||Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 Review
February 05, 2007 Brandon Sandman Bell
Summary: Overclockers on a budget rejoice, your CPU is here! With its sub-$200 price tag and 9.0x multiplier, we were just a few MHz shy of hitting a 1.6GHz FSB. See how the overclocked Core 2 Duo E4300 performs in comparison to the Core 2 Extreme and 8 other CPUs in this review!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 13 )|
In order for Intel to get some of that share back, theyíve got to enhance the lower end of their CPU lineup. As everyone knows, the volume is in the value and lower-end mainstream segments, these are the sub-$200 CPUs Intelís Core 2 line largely doesnít cover: up to now, Intel only had one Core 2 CPU in this segment, the E6300. The rest of Intelís sub-$200 CPU lineup is dominated by the Pentium family, many of which ship with large 4MB L2 caches, making these CPUs costly to manufacture.
Intel realizes this though, and thatís why for 2007 much of Intelís focus is going to be on finally phasing out the Netburst architecture used in the Pentium 4/D and Celeron.
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This year will mark the transition point where Intel ships more Core 2 than Pentium CPUs. In order to accomplish this goal however, Intelís got to make Core 2 cheaper to produce, and ultimately release even cheaper, less expensive Core 2 variants for the low-end mainstream and value markets that the Pentium and Celeron lines currently compete in.
How does Intel plan to make this happen? By subtracting features.
That means less L2 cache (after all, over half of Conroeís die consists of L2 cache), and other performance-enhancing features that take up valuable transistors such as virtualization.
The first CPU that is built with this in mind is Intelís Core 2 Duo E4300, which is built around Intelís ďAllendaleĒ core. Allendale has half the cache as Conroe, 2MB versus 4MB, but thatís not the only feature that separates Allendale from Conroe. Letís take a closer look at the Core 2 Duo E4300Ö
| Architecture/Overclocking||Page:: ( 2 / 13 )|
The E4000 line
As we mentioned earlier, Intelís new E4000 line of processors, including the E4300, are based on their new ďAllendaleĒ core. Allendale is based largely on Conroe, only a few changes have been made to the processing core to make it cheaper for Intel to produce.
The most important change that has been made to make the CPU cheaper to manufacture is that Allendale ships with less cache. It has been estimated that around 60% of Conroeís die consists of its large 4MB L2 cache, so with Allendale sporting half the L2 cache of Conroe, its die is considerably smaller. Another feature thatís been removed from the Core 2 Duo E4300 is virtualization. With virtualization, multiple operating systems can be run ďvirtuallyĒ from a single machine. This technology is particularly important in the server space, where one machine could host Windows, Linux, and Novell to run as a web server, database server, domain controller, etc all from one box, all running on different operating systems. Each virtual server would be completely independent and secured from the others. Virtualization is seldom used in the desktop market, so losing this feature honestly isnít a big deal to most enthusiasts.
Fortunately the E4300 still supports 64-bit and execute disable bit, as well as Intelís Enhanced SpeedStep technology.
Another important change is that Allendale sits on an 800MHz front-side bus (200MHz quad-pumped). In comparison, Conroe boasts a 1066MHz FSB. This change reduces peak system bandwidth from 8.5GB/sec in Conroe to 6.4GB/sec in Allendale, but as weíll show you shortly, once overclocked Allendale is capable of hitting FSB speeds well beyond 1066MHz.
With its 200MHz FSB and 9.0x multiplier, Intelís Core 2 Duo E4300 runs at 1.8GHz (9.0x200). Itís because of this 9.0 multiplier that the E4300 has been highly anticipated among enthusiasts and overclockers, as you wonít have to hit as high FSB speed to get a high CPU overclock. To hit the 3.0GHz mark for instance, the E4300 needs an FSB speed of just 333.5MHz. In comparison, Intelís previous budget Core 2 CPU, the E6300, requires an FSB speed of 429MHz. As you can imagine, itís a lot easier finding a motherboard that will hit 333MHz FSB than one that can go to 429MHz with complete stability. Another bonus of this lower multiplier is that you can OC the CPU to very far levels without having to resort to using pricey memory: good Ďol DDR2-800 should do just fine.
So how far were we able to push our Core 2 Duo E4300 chip? We started by seeing how far we could push the CPUís clock speed without adjusting voltage. Armed with our P5B Deluxe WiFi-AP motherboard and a Scythe Ninja Plus Revision B cooler, we were able to hit speeds of 3.069GHz (341MHz FSB) on stock voltage. Thatís an effective speed of 1364MHz!
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Once we cranked up the voltage, we were able to hit speeds of 3.582GHz (9.0x398MHz FSB) with our E4300. Thatís an FSB speed of 398MHz Ė just two MHz shy of 400MHz! We needed a voltage of 1.525V to hit that speed with complete stability however.
We could actually boot into Windows at lower voltages, but the system would reboot itself during testing. 1.525V is a little higher than ideal, but our temps were still at acceptable levels so we felt the risk was worth it. We couldnít get any higher FSB speeds to load without seeing a BSOD.
