Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 Review

ccokeman - 2007-08-03 04:23:56 in CPU's
Category: CPU's
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: September 3, 2008
Price: $169.99

Introduction:

The Intel Core 2 Duo and Quad CPUs have been wildly successful in terms of both performance and the ability to overclock like nobody's business. Of course, some better than others. Having dropped from a 65nm to a 45nm manufacturing process earlier this year, Intel has reduced both the required voltage and associated heat generated by this little bit of silicon. Having seen the performance and overclocking abilities of the E8500 and many of its Quad cored brothers, the Q9300, the Q9450 and the QX9770, just how will this higher clocked dual core perform in relation to the quads? The E8400 specs out at a clock speed of 3.0GHz, a front side bus speed of 1333MHz (333), 6MB of L2 cache, and a 45nm process to be used in socket LGA775 motherboards.

The question is asked many times a day, "what's better, a Dual core or a Quad core?" In reality, it all depends on what you do with the computer you build. Some say the duals are better for gaming, others vehemently disagree and spout the virtues of the Quad core category. Let's see if this comparison of CPU performance can end some of this debate or whether it will just add some more fuel to the already simmering flame wars!

Closer Look:

The Intel E8400 we have today is not an engineering sample but a full fledged store bought retail version. As such, it comes in the retail packaging, not the pretty jewel box the ES chips are sent to us in. The front panel shows the Intel Core 2 Duo brand ID as well as highlighting the fact that the E8400 is a 45nm desktop product. The rear panel includes warranty information, basic specifications and a motherboard compatibility warning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the top of the box you can see the E8400; this makes looking through a bunch of CPUs at the local store to find that optimum stepping a bit easier. If that's not a concern then it's simply a way to see what you are getting. The side panel includes much of the information that can be seen by looking at the CPU. The production code, batch/ FPO number, and date packed are all additional information that can be checked on this panel of the package.

 

 

Once pulled from the box, the contents are in plain view. Included with the CPU (since this is a retail CPU) is the heatsink asembly and a booklet detailing the installation of the CPU.

 

 

The heatsink that is included is quite a bit slimmer than those used with the 65nm processors. With the lower voltage requirements this should not be an issue for day to day non-overclocked use. The assembly uses the Intel push pin style locking mechanism to make sure the heatsink assembly stays put once it is locked into place. The heatsink does come with a pre-applied thermal compound that actually spreads out quite nicely. The four pin power plug allows the fan to be dynamically controlled by the motherboard to reduce fan speed (i.e noise) when the computer is idle as well as ramping the fan speed back up when a load is imposed on the CPU.

 

 

Finally, the subject of this review, the 45nm E8400. Featuring a 1333MHz bus speed with a clock multiplier of 9, this CPU has a rated speed of 3.0GHz. This makes it faster than all but two of the 8000 series of Core 2 CPUs. L2 cache comes in the form of 3MB per core for a total of 6MB. This CPU is designed to be used in motherboards that use an LGA 775 socket for the processor.

 

 

Now let's see how well the E8400 performs across our series of benchmarks. I smell smoke!

 

Specifications:

Family
Wolfdale
Number of cores
2
CPU Speed
3.0GHz
Bus Speed
1333MHz
Bus/Core Ratio
9.0
L2 Cache size
6MB
L2 Cache Speed
3.00GHz
Package Type
LGA 775
Manufacturing Technology
45nm
Core Stepping
C0
CPUID String
10676h
Thermal Design Power
65w
Thermal Specification
72.4C
Core Voltage
0.85V – 1.3625V
Transistor count
400+ million

 

 

 

Features:

 

Testing:

The Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 processor will be put through our benchmarking suite to see what kind of performance the motherboard delivers. The OverclockersClub series of benchmarks include both system tests and gaming benchmarks to verify the performance of this product. Testing will include a direct comparison of several processors, including stock speed benchmarking. CPU clockspeed will be kept at the manufacturer specified clock speed and multiplier for the baseline testing. All motherboard and video card settings were left at setup defaults, again to eliminate any variables. The overclocking phase of the testing will be accomplished by using all of the available settings on the motherboard to gain the maximum performance from the little E8400. It may seem strange to test the E8400 against a slew of Quad core processors, but this will end some of the debate as to which CPU is better for what type of application. Not to mention the the E8400 runs at the same clock speed as the QX9650, just with two fewer cores and half the L2 cache.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Testing Setup AMD:

 

