Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 - An Early Performance Preview

Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

A Surprise Addition

Several week ago Intel sent along a little "holiday gift" in the form of a new processor that was going debut in Q1 sometime.  I traditionally love it when a company gives me enough time to properly review a product as Intel has done in the past year or so, and since I was so busy with our AMD HD 3800 series of graphics cards and the new AMD Phenom processor I was REALLY glad to have some time.  But, just a week or so ago, I got an email that Intel was going to let loose a "performance preview" of the processor on November 19th - coincidently the same day as AMD's Phenom processor.  Weird...

Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770

The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is a Yorkfield core processor, the first CPU of which was QX9650 that I reviewed last month, that will be the new flagship part for enthusiasts.  The real key point is that this is a 1600 MHz FSB processor where as Intel just recently pushed the FSB from 1066 MHz to 1333 MHz.  The frequency is set at 3.20 GHz, a 200 MHz bump over the previous flagship CPU from Intel.

You might be wondering when you missed the release of a chipset that supports 1600 MHz front-side bus processors.  You didn't -- neither Intel nor any of their partners have done so for the consumer market yet.  That leads us to question of WTF?

Coming Soon - X48 Chipset

The Intel X48 chipset is a refresh of the X38 chipset aimed at the high end desktop market.  It will be the first chipset to support 1600 MHz FSB parts (though current boards do as well in some cases) and will have unlocked bus ratios for improved overclocking ability. 

So there really isn't much change from the X38 chipset -- and in fact most X38 motherboards aimed at the enthusiast will probably support 1600 MHz FSB processors anyway.  For my testing I used the Asus P5E3 Deluxe motherboard based on the X38 chipset to run the QX9770 and it ran without an issue.  I was even able to run the Corsair XMP DDR3 modules at 1600 MHz without an issue and we saw big memory performance gains because of it.

Processor Identification

For those interested:

Of course CPU-Z didn't recognize the CPU but it was running at all the right frequencies: 3.2 GHz at 400 MHz quad-pumped FSB while the memory runs at DDR3-1600 with some fairly high timings. 

Processor Performance

As you might guess, the QX9770 is a performance beast and takes the crown as the fastest desktop processor we have ever used at PC Perspective.  Rather than sit here and repeat the pages of performance graphs that I published up just last night, I'll point you to my AMD Phenom 9600 and 9900 processor review that includes the QX9770 results in all those tests.

But let's look at a few key test results here:

What is interesting with these graphs is the improvement in the SiSoft Sandra memory performance; whereas the Athlon X2 processors have continually had a HUGE advantage here the new QX9770 with a 1600 MHz FSB and 1600 MHz DDR3 memory is able to break into those same performance levels.  The DVD encode test and the CPU parts of the 3DMark06 benchmark show that the QX9770 is again the best performing part on the market by a significant amount in some cases. 

Again, if you want the full performance evaluation and complete set of benchmarks we use, jump over to this page of our AMD Phenom review to look at all the performance numbers.

Final Thoughts

The timing of the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is somewhat odd -- Intel in no way needed to release a faster part to compete with AMD's Phenom processors -- but we can't really complain about faster CPUs, can we?  The QX9770 isn't due out in the market until Q1 2008, but neither is AMD's Phenom 9900 2.6 GHz part so the performance comparison above are just as fair to Intel as they are AMD.  Pricing should be at the same level Intel Extreme CPUs are released at ($999 or so) when it finally does come out, but we won't have any official word on that until next year. 

The Intel QX9770 does what Intel wanted it do though: it embarrasses AMD by showing how much untapped potential the Core 2 design really has in it and that it will take a series of miracles for AMD to catch up with Intel anytime soon. 

Be sure to use our price checking engine to find the best prices on the latest Intel Core 2 Duo processors, and anything else you may want to buy!


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