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7/13/2006
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Review: Intel's Conroe Vs. AMD's Dual-Core Athlon

In a head-to-head comparison, the CRN Test Center pits Intel's soon-to-be-released Conroe, the Core 2 Extreme processor, against AMD's top-of-the-line Athlon FX62 dual-core processor. See which one comes out on top.

The sleeping giant of Intel has now arisen.

After years, the chip giant is set to reclaim the desktop performance crown from crosstown rival Advanced Micro Devices with the launch of Conroe, its much-anticipated next-generation processor.

In a head-to-head comparison, the CRN Test Center put Intel's soon-to-be-released Core 2 Extreme Processor and AMD's top-of-the-line Athlon FX62 Dual Core processor through the paces. Initial test results show that Intel's latest processor lives up to the hype and outpaces AMD's best by almost 28 percent.

Intel's advances on AMD's territory doesn't end with just performance, but also includes lower power requirements and reduced costs, a combination that could prove fatal to AMD's growth in the desktop processor market. What's more, AMD is several months away from anything new in the desktop processor market, leaving the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company's current Athlon product line very vulnerable to the mammoth marketing machine of Intel, Santa Clara, Calif.

There are three critical technical elements that a chip manufacturer needs to succeed in today's competitive environment: performance, power consumption and price, all of which can be readily measured. Beyond the technical end of the spectrum are other elements, including product availability, vendor support and marketing acumen. Test Center engineers set out to look at all of those elements to determine how Conroe will impact the channel and help to generate system sales and upgrades. On the technical front, two test systems were assembled to compare Conroe to Athlon on as level of a playing field as possible.

For the Intel test system, the Test Center selected a Core 2 Extreme Processor X6800 ($999 MSRP) along with an Intel Desktop Board, the D975XBX ($230 street), which is built around the 975X express chipset. For the AMD test system, the Test Center chose an Athlon FX62 Dual Core processor ($1,031 street) and an Asus M2N32SLI-DLX motherboard ($240 street), which is based on the Nvidia nForce 590 SLI chipset. Each system was fitted with an appropriate CPU cooler from Spire.

The rest of the components used in this comparison were selected to keep things as equal as possible. The same Antec 550-watt Neo HE power supply was used on both test boards as was the same pair of Corsiar CM2X512-8500 RAM modules and EVGA GeoForce 7800GT PCI-X video cards. Both systems were equipped with a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 750-Gbyte Serial ATA hard drive. Windows XP Service Pack 2 was installed on both test systems, and the latest drivers were downloaded from the company's respective Web sites.

Test Center engineers wanted to pursue a course where channel players could easily replicate these tests. With that in mind, Test Center engineers selected Performance Test 6.0 and BurnInTest 5.1 from Passmark Software (www.passmark.com), both of which can be downloaded as trial versions from the company. For power consumption tests, a Kill A Watt power monitor from P3 International was used.


NEXT: Performance and Power Scores

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