Intel’s Core 2 Q9300 processor is fabricated using the 45nm Penryn process that we first saw in Benny's review of the Intel Core 2 Quad QX9650, which is a lovely CPU if you don't mind forking out £480. Thankfullly, the Penryn process is also used in more down-to-earth CPUs such as the dual core E8500, which is where things get interesting for most of us.
When we reviewed the E8500 in March 2008 it had a price of £182 but since then we’ve seen a surprising amount of price compression among the Intel dual cores. The 3.16GHz E8500 has dropped to £123, the 3.0GHz E8400 is £110 and the 2.66GHz E8200 is priced at £106. Who the heck would buy a £106 processor when you can get the next speed bump for only £4 more?
This reduction in price for the Wolfdale dual core Penryns leaves the £150+ price bracket open for affordable Yorkfield quad core processors which is where the Core 2 Quad Q9300 comes into the equation. It has a relatively slow clock speed of 2.50GHz which is achieved by a 7.5x multiplier and a 333MHz/1,333MHz front side bus which is matched by a price of £173. Now that’s cheap for a Yorkfield as faster models shoot past £200 and head for £390 with the Q9550 and upwards to £480 for the aforementioned QX9650.
Things aren’t entirely as they might appear, though, as most Yorkfields have 12MB of L2 cache with 6MB for each core while the Q9300 only has 6MB with 3MB per core. The rest of the features are just as you’d expect from a Penryn which is a significant advance from the 65nm Kentsfield including support for the SSE4.1 instruction set. The move to the 45nm process has allowed Intel to reduce the core voltage from a nominal 1.3V to 1.2V, which in turn reduces the TDP from 105W to 95W.
This leads us to wonder how the Q9300 compares with the Core 2 Q6600 which is our absolute favourite processor in the whole of overclockdom. We’ve had our sample of Q6600 for the best part of a year and it’s done sterling service overclocking from its standard speed of 2.4GHz to the dizzy heights of 3.4GHz. Scour the web and the Q6600 crops up time and time again as a champ of a processor and its appeal isn’t hurt one little bit by price cuts that have taken it below £120. Indeed, Intel is taking the fight to the 65nm AMD Phenom by slashing the prices of its own 65nm models and Q6600 is in the thick of that particular battle. Moreover, the Q6600 wipes the floor with Phenom; period.
So, with AMD out of the equation, with the Q9300 we wanted to know how the £117 Q6600 compares to this new £173 chip. For starters, and most obviously, you get an extra 100MHz with Q9300 but that’s certainly not worth an extra £56.