Comparison Intel Centrino 2 CPUs

And the story continues…

Hardly half a year after the Penryn update of notebook processors, Intel launched a number of new CPUs at the same time than its new platform, the Centrino 2 platform, code-named Montevina. So, now there are further powerful Intel processors for notebook available, whereas the clock rates of these new processors range from 2.26 to 2.8 GHz. Furthermore, there is also an Extreme edition with 3.06 GHz available. We checked the price-performance ratio of these new processors.

Comparison Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs 'Penryn Refresh'

Introduction

In the first 'Penryn' update of the Intel CPU series for notebooks the most important thing was that the lithography is now 45 nm. So, a wafer of the same size can now house significantly more transistors (up to 40% more). Furthermore, these processors were equipped with a clearly bigger level 2 cache (L2), which also improved the performance of the CPUs, because it can cache more data in order to quickly provide the CPU with it for further processing. In the performed tests especially the processors with 6MB L2-cache performed clearly better. The comprehensive review of the first Intel Penryn CPU series is available here.

Regarding the current Montevina update you have to distinguish between the new functions of the chip set and changes of the processor itself. E.g., the current 'Mobile Intel 4 series Express chipset' includes a number of new features, e.g., support for dual channel DDR3 memory and the possibility to switch between integrated video chip and a dedicated graphics card.
The platform also includes new chips for WLAN and LAN, in detail, the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5000 module, and the Intel 82567 Gigabit network.

  Mobile Intel 4 Series Express Chipset Mobile Intel 965 Express Chipset
Frontside Bus 1066 MHz 800 MHz
DDR3 Memory 1066 and 800 MHz Not supported
DDR2 Memory 667 and 800 MHz 533 and 667 MHz
Max. Shader clock chipset GFX 640MHz 500 MHz
HDCP Support Yes No
Intgrated TPM Yes No
Montevina and Santa Rosa Chip Set in Comparison

At least formally the new processors of the Penryn refresh differ only slightly from the first generation of mobile Penryn processors. E.g., the lithography is still 45 nm. As already mentioned the 45 nm technology allows to place more transistors on the same sized area, and, so, it enhances the possibilities of the chip architecture.
Intel made the front side bus (FSB), which is now clocked by 1066 MHz, faster. This allows a faster communication with the RAM and the Northbridge (expansion cards and peripherals). A further innovation is the new 'P' class with 25 Watt TDP (thermal design power).

For the present the current Intel series includes a total of six chips called P8400 to P9500 respectively T9400 and T9600. But, the absolute highlight is that Intel launched the first mobile Core 2 Extreme CPU, the X9100, with 3.06 GHz. Following  list is an overview over the reviewed processors:

Name Clock Rate L2-Cache TDP Price
X9100 3.06 GHz 6MB 44 Watt $ 851.-
T9600 2.80 GHz 6MB 35 Watt $ 530.-
T9400 2.53 GHz 6MB 35 Watt $ 316.-
P9500 2.53 GHz 6MB 25 Watt $ 348.-
P8600 2.40 GHz 3MB 25 Watt $ 241.-
P8400 2.26 GHz 3MB 25 Watt $ 209.-
Penryn Refresh CPU Series

On basis of the nomenclature it gets obvious that Intel distinguishes Txxxx and Pxxx models. According to their TDP (thermal design power), which represents the maximum amount of power the cooling system in a computer is required to dissipate, the chips are categorized. The P models are especially appropriate for compact notebooks, e.g., subnotebooks, or especially slim notebooks with limited cooling capacities.
The L2 cache capacity determines whether there is an '8' or a '9' at the beginning of the model number. Chips with 6 MB L2-Cache follow the nomenclature x9xxx and those with 3 MB L2 cache are called x8xxx.

The P9500 and the T9400 CPU are thereby especially noticeable, because they do not differ at all except of their TDP. It can be assumed that they are generally the same, but  because of production tolerances they have either a 25 Watt TDP or higher. So, the TDP of 35W of the T9400 CPU is actually the 'worst-case' for this chip.

The test system was provided by the company Schenker Notebook and was a powerful 17" inch gaming notebook, the mySN M570TU with Geforce 8800M GTX graphics card. The following test was performed with constant hardware and software configuration. Thereby following processors were tested:

P8400 / 2.26 GHz
P8400 / 2.26 GHz
P8600 / 2.40 GHz
P8600 / 2.40 GHz
T9400 / 2.53 GHz
T9400 / 2.53 GHz
P9500 / 2.53 GHz
P9500 / 2.53 GHz
T9600 / 2.80 GHz
T9600 / 2.80 GHz
X9100 / 3.06 GHz
X9100 / 3.06 GHz
Intel Core 2 Duo Prozessoren under Review

Application Performance

First the application performance was tested by Maxon's Cinebench Release 10. We checked the performance of rendering and of OpenGL shading. In the rendering test especially the Core 2 Extreme X9100 CPU had an amazing performance. It achieved 4326 points in the single CPU rendering test and brilliant 8382 points in the multi-CPU rendering test.
It's especially remarkable, that the T9400 CPU is slightly better than the P9500 CPU in the multi GPU test, while it's vice versa in the single CPU rendering test.
This phenomenon is even more obvious in the OpenGL shading test, where the T9400 CPU is clearly better than the P9500 CPU.

