Intel introduced the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 at $999, which is $200 less than the QX6800, the company's previously fastest desktop processor used primarily in workstations and high-end machines used for PC gaming. In addition, Intel introduced an Extreme brand of processor for notebooks, the X7800 mobile dual core with both cores running at 2.6GHz.
The QX6850, which has a clock speed of 3.0 GHz and a 1333 MHz system bus speed, marks the start of Intel's price cuts in the quad-core desktop line up. The cuts are expected this month, possibly on July 22. Intel also introduced on Monday the quad-core Q6700, which at 2.66 GHz is faster than the Q6600, but has the same price of $530.
Intel unveiled the new products a week after Advanced Micro Devices announced significant price cuts for its highest end desktop processors, the Athlon 64 FX-74 and FX-72. Pricing for both chips, which are dual-core processors, fell to $599 a pair from previous price points of $999 and $799, respectively. AMD declined comment on Intel's most recent price cuts.
AMD plans to ship its first quad-core desktop processors this year, possibly as early as August.
There's no doubt that Intel will be announcing new pricing for its Q6600, QX6700 and QX6800 quad-core chips, which are listed at $530, $999 and $1,199, respectively. "Those are still the prices today, but there will be a price move coming. I just can't say when or how much," Intel spokesman Dan Snyder said. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that with the new prices today, something has to give."
Nevertheless, Intel's latest move isn't expected to have any impact on mainstream desktops, which run primarily on dual-core microprocessors. Even at $999, the Core 2 Extreme QX6850 would add too much additional cost to the price-sensitive mainstream market. "That's still well above the value sweet spot for processors being introduced in desktops today," Gordon Haff, analyst for Illuminata, said.
In addition, with the exception of games, video editing, design, and other niche desktop software, most mainstream applications are not written to take advantage of the available speed of a quad-core processor. "On the desktop, specifically, quad core is really not all that relevant today," Haff said.
Intel, however, is preparing for the future. "The tide is turning," Snyder said. "It's [quad core] not a mainstream product today, but it's going to get there soon."
In the meantime, Intel's dual-core Extreme X7800 processor for notebooks, with 4 Mbytes of L2 cache, is available to manufacturers at a cost of $851. For the desktop, Intel also introduced on Monday the Core 2 Duo 3.0 GHz E6850 for $266, the 2.66 GHz E6750 for $183, and the 2.33 GHz E6550 for $163.
Intel expects computer makers to start shipping products with the new processors within two weeks.