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Core 2 Quad or Core 2 Extreme?

Author:  Jason Dumbaugh
Date:  2008.03.25
Topic:  Hardware
Provider:  Intel
Manufacturer:  Intel

Core 2 Quad or Core 2 Extreme?

Intel Intel

Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme

With the ongoing war in the world of processors, there are two at the top of the Intel army, the Core 2 Quad and the Core 2 Extreme. Which one to choose seems difficult to most, so we will analyze these heavy-hitting soldiers and see which one is right for you. We'll start with the basics, what's the deal with a processor, anyway?


What's in a name?

  • To Cache or not to Cache?

Cache seems to rise every time a processor line comes out, but just how important is it? Well the Core 2 Extreme's are available with up to 12MB cache, but so are the quads. Cache is defined as "A hiding place used especially for storing provisions," but the computer definition is "A fast storage buffer in the central processing unit of a computer. Also called cache memory" (courtesy of What does this mean to us? If cache did not exist, the processor would have to send data back and forth between the RAM. This would be a time consuming matter, and would lag down your speeds. With CPU cache, this memory is located directly on the chip, which saves lots of time and speed by avoiding the RAM. Bottom line, the more cache, the more room for your processor to stretch, and the less of a chance it will use the RAM for memory.


  • What the FSB?

Ah the FSB, or Front Side Bus as it's spelled out. The FSB is a HUGE contributor to all parts of your system. Today we're dealing specifically with the CPU's FSB though. Intel defines the FSB as "The speed of the bus that connects the processor to main memory (RAM). As processors have become faster and faster, the system bus has become one of the chief bottlenecks in modern PCs. Typical bus speeds are 400 MHz, 533 MHz, 667 MHz, and 800 MHz." With this being said, this is what becomes important if your CPU doesn't have a lot of cache, as mentioned above. This is also the electronic freeway that shoots zeroes and ones around to make your system do its thing. This FSB is then divided by four to give us our clock speed. For example, if your processor has a FSB of 1066MHz, your clock pulse is 266.5MHz. This will become important later.


  • Check out its Architecture:

Architecture refers to "The size and spacing of the processor's transistors (silicon etchings), which partially determine the switching speed. The diameter of transistors is measured in microns. One micron is one-millionth of a meter. The 90 nm (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) process combines higher-performance, lower-power transistors, strained silicon, high-speed copper interconnects and a new low-k dielectric material," says Intel. The lower the number, the better performance you will get. Older processors used 130nm technology, but we've gradually worked down to 90nm, 65nm, and now 45nm technology. Take note that the smaller the architecture, the closer the transistors are together, which means more heat for the area allotted. Bottom line, a lower architecture number allows for higher performance and lower power consumption at the cost of higher temperatures.


  • Multipliers:

Multipliers are used to set the speed of the processor. It is usually a number in increments of 0.5. Most processors have available multipliers of 6.0, 7.0, etc. These can be set in the BIOS. Different processors have different available multipliers, and "unlocked" processors have every available multiplier for that generation available. We will go into further explanation of these below.


  • Clock Speed:

A CPU's clock speed is the fancy number you look for whenever you're computer shopping. Usually in GHz (unless you're still forming wheels out of stone), the clock speed consists of that clock pulse (mentioned above in the FSB section) times a CPU multiplier (also mentioned above). For instance, your CPU has a FSB of 1066MHz. 1066 / 4 = 266.5MHz, our clock speed. This 266.5MHz clock speed is multiplied by the multiplier to achieve our clock speed. If we have a 266.5MHz processor with a multiplier of 7, 266.5 * 7 gives us an 1865MHz processor, or 1.86GHz.


Now that we've discussed the basics of processors, let's examine Intel's quad core series and figure out what the difference is between the Core 2 Quad and the Core 2 Extreme.

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