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The Competition: Core 2 Duo And Quad S-Series

Low-Power Face-Off: AMD's Athlon X2 Vs. Intel's Core 2 Duo
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We included four different Intel processors for comparison: two dual cores and two quad cores. The quad cores certainly don’t represent an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s interesting to see where the differences in performance and power consumption are. The dual cores are more adequate from a power consumption standpoint, although Intel clearly outperforms the AMD Athlon X2 processors in almost all the benchmarks.

Core 2 Duo E7200, E8500

The Core 2 Duo family should be well known by now. The E8500 is a model with 6 MB L2 cache, FSB1333, and 3.16 GHz, while the E7200 is an entry-level processor at 2.53 GHz, FSB1066 and 3 MB L2 cache. The cache memory is shared and used by both processing cores. Both support 64-bit operation, and the execute disable bit, but only the E8500 also supports virtualization technology and Intel’s Trusted Execution feature. Most mainstream users won’t miss any of these features, but they may be important for corporate users.

The E8000-series is interesting for people who want decent performance and a product that is highly overclockable. In contrast, the E7200 won’t win any performance comparisons, but happens to combine timely performance with low power consumption. Paired with adequate components, such a CPU can make for a great high-efficiency platform.

Core 2 Quad 8200s, 9550s

The following processors are not suited to be compared to the AMD low-power Athlons, as they are more expensive, much more powerful, and cater to very different market segments. However, we still did this, for the following reasons:

  • They have the same thermal design envelopes
  • We wanted to see how high-end power saving processors compare to low-end hardware
  • Both Socket AM2 and Socket LGA775 have been around for a while, so drop-in upgrades are feasible

We recently looked at Intel’s new quad core offerings: the Core 2 Quad s-series. While any other quad-core is rated at a TDP of 95 W or even 130 W, these are made to stay within 65 W. This finally makes quad-core processors interesting for compact PCs, low-power solutions and all other existing Socket 775 platforms, where high temperatures, cooling noise, or power consumption aren’t an option.

The s-models are much more expensive than the regular Core 2 Quad CPUs, and they don’t necessarily save a lot of power. Idle power consumption only differs by a few watts, and we found that peak power varies by roughly 15 W on average, depending on the application. We did not have a retail Core 2 Quad Q9000 processor available at the time of the review, which is why we had to go without the direct comparison. Using an underclocked QX9650 Extreme Edition is not an option for power measurements, as these typically require a bit more power, and hence aren’t representative for measurement.

The Core 2 Quad Q9550s is by far the best choice, but also the most expensive. You can also get a Core i7 processor for the same amount of cash. However, the Q9550s manages to pair quite acceptable power consumption with high performance.

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  • 4 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 6:27 AM
    45nm high k MG vs. already week 65nm plus core 2 archetectual superiortity = no contest, I really wish AMD had a twin on 45nm for notebooks.
  • 0 Hide
    sonofliberty08 , March 31, 2009 6:40 AM
    PCMark only run good on Intel CPU , they found it on VIA chips .
  • 3 Hide
    bodisan , March 31, 2009 9:00 AM
    There is a problem in your rationale for calculating power efficiency. You measured the power needed for the systems to complete a 3D Mark test, and then you compared the results, but you cannot do that because 3D Mark gets whatever it can from a processor or a graphics card over a fixed period of time, so technically the systems do not have the same task to complete. It would have been more interesting to test on video encoding or archiving software, because no matter what, the task there is exactly the same no matter what. And if you would have done so, I suspect the final results would have been even more in favor of the intel processors. Hope I'm not wrong!
  • 0 Hide
    wdmso , March 31, 2009 9:41 AM
    Who cares about power efficiency. its like getting a big Mac large fries with a diet coke and saying your on a diet. unless all your system parts are purchased with efficiency in mind this comparison is point less .
    who buys a e8500 with out a mid to high range graphics card?
  • 5 Hide
    randomizer , March 31, 2009 11:50 AM
    wdmsowho buys a e8500 with out a mid to high range graphics card?

    Someone interested in real work.
  • 3 Hide
    ifko_pifko , March 31, 2009 12:12 PM
    Somehow I don't understand the Average power consumption... I thought that 3D/PC Mark Vantage can use 4 cores... How can the low power AMD consume more on average than Q9550s?
    That AMD system needs less power in idle and in peak... So it seems that comparing peak power consumption is poinless. Or you have a mistake somewhere else.
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 12:23 PM
    maybe someone like a photographer working with big raw files might buy a e8500 with a low-mid (if they do not use Photoshop CS4) graphics card.

    i was actually thinking of getting an e8400, 4gig ram and a low end graphics card to do photo editing in lightroom, does anyone know whether a q8200 would be quicker (i doubt it)? i live in south africa, our computer part are quite expensive, so a core i7 920 with 3gb ram (including cheapest gigabyte x58 mb) is nearly double what a mid-range gigabyte 775 mb, e8400 (or q8200 - they cost the same here) and 4gb ddr2 ram is
  • -6 Hide
    lamorpa , March 31, 2009 12:33 PM
    wdmso...its like getting a big Mac large fries with a diet coke and saying your on a diet...

