Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price free/subscription

Testing

In our testing we put up the CPU against a whole host of others, both Intel and AMD to see how it would fair.

For our test system we placed the Intel CPUs in a Asus P5E3 Deluxe Wi-Fi AP motherboard, with a Seagate 7200.11 160GB drive, with 2GB or Corsair 1,800MHz DDR3 and a GeForce 8800 Ultra. We used Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit) with nVidia 163.69 WHQL drivers.

For AMD CPU we used the same setup except the motherboard was an Asus M2N32-E SLI Deluxe.

We tested with the following CPUs.

• Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 - 4x3.00GHz, 2x6MB L2 cache, 1,333MHz FSB, 45nm, Yorkfield
• Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 - 4x3.00GHz, 2x4MB L2 cache, 1,333MHz FSB, 65nm, Kentsfield
• Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 - 4x2.67GHz, 2x4MB L2 cache, 1,066MHz FSB, 65nm, Kentsfield
• Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 - 4x2.40GHz, 2x4MB L2 cache, 1,066MHz FSB, 65nm, Kentsfield
• Intel Core 2 Duo E6850 - 2x3.00GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 1,333MHz FSB, 65nm, Conroe
• Intel Core 2 Duo E6750 - 2x2.67GHz, 4MB L2 cache, 1,333MHz FSB, 65nm, Conroe
• AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+ - 2x3.20GHz, 2x1MB L2 cache, 2GHz HTT, 90nm, Windsor
• AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ - 2x3.00GHz, 2x1MB L2 cache, 2GHz HTT, 90nm, Windsor

With these we ran through a number of tests to see if we could pick up on any weaknesses in both real world games, and synthetic tests.

Starting with Half Life 2: Episode 2 tests and the new and highly entertaining Team Fortress 2, both based on the Source engine, the QX9650 sits happily at the top of the pile. Team Fortress 2 is clearly more CPU intensive than Episode 2 and the faster CPU clearly pays more dividends in terms of frame rate, especially once the resolution gets cranked up.

In World in Conflict the QX9650 is sitting pretty at the top again. It's the minimum frame rate that of most interest - note the difference between today's mainstream quad-core champion - the 6600 - and the QX9650. On the 6600, the frame rates don't change between 1,024 x 768 and 1,920 x 1,200 - it's clearly totally CPU limited, so big fans of this game will get a boost from a CPU such as the QX9650.

In Enemy Territory, we can see that the top four CPUs are all ones with a 1,333MHz front-side bus speed.

PCMark Vantage is the new overall test from FutureMark and has a range of application and graphics tests inside it. It's a good one stop shop for testing. No surprises here - the 9650 is on top of the pile.

WinRAR is one of those utilty apps that you'll be using all the time, so the faster the better and the QX9650 chalks up another victory.

DivX 6.7 is a real number cruncher. We enabled SSE4 where relevant and the test involved a 2-pass encode of a 276MB MPEG-2 digital TV recording. Here the QX9650 really flew, even over the previous Extreme, the QX6850. If you do a lot of encoding you should certainly be looking to move to Penryn.

Finally, we have the LAME MP3 encoding using either the Intel compiler with SSE3 enhancements and the more AMD friendly Microsoft compiler. Either way, our new best friend is still top.

As for overclocking, if you're into that kind of thing we found that with a good Zalman CNPS9700 heatsink and upping the voltage to 1.435V we actually hit a stable 4.35GHz! This is admittedly on a engineering sample so it might not be quite that good at retail but it's a good indicator that there's headroom and how efficient the new micron process is.

Verdict

There's no doubt that the QX9650 is a very impressive CPU that convincingly faster than anything that's out there right now. Clearly the price places it out of the range of all but the most dedicated and well-heeled enthusiasts but it serves its purpose as a truly impressive flagship processor for Intel. And perhaps even more importantly it bodes well for next year's more affordable variants. The only question now is whether AMD can muster a suitable response with Phenom.

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