Cinebench R10 Single CPU Render
Cinebench R10 Multi CPU Render
Cinebench R10 OpenGL Shading
Cinebench R10 Benchmark

The results of the SiSoftware Sandra CPU arithmetic benchmark, Dhrystone (integer operations) and Whetstone (floating point operations) are very similar. The T9400 and the P9500 CPU achieve nearly identical results.

SiSoftware Sandra CPU Arithmetic
SiSoftware Sandra CPU Arithmetic

Basically this statement is also true for test in the SuperPi performance test, but  they are reversely visualized. Depending on the settings, the one, two, or even 32 million decimal places of the number Pi are calculted and the time needed is logged. However, these test only use one thread, i.e., only one CPU core is used.
While the calculation of one or two million decimal places is very fast with all of the chips, there is a clear difference in the last task, the calculation of as much as 32 million decimal places. The Core 2 Extreme CPU completes this task in 906 seconds or nearly 15 minutes, while the 8400 already needs more than 20 minutes.

SuperPI Benchmarktest
SuperPI Benchmark

This is the first time that we included the most recent benchmark of the PC and 3D Mark series by Futuremark, the PCMark Vantage in our review. Similar to the frequently used PCMark 2005 this benchmark tests a number of system applications, whereas the new edition also includes multi-thread tests, HD motion pictures, musics, and communication features, but also gaming performance.

Although the results follow the previous trend, the differences between the processors is clearly smaller than in the previously performed benchmarks. This is because of the impact of the unchanged components, like hard disk, RAM, and communication modules, but, also because the graphics card is more important in graphically demanding test like the gaming test suite.

PCMark Vantage Benchmark
PCMark Vantage Benchmark

The single tests also explain the total result. While the CPU performance has hardly any impact on the HDD test, the more powerful processors by Intel are slightly advantageous in the music suite and the gaming suite.

Memories Suite
TV and Movie Suite
Gaming Suite
Music Suite
Communications Suite
Productivity Suite
HDD Test Suite
PCMark Vantage Individual Results

Gaming Performance

There is no doubt that the used graphics adapter is very important for a good gaming performance. If the video performance is only moderate, even the most powerful CPU can't change this.

Except of motion pictures and optical effects there is also a lot to do for high-performance processors. Lots of units have to be coordinated and the demand of gamers on AI (artificial intelligence) constantly increases. Depending on the type of the game, the CPU performance gets more or less obvious. While the graphics card is the most important aspect for fast ego shooters, the CPU is very important for real-time strategy games, where a huge number of units are controlled in gigantic gaming worlds.

We selected Crysis by Electronic Arts as representative of graphically demanding ego shooter games. The mySN M570TU achieves with all reviewed Intel processors a respectable performance of 32-37 frames per second on high details and with a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. Although it is likely that the performance will drop later in the game when complex reflexions increase the graphical workload, this game is absolutely playable. To summarize, the Geforce 8800M GTX by nVIDIA ensures an excellent performance.

Performance Crysis GPU/CPU Benchmark
Performance Crysis GPU/CPU Benchmark

We decided to select Supreme Commander - Forged Alliance as a representative for current real-time strategy games, because this games is due to a possibly high number of units known to be very CPU demanding.
The performance test integrated in this game does not only display a total score, but also the average frame rate during a run of a scripted multi-player skirmish. According to the results the performance slightly decreases down to the T9400 CPU, and stays at a constant level with the P8400 and the P8600 CPU. Although the observable difference in terms of frame rate, which is about 31 to 33 fps is rather small with a resolution of 1280x800 pixels and on high graphical detail level, according to experience a powerful CPU is especially advantageous if you play with unlimited units and your enemy attacks with a huge number of low-tech bots. In the performance test comparably less units are used.

Supreme Commander Performance Test
Supreme Commander Performance Test

Power Consumption

The processors essentially differ in their power consumption, which is especially easily observable by means of the logged current consumption of the Cinebench R10 benchmark. In this aspect the top model is as expected the system with Core 2 Extreme CPU with 3.06 GHz. With this CPU our test sample, the mySN M570TU reached a wattage of 72-77 W in the single CPU rendering test and of 86-89 in the multi GPU test.
The values of the T9600 CPU are already clearly lower than these, namely 62-70 W for the single core task respectively 70-72 W for both cores.

