Core 2 Duo E8700: 3.5 GHz Equals Zoomy Standard Apps
In a development that could not have been foreseen by Intel during its planning stages, Nehalem / Core i7 was introduced at a time when the global economy seems to be melting down before our very eyes. Computer users everywhere are seriously questioning whether an upgrade should include a new, expensive motherboard and totally different RAM sticks to go with their new processor, or whether they should just simply upgrade their CPU while maintaining their trusty old 775 socket motherboard and DDR 2 RAM.
As you can read in my series of Hubs: Step By Step Guide To Ordering A Dell PC, I have taken the leap into Nehalem territory by ordering (but as of the time of writing not yet receiving) a monster Core i7 920 system with 12 GB of RAM, a VelociRaptor boot drive, 1 TB of RAID 1 mirrored hard drives and lots more goodies.
The reason why I took this step is only because of Photoshop. I use it a lot and some of the files I work with are gargantuan. This system is attuned exactly to the requirements of Photoshop Extended CS4 and nothing else. I can't stress that enough, since the vast majority of my readers won't need anything near this powerful as the functions that they use their computers for are much less demanding. There is no point (other than pathetic showing off on computer forums) to spend the significant amount of cash in a recession for a way over powered computer when you really don't need it, nor use its power in any meaningful way.
Quad cores are the hot set up these days and many enthusiasts are going the Quad way for their new rigs, completely disregarding the very clear fact that the software they use has absolutely no requirement for that many cores and can't even access them!
Unless you are using some form of highly specific application, Photoshop, 3D, Video rendering, etc. (and very few games for that matter), or running several active apps at the same time, cores number 3 and 4 will likely just sit there like bumps on a log, doing nothing other than making your Task Manager look good.
The Q6600 has been the standard of Quad core-dom for a good long while now. Although not the fastest or most advanced Quad, it is by far the most popular, even though its 65 nm manufacturing process has been superceded by the 45 nm process used in the Wolfdale Duals, Yorkfield Quads, and the Nehalem Core i7s.
However, the Q6600 runs at 2.4 GHz. That is a respectable speed, but many people (even ones who actually own Quads) seem to think that gives the Q6600 a total effective speed of 9.6 GHz. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. The Quad will process multithreads as it is instructed by the software. If your software is essentially a single threaded version (as is 99% + of all commercial software on the market today) your Operating System will run on one core, your software application will run on the other and that's the end of that. Yes, all at 2.4 GHz and not one Hertz faster.
For the vast majority of computer users, I would recommend that unless they plan to keep their system for a minimum of three years, that they avoid Quads right now and stick with the superlative Wolfdale Core 2 Duo lineup. And today's news makes my recommendation even that much more relevant.
Reports have just surfaced on the Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E8700 (6 MB Cache, 3.5 GHz, 1333 MHz FSB). This master of all Wolfdales reaches a pure speed level which has been untouched since the late and completely unlamented Pentium Ds. However, with the various advantages of the Wolfdale 45 nm manufacturing process, this new E8700 can be counted to blow away the generally underperforming and overheated Pentium Ds, in every possible respect. And it will do all of this while operating in a Thermal Design Power envelope of just 65 W.
If we compare the E8700 with the fastest current "mainstream" 45 nm Core 2 Quad, the Q9650, we find that each core is 500 MHz faster. In single threaded applications this clearly means that the PC will run them faster by one sixth on the Duo as they would on the Quad!
Hopefully the pricing of the E8700 will be competitive and will provide a blazingly fast CPU to the millions of Socket 775 owners who aren't quite ready to take the Nehalem Core i7 step but want to run their standard apps at light speed.
If it hadn't been for my RAM and Core-Hungry Photoshop, the E8700 would have been my choice to form the base of my new rig. And in the vast majority of cases it should be yours as well!