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.