from the three chips we've yet to test and review. We'd be surprised to see much of a gap in performance between the E6700 and the E6600, since the only difference between the two is clock speed. There might be a bigger jump down in performance when you go from the E6600 to the E6400, because not only is the lower-end chip clocked slower, but it also features half the L2 cache. We expect to test these other three chips soon to give you the full rundown of the entire Core 2 Duo family. But if the first two chips are any indication, any of the Core 2 Duo processors will be an attractive option next time you're in the market for a PC, regardless of your budget.

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