Five desktop quad-core solutions compared

It's a twenty-core rumble

AS YOU MAY KNOW, we've already reviewed the top-end desktop quad-core processor rigs from Intel and AMD. We examined the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 upon its debut, and we covered AMD's Quad FX platform even before it hit store shelves. What we found, in a nutshell, is that four processor cores is a wonderful thing to have, but only if you have some heavy multitasking to do or you happen to make extensive use of one of the few applications out there capable of taking full advantage of four cores simultaneously. But things have changed somewhat since our last dance with quad-core systems, and so we're gathered here today to take another look.

Chief among the new developments is the availability of cheaper—err, less expensive—quad-core options like the Core 2 Quad Q6600 and Athlon 64 FX-70. Intel and AMD like to showcase their top performing chips in order to show off what they can do, but top-speed-grade processors are rarely the best values. What's more, we've found that practically any top-speed-grade incarnation of a processor tends to be in a rough spot with respect to heat and power consumption. Lower speed grades promise higher performance per watt.

For instance, the basic power and heat rating, or TDP, of the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 is 130W. Although it's the same technology and runs only 266MHz slower, the Core 2 Quad Q6600's TDP is an Al Gore-approved 105W. Officially, the Athlon 64 FX-70's thermal power rating is the same considerable 125W per chip (in a two-chip solution) as its bigger brother, the FX-74, but we had a hunch the 2.6GHz FX-70 wouldn't be the same class of double-barreled blowtorch as the 3GHz FX-74. There is, of course, one way to find out: test 'em. And so that's what we've done.

We've also recently made the transition to Windows Vista for our test platforms, a move that promises to take better advantage of these quad-core system architectures in various ways. Join us as we fire up our widely multithreaded suite of test applications, many of them 64-bit executables, to see which quad-core solution offers the best mix of price, performance, and energy efficiency.

Tip: You can use the A/Z keys to walk threads.
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