Intel Core 2 Duo ‘Conroe’ E6400, E6600, E6700, X6800 Review - Testing Explained Review

We were supplied with the E6400, E6600, E6700 and X6800 processors. The E6400 operates at 2.13GHz with only 2MB of Level 2 cache, while the 4MB brothers operate at 2.4GHz, 2.66GHz and 2.93GHz respectively. The X6800 or Core 2 Extreme is architecturally identical to the Core 2 Duo products, aside from the higher frequency and unlocked multiplier for easier overclocking. Naturally, you’ll pay a premium for such a product.

For comparison, we have bought in a Pentium 4 670 (1 x 3.8GHz, 1 x 2MB), a Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 955 (2 x 3.46GHz, 2 x 2MB), Core Duo T2600 (2 x 2.16GHz, 1 x 2MB), Athlon 64 5000+ (2 x 2.6GHz, 2 x 512KB), Athlon 64 FX-62 (2 x 2.8GHz, 2 x 1MB). And just for fun I overclocked the FX-62 to 2.92GHz, for a clock to clock comparison to the X6800.

All of the equipment was kept the same, including the 2GBs of 4-4-4-12 800MHz Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4 memory and the Seagate Barracuda ST340083A8 hard disk.

To test these products, I wanted a variety of different tests as possible. The 3D portion of testing was simple, just taking a modified version of our 3D graphics testing suite. Using an ATI X1900 XTX and the latest Catalyst 6.6 drivers we tested Call of Duty 2, Counter-Strike:Source, Quake 4 and Battlefield 2. These were tested at 1,024 x 768 with 0x FSAA and 0x AF and 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x FSAA and 8x AF using intensive time demos. The lower setting gives us a CPU bottlenecked test, which is a good gauge of a CPUs potential to provide a graphics card with information. The higher setting is a much more realistic setting, which will likely be graphics card limited. For more details on our 3D testing, take a look at some of our recent graphics reviews.

For the 2D portion, I automated several every day tasks in both a single task and multi-tasking environment to simulate general usage as much as possible. I’d like to give a quick plug to the open source software AutoHotKey which I found invaluable while coding certain portions of my scripting. If you’re interested in macros, scripting or automation I advise checking it out. Support the open source community! (”Spode – you’re a geek…Ed”)

The first portion of testing uses Photoshop Elements, where a selection of 382 6-megapixel photographs totalling 610MB were passed through the multiple file processor. Photoshop performed all the quick fixes (Auto Levels, Auto Contrast, Auto Color, Sharpen), resized the image to 640 pixels wide while maintaining proportions, and then exported to a separate folder as a high quality JPEG.

The second portion of testing is video encoding using VirtualDub-MPEG. We took a 15 minute portion of “Doctor Who” recorded in MPEG2 using a DVB-T PC Card. Using the 1.2 Koepi compile of xVid which has SMP support, and the LAME MP3 codec, we did a two-pass encode to a target file size of 100MB. VirtualDub also de-interlaced and resized the video.

The third portion of testing has four sub-tests based around the popular file compression utility WinRar. The first test encodes our 282MB portion of “Doctor Who” with its highest quality compression and password encryption. This is then decompressed and decrypted. Finally, the same processes are repeated, but with our selection of 382 photographs.

The fourth section of the testing involves Audio encoding using the Lame stand alone MP3 encoder. We both compress and decompress the entire album “Music” by Madonna, using a high quality variable bit rate. This is done using both the Microsoft compiled and Intel compiled version of the codec to keep things fair when comparing platforms.

After defragementing the hard drive and rebooting, we go on to our multi-tasking testing which uses a combination of the above tests. The first test runs VirtualDub encoding in the background, with Photoshop Elements in the foreground. VirtualDub encoding takes about twice as long to complete as Photoshop Elements, so for the final half of the encode there is no other load on the system. This could skew results, so only the time taken to complete Photoshop is taken.

The second test is all of the audio compression/decompression tests run alongside the file compression/encryption – decompression/decryption. The quoted time is the total time taken to perform all eight tests.

The final test is Photoshop Elements with Audio compression/decompression running in the background. The time quoted is the total time taken to complete every test.

All our scores are quoted in seconds, which makes it very easy to see the real impact of one CPU over another.

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