Editor's Window31 Aug, 2006 By: Sara Ferris
Dual-Core Dogfight: New, faster processors duke it out in the market.
In late July, Intel launched the second generation of its dual-core processors, called Core 2 Duo. Every new processor claims to be faster, but there's a twist this time—the Core 2 Duo actually reduces its clock speed while improving in overall performance. A higher performance, out-of-order engine allows the chip to get more done per clock cycle. The current top-of-the-line Pentium 4 processor has a clock speed of 3.8GHz. Intel's new Core 2 Duos debut with clock speeds of 1.8, 2.1, 2.4 and 2.7GHz. An enhanced multicore cache system enables both cores to share the 4MB L2 cache instead of assigning 2MB to each core as the Pentium 4 does.
An added bonus is that the Core 2 Duo uses roughly half the power that the Pentium D processor does, which not only decreases electricity consumption but reduces the need for noisy, heavy-duty fans. The Core 2 Duo appears to have surpassed the current crop of AMD processors, though we'll know more next month when we complete a dual-core workstation roundup.
AMD countered with a new version of its Opteron chip that promises to be electrical-, thermal- and socket-compatible with the company's upcoming native Quad Core processors, scheduled for delivery in mid-2007.
This dual-core duel coincides with an ongoing price war between the two chip manufacturers. Intel has cut prices on its dual-core Pentium D chips and its single-core Pentium 4s by almost half. AMD responded with cuts of as much as 30% on its low-end desktop chips. In addition, Intel is pricing its new Core 2 Duo chips competitively with its speediest Pentium 4 processors, eliminating the usual premium for top-of-the-line technology.
Clearly, it's a good time to be shopping for a new workstation. Even if your main CAD application isn't multithreaded (and few are), dual-core processors can provide performance benefits when you multitask or run several applications at once. And if price, not performance, is your primary concern, you should find plenty of bargains available among single-processor workstations.
If you're a fan of CRT monitors, you may also want to add one of those to your shopping list, but for different reasons. As we found when organizing our monitor review this month there aren't many CRT monitors left out there. In fact, no vendor elected to send one for review. Most manufacturers are putting their efforts into LCD display development or have pulled out of the CRT market all together.
The folks at ViewSonic told me that they plan to discontinue their largest CRT model, the G225fB, because they are no longer able to find tubes in that size. They note that starting next year, no monitor makers will offer a 21" CRT (in fact, ViewSonic and Samsung are the only ones now selling a 21" flat-screen CRT monitor). CRTs do offer advantages such as fast response time, vivid color, wide viewing angle and scalable resolution, so those of you who prefer a 21" CRT might want to get one before it's too late.
Sara Ferris Editor-In-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org