| System Setup||Page:: ( 3 / 13 )|
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+ (2.4GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ (2.2GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ (2.1GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (2.0GHz)
Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 (2.93GHz)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4GHz)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz)
Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 (1.8GHz)
ASUS P5B Deluxe Wi-Fi AP
ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe
2GB Corsair TWIN2X2048-6400C3
EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX w/ForceWare 97.92
Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2
LAME MT MP3 Encoding (MS Compiler)
Windows Media Encoder 9
Pacific Fighters 4.04
Quake 4 1.2
Company of Heroes 1.3
| Media encoding and rendering||Page:: ( 4 / 13 )|
Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9
LAME MT MP3 Encoding
| 3DMark 06||Page:: ( 5 / 13 )|
| F.E.A.R.||Page:: ( 6 / 13 )|
| Quake 4||Page:: ( 7 / 13 )|
| Company of Heroes||Page:: ( 8 / 13 )|
Company of Heroes
| HL2 Lost Coast HDR||Page:: ( 9 / 13 )|
Half-Life 2 Lost Coast Ė Direct3D
| Pacific Fighters||Page:: ( 10 / 13 )|
| Oblivion||Page:: ( 11 / 13 )|
| Ballistics Report||Page:: ( 12 / 13 )|
Performance: Intelís Core 2 processor core incorporates many architectural enhancements that are designed to improve the CPUís performance. For starters, Intelís knocked the number of pipeline stages down from 31 stages in Pentium D, to just 14 stages in Core 2. This allows Core 2 to deliver more instructions per clock cycle. In essence Core 2 gives up some clock speed, but it can perform more work per clock. Core 2 can also complete up to four instructions versus three in previous processors and features more accurate branch prediction.
Core 2 can also execute 128Ėbit SSE, SSE2 and SSE3 instructions within one clock cycle.
While it may not share all the performance-enhancing features of more expensive Core 2 Duo processors such as the larger L2 cache and higher clock speeds, Intelís Core 2 Duo E4300 still put up very good performance numbers. Overall the E4300 outperformed AMDís Athlon 64 X2 4200+ in our performance testing, which is more expensive and runs at a higher clock speed. In fact, in some cases it was even faster than the X2 4600+!
With such unassuming vital statistics, itís surprising to see just how well the Core 2 Duo E4300 performs. But things get even better once you start overclockingÖ
Highly overclockable: Normally we donít like to comment on the overclock ability of specific parts, as you guys get upset when you donít hit the same OC speeds as we do, but in this case weíve got to make an exception. Since day one, Intelís Core 2 Duo processors have been marvelous overclockers. 500MHz+ overclocks arenít only common, theyíre usually the starting point for most enthusiasts.
Fortunately, Allendale continues this tradition, and with its 9.0x multiplier, the Core 2 Duo E4300 is truly built for overclocking. This is the CPU to get if youíre on a budget.
Price: Officially the Core 2 Duo E4300 carries a list price of $163. Keep in mind that this is the price Intel charges its distributors when CPUs are purchased in quantities of 1,000 and not the street price. This is $20 less than Intelís previous budget champ, the Core 2 Duo E6300, and $61 less than the Core 2 Duo E6400.
The future: Intelís got quite a bit planned for the near future. Next quarter itís expected that Intel will introduce two new CPUs, the E6320 and E6420, both of which are based on todayís E6300 and E6400, only theyíve been outfitted with 4MB of L2 cache. In Q2í07 the E4300 will also be getting a bigger brother, the E4400, which will run at 2.0GHz.
Itís also expected that Intel will be slashing their CPU prices next quarter. Be sure to check out the link above to see the new rumored prices.
Later this year weíll also see the debut of Intelís Bearlake family of chipsets. Bearlake is expected to support 1333MHz FSB operation, as well as PCI Express 2.0 and DDR3 memory.
| Final Verdict||Page:: ( 13 / 13 )|
On paper its specs are rather unassuming, the chip ships with just 2MB of L2 cache and runs at 1.8GHz on an 800MHz FSB Ė definitely nothing state-of-the-art by todayís standards Ė but as you saw in our benchmarks, when overclocked the Core 2 Duo E4300 becomes quite a performer, outrunning even Intelís Core 2 Extreme X6800 in our tests. Itís here where the CPU really shines.
The key to the E4300ís overclocking potential is its 9.0x multiplier. As we stated earlier, 9.0x is high enough that you can hit high CPU clock speeds without having to overdo it on the FSB. This was the only real downside to Intelís previous value offering, the Core 2 Duo E6300; the E6400 actually had better OCíing potential thanks to its 8.0 multiplier, but it sells for well over $200.
The E4300 on the other hand has the higher multiplier, but more importantly, carries a much lower price tag. Intel lists it for $20 less than the Core 2 Duo E6300. The E4300 lacks support for virtualization, but as we explained earlier this feature is more important in the server realm than on the desktop; most users will hardly notice itís missing. Youíd be hard-pressed not to notice the performance put up by our Core 2 Duo E4300 though, especially when overclocked.
Even if you exclude overclocking, thereís a lot to like about the Core 2 Duo E4300. It outruns its nearest competitor in price, AMDís Athlon 64 X2 4000+, all while running quite efficiently. The chip is only outfitted with 2MB L2 cache and this does hurt performance somewhat, but keep in mind that at the resolutions youíre most likely to game at, 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with AA/AF turned on, the smaller cache really doesnít have an impact, instead the GPU is much more important. And with the money you saved by going with a Core 2 Duo E4300, you can perhaps upgrade from the GeForce 7900 GS or Radeon X1650 XT youíd intended on purchasing up to a GeForce 7950 GT or Radeon X1950 Pro. This should make the CPU exciting if youíre a gamer who loves eye candy.
Intelís push to replace their Netburst processors with Core 2 is a significant coup for gamers and hardware enthusiasts on a budget looking to upgrade. As the Core 2 Duo E4300 has just demonstrated, you can wring a lot of performance out of the CPU without shelling out a lot of money. The real beauty of it though is that as good as things are now, theyíre about to get even better, with Q2í07 seeing the introduction of another Core 2 E4000 CPU, the E4400, as well as the E6420 and 6320. Not to mention the upcoming price cuts.
With all this in mind, upgrading to Core 2 has never been more affordable.