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And so it begins..

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Last week, while I was busy trying to decide whether nForce 5 was a new chipset or just a re-marketed nForce 4, Intel invited me out to Munich for a hands on with the new Conroe / Core 2 Duo processor. Although I couldn’t really spare the time, the noise from the neighbouring CrossFire setup was definitely having an effect on my sanity – lottery tickets? DRM protected music? Yes please!

Conroe is probably one of the single most important product launches since Intel first introduced the NetBurst (Pentium 4) architecture and is set to seriously rock the boat, so it’s a very exciting time.

Up until very recently I was running a 1.6GHz Pentium M at 2.13GHz in a virtually 100 per cent silent PC. The only noise I could hear was a case vibration that was at such a low frequency that I could only start to hear it when I was lying in bed. This was later solved by mounting the hard drive with rubber grommets. I was really impressed by the performance, even on the older AGP/DDR setup I was running. When testing similar PCI Express/DDR2 setups, gaming performance was better than any other processor available and could overclock even further with the right motherboard. Despite the obvious advantages of Pentium M, being lower power consumption, less heat and more performance, Intel refused to release this on a desktop platform.

One area Pentium M did lack was in video encoding which is where NetBurst really shone. This was compensated for by adding a second core when Yonah was launched earlier this year. Despite this move, Intel still decided to keep it predominantly mobile only with only some low-power Viiv machines using it.

That is, until now. Conroe is the first desktop processor to be based on this mobile architecture. Of course, Conroe is more than just Core Duo on desktop, there are a considerable number of architectural changes, which thankfully will also be making their way to the mobile platform.

AMD Athlon 64 has definitely been my choice of platform since its launch. Both HyperTransport and the integrated memory controller are really well thought out and the elegance of the design appeals to me greatly. Intel has argued that it didn’t want to have an integrated memory controller as this locks a processor to a particular memory standard. I find this laughable as Intel’s track record shows a new chipset launch alongside each CPU. In this particular case however, Conroe will be a drop-in replacement for current dual-core supporting LGA775 motherboards, good news for anyone after an upgrade.

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