In the lab: a pair of historical systems to broaden our frame of reference


TR's test labs are awash in the latest and greatest CPUs and graphics cards, but our ability to provide a frame of reference past Sandy Bridge CPUs is a little fuzzy. My P965 Express motherboard fell to a botched firmware update years ago, and I had stretched that Core 2 Duo E6400-powered system out for the better part of seven years before I hopped on board the Haswell train. Plenty of stuff happened in the intervening time, of course, and holdout enthusiasts with chips from the Nehalem era might want to see how their hardware is holding up.

Problem is, chips from that era are cheap, but contemporary motherboards still demand a pretty penny—often hundreds of dollars. It's hard to justify spending real money on those historical platforms out of curiosity alone. TR BBQ host and all-around excellent person drfish and I have been chatting for a while about getting a couple older systems out of his parts pile and into mine, and this week, we finally went through with it.

First up, we have a Core i5-750 sitting pretty on MSI's P55-GD65 motherboard. Lynnfield chips like this one make up the "first-gen Core" family (I think) for mainstream Intel desktop platforms, and the i5-750 quickly established itself as a value favorite of ours. That P55-GD65 board picked up a TR Recommended award way back when. In any case, this CPU fills an architectural hole we've had in our library of testing systems for a while, and I'm glad to know it's riding in on a high-quality motherboard.

Going even further back in time, we have an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 on board an Asus P5N-E SLI. The Q6600 needs no introduction—as one of the world's first attainable single-socket quad-core CPUs, this chip proved a legendary performer and another value favorite for enthusiasts. The P5N-E proved a fine way to get those four cores up and running for not a lot of cash. We don't expect much from this 11-year-old chip, but it should be a useful historical reference for anybody still relying on CPUs of that era for day-to-day use.

Finally, we have a 16-GB kit of G.Skill's Trident X DDR3-2400 memory. As Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, Haswell, and Broadwell chips get up there in years, enthusiasts have stretched their useful lives out a bit by turning to higher-clocked DDR3 than the run-of-the-mill 1600 MT/s stuff we usually recommended in contemporary System Guides. This fast, low-latency memory could help us put our older systems on a more even footing with our DDR4-3200-equipped Intel and AMD test rigs.

That's it for this quick walk down memory lane. Our thanks to drfish for digging these chips and motherboards out of his stash. Don't expect these processors to appear in every review, but we might do some targeted testing soon to see just how some of these wizened systems are holding up for the curious.

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