CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
With the same 2.40 GHz clock as the chip in our previous mid-price build, Intel's Core 2 Quad Q6600 contains two of the E6600 dual-core dice used last time, for a total of four cores. Each has 4 MB of cache for a total of 8 MB.
Two major improvements that have put the Core 2 Quad Q6600 at the top of many enthusiasts' lists are price drops and better core versions. While the price drops have had the obvious intended effects, many Q6600 buyers have been ecstatic to find their recent purchases contained Intel's latest G0 stepping revision. This is the same stepping that has put the later-model QX6850 and E6750 in the spotlight for both overclocking potential and heat reduction.
An unfortunate risk with most sellers is that current supplies of Q6600s are a mix of older and newer cores, so that most buyers don't know what they're getting. Tom's Hardware deals with a small number of venders, none of which would guarantee which stepping we'd receive. In fact, Intel couldn't even promise that any samples they could deliver would be a current stepping.
Retail samples provide the best representation of what readers can expect from their builds, so we took the risk of buying from a favored vender - and received an older part anyway. Though this won't have any noticeable effect on today's benchmarks, the older core will play a significant role in our later overclocking tests.
We'd have liked to take our $280 purchase further with a later stepping core, but it simply didn't work out for us. Fortunately, a few other sellers are currently separating the older and newer cores, and adding as little as $15 to the price for assurance that the newest core will be shipped.