    Your on-a-diet. My on-a-diet. What's this 'on a diet' thing? Or did you mean 'you're on a diet'?
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 12:38 PM
    Why oh why is the Intel E5200 not included here? Anyone even looking at the AMD 5050e would not be comparing it to an E8500 or anything quad core - even if technically at full load those processors could do more work/watt. If you're looking for a truly low-power build, you're looking at the AMD 5050e and the Intel E5200, and you're not overclocking anything. (Maybe the E7xxx series, maybe)
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 1:20 PM
    In Hungary the AMD 5050E: under 80USD, 5600+: 75USD,
    Intel: E7200: 130USD, E8500:220USD, Q8200S over 300USD, Q9550S over 475USD...
    So what are we compare? Phenom???
  • 7 Hide
    Seikent , March 31, 2009 1:25 PM
    5050e -> $65
    5400BE -> $58

    e7200 -> ~$110
    e8500 -> $180
    etc...
    it's an old story that core 2 duo/quad cpus are more efficient than the Athlon X2 cpus, so if you're going to compare these processors again, use processors in the same price range, because the difference in power usage isn't going to pay the extra investment under normal circumstances (I think).
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 1:38 PM
    So typical Tom's putting Intel quads against amd dual core. And even high end core duos when the right competition would've been pentiums.
  • 3 Hide
    bvbellomo , March 31, 2009 1:51 PM
    I really wish performance per watt was measured in total system watts, not just CPU watts.
  • 0 Hide
    sublifer , March 31, 2009 2:09 PM
    As long as you're looking at performance per watt and trying to see if these products make sense, you should include a performance per watt per dollar graph and see where everything ends up. Ideally that chart should be relatively flat to indicate that you get what you pay for.
  • 9 Hide
    sublifer , March 31, 2009 2:28 PM
    Okay, quick price check and a little division later:
    (B4B=bang for buck=perforformance per watt per dollar)

    price 3Dmark B4B PCmark B4B
    Q9550s @ $400 0.470 0.705
    Q8200s @ $265 0.657 1.011
    E8500 @ $180 1.094 1.489
    E7200 @ $120 1.583 2.250
    X25050e@ $65 2.846 2.277
    X25400+@ $58 2.672 2.224

    As we all know, bang for buck gets better when you look at cheaper parts. The X2 5050e actually wins bang for buck and the X2 5400 doesn't do too bad either. Because of the graphically better 780G platform the AMD CPUs leave the Intel CPUs in the dust in 3D bang for buck.
  • -1 Hide
    sublifer , March 31, 2009 2:29 PM
    My formatting went to pot but I imagine most of you can make sense out of it.
  • 0 Hide
    JimmiG , March 31, 2009 3:12 PM
    AMD is really hurting by not having any high-clocked, 45nm dual-core CPUs out. On the other hand, it looks like they are trying to position the Phenom II X3 as a direct competitor to the mid-range Core 2 Duos. How does the efficiency of the X3's (and X4's) compare to those same Intel CPUs?

    The Athlon X2's are still fine CPUs for many users, though. I used a 5600+ in a system I built for my mum. It was very cheap and more than fast enough for her needs, and the 780G is a solid platform.
  • 5 Hide
    shortstuff_mt , March 31, 2009 3:34 PM
    Did Tom's Hardware really just compare 65nm AMD chips against 45nm Intel chips? I want the 10 minutes of my life I just wasted reading this garbage back.
  • 1 Hide
    jeffredo , March 31, 2009 4:54 PM
    It would take a long time to make up for the difference in price with miniscule power savings on a CPU - like forever.
  • 0 Hide
    nerrawg , March 31, 2009 6:14 PM
    I have to say that I agree with sublifer's complaint, I mean if the point is either to save money or be green, either way the intel choices don't all seem to be that relative compared to the cheap $60 AMD processors. Anyone considering those AMD solutions now is probably A) on a tight budget and B) doesn't need the system to play extremely demanding games like crysis or run/compile demanding data.

    So what about this for a cheap Intels build that are energy efficient, fast and a similar budget alternative?:

    CPUs:
    E5200 2.5 Ghz wofldale 45nm - $70
    E1400 2.0 Ghz allendale 65nm - $50

    Mobos:
    ASUS P5KPL-CM LGA 775 Intel G31 - $55
    GIGABYTE GA-G31M-ES2L LGA 775 Intel G31 - $53
    GIGABYTE GA-EG41M-S2H LGA 775 Intel G41 - $75
    ASRock P43Twins1600 LGA 775 Intel P43 - $77

    And if you want a GPU that uses passive cooling and little power:
    SAPPHIRE 100252HDMI Radeon HD 4550 512MB 64-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 - $50
    POWERCOLOR AX4650 512MD2-S3 Radeon HD 4650 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 - $70
    SAPPHIRE 100255U Radeon HD 4670 512MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 - $70

    So I was wondering if these would possibly make better comparisons for someone looking in the price range of $60 CPUs?

    However if you guys really just intended this article to be all about CPU efficiency then I understand the choice of more expensive Intel chips, its just that AMD really doesn't have anything yet (like you mentioned) to compare with low energy Intel offerings like the Q9400S at only 65W rating. Hope for AMD is still there as I have heard rumors (can't remember where now) that the newer phenom II's quads are going have 940 similar clocks (around 3.0GHz) but 810 similar power rating (95 instead of 125W) and maybe some 65 watters? Would be cool to hear the low down on this.
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