Overclocking: Dual- vs. Quad-Core CPUs

E6750 Or Q6600 - Which Is The Better Choice?

In overclocker circles, the hot topic of the moment is whether or not a quad-core CPU is better than a dual-core. We did many hardware tests to find out. After all, one of the most important questions when you try to put together a powerful new system is which combination of Core 2 processor, motherboard and RAM offers the best value for your money. One of the prerequisites is, naturally, that the system has to offer good overclocking potential in order give you high performance at a low price. That means that you can forget about buying a preconfigured system online or from your local computer around the corner - instead you should have full control over the choice of components.

In this article, we present a complete solution consisting of a processor, a cooler, a motherboard and RAM that may become an item on the wish list of many of our readers. We also guide you through the configuration and show you what settings need to be selected for the system to run both stably and fast.

Thanks to the ongoing bitter price war between AMD and Intel, CPU prices are in a continual free fall. This is especially true for the more brawny CPUs. The competition extends to the retail level as well, with brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers trying to undercut each other on a daily basis. Obviously, the buyer is the clear winner here, who benefits from lower prices practically every day.

With pricing being what it is, that puts a question on the table that would have reduced any PC aficionado to giggles as early as a year ago: Should you get a dual-core processor or go straight for a quad-core solution? Currently, the least expensive quad-core processor is Intel's Q6600 Compare Prices on Core 2 Quad Q6600, while the E6750 offers the best value for money in the dual-core segment. Compare Prices on Core 2 Duo E6750 While the purchase price is important, we should not forget about energy costs. Thus, we also factor these into our tests when considering the most attractive processor.

We overclocked both processors, which are available to us in the current overclocker-friendly G0 stepping, to their limits and compared the results. Without giving away too much, we can tell you at this point that the dual-core CPU reached higher clock speeds. However, the real question is which of the processors is better suited for a certain usage scenario, e.g. gaming, video encoding, office work, 3D rendering, etc.

Of course, the basis for good overclocking results is a solid P35 motherboard and good RAM. Ideally, these should be cheap, compatible, offer good overclocking reserves and perform well. We recommend one motherboard each from the companies MSI and Gigabyte as well as memory made by Geil, which offers superb overclockability.

You may ask "And what about Penryn?" Well, Intel only just released the new processor family based on a 45-nm production process. For now, only the flagship model costing $1,464 is available. Smaller and less-expensive CPUs are still a ways off. According to Intel, it may be March 2008 before we see smaller Penryn-based CPUs hit store shelves. Thus, the Penryn family is not really much of an option for the cost-conscious buyer for the time being.

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Tom's Hardware News Team

Tom's Hardware's dedicated news crew consists of both freelancers and staff with decades of experience reporting on the latest developments in CPUs, GPUs, super computing, Raspberry Pis and more.