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CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550

System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Mid-Range PC

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550

We got a lot of feedback in the forums when we suggested pitting a similarly priced Core 2 Quad against the new i7, so we decided to go ahead and see what we could come up with. We chose the Q9550 for our enthusiast system this month, and for the price, it is one of the better Core 2 Quad choices.

When choosing a Core 2 Quad processor, two of Intel's offerings stand out: the Q9400 and the Q9550.

The Q9400 is about $50 cheaper than the Q9550, it runs at 2.66 GHz, and has a decent reputation for overclocking. We chose the Q9550 instead because, at 2.83 GHz, it has a slight clock speed advantage. But more importantly, it sports 12 MB of L2 cache compared to the Q9400's 6 MB of cache. In fact, the Q9550 even has a 4 MB cache advantage over the Core i7 920's 8MB L3. We're hoping this will make a difference in the benchmarks.

The Q9550 also has a good overclocking reputation. While we will be battling the heat put out by those four cores, we hope we can jack up the MHz enough to take the fight to the overclocked E8500 and i7 920.

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