Silly speed, silly price
Our initial look at the AMD Phenom 9600 highlighted that it wasn't fast enough to compete against a 65nm Kentsfield-based Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600, which was a shame, really. What's more, its pricing wasn't particularly competitive, so it was a lose-lose situation for AMD.
So there was absolutely no need to announce the fastest-ever desktop x86 processor, dear Intel desktop department, unless your aim was one of driving the performance delta between you and AMD further into Austin's chest.
Without further ado, let's welcome the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (notice the numbering, folks?), 3.2GHz of Penryn power allied to a 1600MHz FSB. Will it be fast? Yes, absolutely, that goes without saying. Will it be expensive? Let's put it this way, you can buy a decent PC for less. $1,199 (~£750) will be the asking price. Let's find out if it can possibly be worth it...
QX9770: What's new?
The QX9770 is multiplier-unlocked, just like the QX9650; that's what significant expenditure buys you. Thinking it through logically, owners of the usurped QX9650 shouldn't feel short-changed, for a 30-second play in the motherboard's BIOS will turn your processor into the 'brand-new' QX9770.
We've added the AMD Phenom 9600's vital stats to the table for illustrative purposes only. Products should be performance-compared on a like-for-like basis, so the Phenom's £180 pricing, around 25 per cent of the QX9770's, makes pure benchmark comparisons kind of pointless. Had it been priced at, say, £600 we would have no hesitation in adding it to the processor-vs-processor mix.
|Processor name||Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770||Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650||Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850||Intel Core 2 Duo E6850||AMD Phenom 9600||AMD Athlon 64 X2 6400+|
|Die size||214mm² (2 x 107mm)||214mm² (2 x 107mm)||286mm² (2 x 143mm)||143mm²||285mm² (monolithic)||219mm²|
|Physical execution cores||4||4||4||2||4||2|
|Inst. per clock||4||4||4||4||3||3|
|FSB/HT||400MHz (1600MHz QDR)||333MHz (1333MHz QDR)||333MHz (1333MHz QDR)||333MHz (1333MHz QDR)||200MHz||200MHz|
|DDR2, 800MHz, DC|
|L1 cache total||128KiB data + 128KiB code||128KiB data + 128KiB code||128KiB data + 128KiB code||64KiB data + 64KiB code||128KiB data + 128KiB code||128KiB data + 128KiB code|
|L2 cache total||12MiB||12MiB||8MiB||4MiB||2MiB||2MiB|
|ISA||x86, x86-64, SSE-SSSE4.1||x86, x86-64, SSE-SSSE4.1||x86, x86-64, SSE-SSSE3||x86, x86-64, SSE-SSSE3||x86, x86-64, SSE-SSE4a||x86, x86-64, SSE-SSE3|
|Current price||£750||£600+||£600 (phased out)||£165||£180||£115|
The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770's review could have been summed up in one sentence, really. Its announcement serves to extend Intel's dominant position at the very high-end of the desktop market. It does everything the QX9650 does - being based on the same Penryn core - but doe so that little bit faster.
We've seen that AMD will need to pull a Phenom rabbit the size of Gibraltar out of a hat if it's to challenge the incumbent Kentsfield-based QX6850 in pure performance stakes. That rabbit will need to be raised on nandrolone and nurtured with EPO if it's going to munch on the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 carrot for breakfast, for its enhanced core, faster clockspeed and front-side bus combine to offer the highest single-socket processor benchmarks we've ever seen - a familiar tune for QXs of late.
Released in Q1 2008 to coincide with the AMD quad-core Phenom 9900, the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 will remain the fastest desktop processor until some bright spark decides a 3.4GHz SKU is necessary. The flipside is that it will cost around £750. Intel knows it can charge extortionate prices at the very high end, simply because there's a distinct lack of competition from AMD.
95 per cent of readers will look at the benchmark numbers and await lower-clocked Yorkfield/Wolfdale processors - also released in Q1 2008 - with more-palatable price-tags. The other 5 per cent will want the fastest processor around. No prizes for guessing which one that is.
For the full length review click here.