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Conclusion: Wolfdale Rocks, Yet It Is A Transitional Product

Wolfdale Shrinks Transistors, Grows Core 2
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So, where does Intel stand following its 45 nm Core 2 Wolfdale launch? Compared to the 65 nm Core 2 Conroe core, the device offers slightly more performance in most of our benchmarks. For some of the benchmarks, its performance merely matched that of the 65 nm Core 2 Conroe core. Needless to say, it also beats all of AMD's Athlon 64 X2 or Athlon X2 dual-core offerings. It also beats AMD's Phenom quad-core processors for applications that haven't been optimized for multi-core processors. This applies to our gaming benchmarks and lots of the audio/video transcoding tests. However, all dual cores lose against the Phenom and the Core 2 Quad under certain conditions, meaning thread-optimized applications. 3DSMax, Cinema4D, the Mainconcept H.262 encoder and Adobe Premiere are excellent examples.

Wolfdale runs considerably cooler; it fits into all the current motherboards that are based on a recent chipset, and the processors aren't even much more expensive than their E6000 65 nm predecessors. If you are about to purchase a new computer soon, Core 2 Duo based on the Wolfdale core is clearly what you want, as it offers excellent dual-core performance combined with low power requirements. I recommend going for the 3.0 GHz clock speed, as the performance difference compared to a 3.16 GHz device, which also requires an odd multiplier, is negligible. Core 2 Duo isn't only the fastest dual core, but it has just become the most reasonable one as well, as all Wolfdale/Penryn enabled motherboards are ready to accept a quad core processor should you decide to upgrade. If you can wait a few more months, the X48 and P45 chipsets will be available and will make the new Core 2 an even better choice, as the Front Side Bus will be accelerated to 400 MHz (FSB1600 quad pumped). However, any noticeable performance differences between a Core 2 Conroe and Wolfdale are too small to justify purchasing a new processor.

Still, I haven't answered the question as to where Intel stands today as a company. Looking at the competition in Austin, Texas, there was no real necessity to launch the 45 nm parts right away. At this time, Intel leads and AMD follows. Part 2 of this article will show how Core 2 Wolfdale isn't only good at stock speeds, but it is an excellent overclocker as well. Knowing this, and looking at the Penryn models that have already been available (mainly high-end server parts and the quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX9650) Compare Prices on Core 2 Extreme QX9650, it's more than an assumption if we say that Intel could accelerate its entire portfolio by at least 300 MHz if it were necessary. The firm is following its tick-tock strategy, where tick resembles a die shrink - as we're seeing now - and tock introduces the next processor generation, which will be Nehalem in the third quarter of this year. But Intel might not want Penryn to become too good, as this could even reduce the impact of Nehalem. We expect to see the first hard facts about Nehalem at the spring IDF in Shanghai.

Part 2 of this article will deal with Wolfdale's overclocking capabilities as well as an in-depth analysis of its power requirements.

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