Intel has cheaper--but still pricey--quad-core chips

It's cheaper than ever to take the quad-core plunge, but don't spend money on cores you don't need.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read

Intel's running a special on quad-core chips this summer just ahead of the back-to-school rush.

The company cut the price of its Core 2 Quad Q6600 (PDF) processor in half on Monday, just a week after it introduced a new quad-core chip for desktop PC customers. This is how it has worked in the chip game for years: new processors push older ones down a series of pricing steps until they become obsolete.

Quad-core desktop chips are now cheaper, but still overpriced for most. Intel

But while $266 may seem like a bargain (though remember, that's the 1,000-unit price), most PC users don't need four cores. Unless you like to play PC games while editing videos, running antivirus software and recording a television show, you simply don't need that level of performance yet.

If you're all about future proofing, $266 isn't a terrible deal for a quad-core chip that you won't max out until a few years down the road. But there's not much PC software out there right now that can take advantage of four processing cores; the industry's just getting around to figuring out how to use two.

If you're multitasking to a ridiculous degree like the example above, then you'll come closer to filling those cores. If you're just browsing the Web, typing up a term paper or playing PC games from time to time, you don't need four cores.

If you need a desktop PC for back-to-school, you want an Intel system and you don't fall into the multitasker category, save about 100 bucks and buy one of the E6750 or E6550 dual-core Core 2 Duo processors that cost $163. You'll get a faster front-side bus (the connection between the chip and memory) than the quad-core chips, which will immediately improve the performance of the zillions of programs that are memory-intensive. Take the $100 you saved and buy more memory.