Intel's Core 2 Duo and Extreme processors

Conroe at last

INTEL'S DESKTOP PROCESSORS HAVE NOT been in a good place for the past two and a half years. Pentium 4 and Pentium D CPUs have run at relatively high clock speeds but delivered relatively low performance compared to their competition from AMD. They've also drawn a tremendous amount of power, which they've generously expended as heat. In other words, they've been hotter than Jessica Simpson and slower than, well, Jessica Simpson. Despite heroic efforts by Intel's engineering and manufacturing types, these chips based on the Netburst microarchitecture haven't been able to overcome their inherent limitations well enough to keep up with the Athlon 64. As a result, Intel decided to scrap Netburst and bet the farm on a new high-performance, low-power design from the Israel-based design team responsible for the Pentium M.

The product of that team's efforts is a new CPU microarchitecture known as Core, of which the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme are among the first implementations intended for desktop PCs. We've been knee-deep in hype about the Core architecture for months now, with a stream of juicy technical details, semi-official benchmark previews, and clandestine reviews of pre-release products feeding the anticipation. Clearly, when a player as big as Intel stumbles as badly as it has, PC enthusiasts and most others in the industry are keen to see it get back up and start delivering exciting products once again.

Fortunately, the wait for Core 2 processors is almost over. Intel has decided to take the wraps off final reviews of its new CPUs today, in anticipation of the chips' release to the public in a couple of weeks. Fish have gotta swim, politicians have gotta dissemble, and TR has gotta test hardware, so of course we've had the Core 2 processors on the test bench here in Damage Labs for a thorough workout against AMD's finest—including the new Energy Efficient versions of the Athlon 64 X2. After many hours of testing, we're pleased to report that the Core 2 chips live up to the hype. Intel has recovered its stride, returned to its winning ways, gotten its groove back, and put the izzle back in its shizzle. Read on for our full review.

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