Intel Core 2 E8600
By: Ed Tittel
The Intel Core 2 Duo processor went into its second generation not too long ago, built around the Wolfdale core in the Penryn family of 45 nm CPUs. Beyond the miniaturization to its manufacturing process, the Penryn family incorporates SSE4 instructions. As with SSE3, and its support for Fast Fourier Transforms (FFTs), compiler and assembler technology needs to be extended to take advantage of these capabilities, and this usually takes a while.
More significant is a new divider technique that doubles divider speed as compared to previous processor families, along with enhanced support for virtualization. The new features that power users are most likely to appreciate have to include a larger L2 cache (6MB of L2 for dual-core Wolfdale CPUs like the E8600), plus support for front-side bus speeds of up to 1333 MHz to accelerate memory access. With a clock speed at 3.3 GHz, the E8600 offers the fastest Core 2 clock that Intel currently sells. The E8600 is also the first Core 2 Duo to incorporate Intel’s new E0 stepping, where prior Wolfdale CPU’s used C0 stepping instead.
Other features of potential interest to system builders include a fixed 10.0 clock multiplier, Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology for improved on-chip power management and cooling, support for the Execute Disable bit (XD), and Intel’s Trusted Execution Technology. Core voltages typically fall in a range between 0.85V and 1.3625V, with a maximum TDP of 65W, making this a relatively low-power and cool-running CPU. The stock cooler that Intel includes with the unit in its retail packaging is best described as "anemic" — or perhaps "acuprous" makes more sense because it is all-aluminum and lacks the traditional copper baseplate normally used to expedite heat transfer.
Overclockers report that this chip has serious legs when it comes to picking up the pace. It’s typical to get to 4.0 GHz without boosting CPU voltage settings, with maximum speeds in excess of 4.5 GHz (close to 30% overclocked) and FSB speeds at over 450 MHz (ditto on the overclock ratio). Voltage levels typically don’t get boosted beyond 1.45V, only 6 percent over the top end of the normal operating range. Thus, power consumption stays relatively low, even on overclocked systems and cooling requirement likewise stay less extreme. Nevertheless, performance from this CPU is solid on a broad range of typical workloads from media encoding to gaming to ordinary desktop apps.
If you or your favorite hardware hacker seeks to boost performance on an LGA775 system, the E8600 makes a good choice. At current street prices over $270, it’s not exactly cheap but it is carefully designed to squeeze more performance out of modern motherboards that can operate at FSB clock rates of 400 to 450 MHz (1,600 to 1,800 MHz at quad memory rates). It’s sure to be a hit with those who have, or plan to obtain, the right gear to take advantage of its capabilities.