Furthermore, the advantage of the P9500 CPU compared to the T9400 CPU regarding energy demand gets clearly obvious. The test system equipped with P9500 needs in average about 5 Watts less than the same system with T9400 CPU. The two entry-level models, the P8400 and the P8600 even need slightly less energy than the P9500 processor.

min. - max. Power Consumption Cinebench R10 Render Test
Power Consumption Cinebench R10 Render Test

Verdict

It is not surprising that the new processors do not extraordinarily improve the performance, because the technical changes and innovations are compared to the former Penryn CPU series rather small. The whole system profits from the higher clock rate of the front side bus, which is now 1066 MHz, because it is now possible to use faster memory modules.

The processors can at best be called a little bit tuned, because a number of new functions improve the efficiency of the chip. The Core 2 Extreme X9100 CPU is the new top model and achieves top values in nearly  all benchmarks.

However, much notebook buyers might be especially interested in the price-performance ratio of the new chips. We tried to analyse and visualize these in the following chart.

Total Rating Price/Performance
Total Rating Price/Performance

E.g., the X9100 CPU has the best performance in all considered tests, but its high price of 851 dollars, shrinks the price-performance ratio very much. The P8400 and the P8600 are much better in this aspect, because they are available for a little more than $200 and still have a respectable performance. It is likely that they will be utilized in many compact notebooks in order to keep the price of such notebooks low.

More demanding notebook users might choose one of the two middle-class chips, the T9400 or the P9500, which still have a good performance at an interesting price. You need to spend a little more for the P9500, which is more energy-efficient, but if you frequently use your notebook on-the-move, this investment might pay within a short time. The T9400 chip could become, alike the T9300 of the former Penryn series, a popular choice for multimedia an gaming notebooks, even if the graphics card is still the most limiting aspect in this fields of operation.

The two most powerful chips, the T9600 and the X9100 CPU will be used in powerful workstations and in high-end gaming notebooks, where performance is considered more important than the price.

 

Many thanks to Schenker-Notebook, who kindly provided us with the reviewed notebook. You can configure and buy the mySN M570TU here.

Under Review: Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs
The reviewed CPUs: Intel Core 2 Duo CPUs "Penryn Refresh"
The 17 inch glare type panel allows a resolution of up to 1920x1200 pixels (WUXGA) and so offers a good overview and a big desktop.
The 17 inch glare type panel allows a resolution of up to 1920x1200 pixels (WUXGA) and so offers a good overview and a big desktop.
The mySN M570TU is based on a barebone by Clevo called M570TU.
The mySN M570TU is based on a barebone by Clevo called M570TU.
The barebone concept of the test sample...
The barebone concept of the test sample...
... allows an easy access to all hardware components including processor and graphics card after one has removed some screws.
... allows an easy access to all hardware components including processor and graphics card after one has removed some screws.
At first you'll recognize the two huge fans, whereby one cools the CPU, the other exclusively the graphics card.
At first you'll recognize the two huge fans, whereby one cools the CPU, the other exclusively the graphics card.
The built-in graphics card is a Geforce 8800M GTX, which is currently still the most powerful mobile video solution available.
The built-in graphics card is a Geforce 8800M GTX, which is currently still the most powerful mobile video solution available.
Furthermore, this system is equipped with a total of 4096MB fast DDR3 RAM modules and, so, one of the new features of the Montevina platform is already utilized.
Furthermore, this system is equipped with a total of 4096MB fast DDR3 RAM modules and, so, one of the new features of the Montevina platform is already utilized.
After some moves and after only four further screws are removed, the CPU cooler can be quickly removed, and the built-in processors can be accessed.
After some moves and after only four further screws are removed, the CPU cooler can be quickly removed, and the built-in processors can be accessed.
Now we are ready to replace the processor and start new tests.
Now we are ready to replace the processor and start new tests.
The base for this CPU test, was a notebook provided by the company Schenker-Notebook, who also provided us with all available CPUs of this series:
The base for this CPU test, was a notebook provided by the company Schenker-Notebook, who also provided us with all available CPUs of this series:
The mySN M570TU is a genuine gaming notebook, which can be equipped with all of the brand-new Intel processors.
The mySN M570TU is a genuine gaming notebook, which can be equipped with all of the brand-new Intel processors.
For the present a Geforce 8800M GTX graphics card by nVIDIA ensures an appropriate video performance.
For the present a Geforce 8800M GTX graphics card by nVIDIA ensures an appropriate video performance.
This will be shortly replaced by the successor chip, the 9800 GTX, which promises a further performance gain.
This will be shortly replaced by the successor chip, the 9800 GTX, which promises a further performance gain.
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Comparison of Intel Centrino 2 CPUs
Author: J. Simon Leitner, 2008-09- 5 (Update: 2012-05-26)