Comparison CPUs:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, most people know that the Core 2 Duo 45nm dual core processors from Intel are high FSB screamers. Normally, this setup runs Quad core processors and overclocks them quite well. I knew slapping in the E8400 would bring out the higher clock speeds. I was not disappointed. After seeing the high VID this chip had I was a little skeptical about just how high I could get it to run. 500x8, no problem. It just took a little more CPU core voltage - 1.343v -  than I had hoped. Things are looking up at this point. Getting above 500 was not too much of a big deal either. Just bump the vcore and move to the next level 5MHz at a time till it fails to POST. Above 500MHz I needed to adjust the MCH voltage, VFSB and the skew settings to get to 525MHz. Hoping to get higher, I was stymied by the the board or chip. Not sure which yet. To get that 525 x 8 level stable it took 1.45 volts to be Prime 95 stable. The maximum I could pull from this E8400 CPU on air cooling was a cool 4.5GHz. Unfortunately, it required 1.55 volts to the CPU core, but at this speed it was able to run Super Pi, which is good enough for the benchmarking crowd. Next stop, some P45 action. All in all, 525x8 or 4.2GHz, is a 1.2GHz overclock. 1.2GHz worth of performance increase ON AIR.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.54
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heros-Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

Testing:

The first part of our testing regimen will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

In Apophysis, the E8400 performed as fast as the slower clocked Q9450, but fell behind the QX9770 when the comparison comes down to raw CPU speed. When overclocked to 4.2GHz, the 8400 just crushes the competition. In the Winrar Zip testing, the little 8400 keeps pace with the 9770 until the 500MB file size. In the RAR testing, the slower Quads give it a run for its money and show the worth of a quad in this benchmark.

 

Testing:

Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance. Since the E8400 is a Dual core CPU on the two thread test will be run in Specview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

PcMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

Performance-wise, the E8400 is outclassed in this series of benchmarks. It does perform better than the Q6600 and Phenom in the Maya testing. In the Vantage testing, the E8400 does outperform the Q9300, Q6600 and the Phenom. This is probably due to just raw clock speed. When overclocked, the 8400 does start to make up ground but only to the Q9450 level. Raw clock speed helps somewhat, but 1.6GHz worth of additional speed does not quite get it over the hump.

Testing:

Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

The value of having a quad core CPU for raw computing power just can't be overlooked. The 8400 is in the ballpark in the memory bandwidth testing, but for the most part falls behind the Quad core CPUs. This was pretty much the expected result. Overclocking helps but not enough to overcome the Quad core performance.

Testing:

Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

Cinebench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

The results in Sciencemark and Cinebench pretty much follow the core speed of the processor. The multi core Cinebench scores are indicative of a dual core versus quad core scenario. The HD Tune testing shows little, if any, difference when the CPU is the only variable.

 

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there's yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quad core CPU appears to have an advantage in Crysis. At the higher resolutions, the 8400 is within three frames per second of the highest performing CPU.

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It appears the Quad core advantage is not as great in this benchmark. The E8400 actually was the faster CPU in this test.

 

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong, with its inhabitants driven mad by the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now, Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment, as well as the storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a surprising result in the Bioshock testing. The E8400 was pretty much dominant. Maybe there is something to this dual core is better in gaming concept.

 

Testing:

Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper. SInce this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results in Call of Duty 4 show the E8400 falling a little bit behind the Quad core CPUs. Surprising, but repeatable.

 

Testing:

World in Conflict: Released last year, World in Conflict is a Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe with limited opportunities to replenish your troops.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only real difference across this pool of CPUs is that when the E8400 is overclocked to 4.2GHz there is some performance increase, all the way to 1920x1200.

 

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired in part by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results in Call of Juarez are very similar across the board. Overclocking the CPU has very little effect on this game's performance. The dual core really pulled ahead at the 1920x1200 resolution.

 

Testing

Benchmark: Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts)

Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The E8400 ran each test at a slightly higher average FPS. The Phenom does indeed take the Intel chips to task in this benchmark.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The CPU score in 3DMark06 plays a big part in the overall score in the benchmark. The E8400 has a hard time competing when more than two cores are beneficial to the final score. The one quad core CPU it did beat was the Phenom, in three out of four resolutions.

 

Conclusion:

So how much fuel goes into the fire regarding the two core versus four core performance debate? Plenty! In the scientific benchmarks the dual core CPU was picked apart in almost every benchmark, as expected. Some highlights include competitive scores in Apophysis, Sciencemark and the single CPU test in Cinebench 10. Other than that, the E8400 is a no show when competing against the quads, as was my expectation. Here comes the fuel for that bonfire. When it came time to test the gaming performance, I was skeptical of the two cores being better than four when gaming theory that gets spouted about time and time again. In fact, I have argued on the side that Quad cores are used in games. There does seem to be some truth to this theory when I ran the gaming tests. In two of the games tested, Bioshock and Knights of the Sea, the E8400 brought out the broom for a clean sweep of the competition. In Call of Duty 4 and World in Conflict, the performance was pretty much on par with the Quad cores with the differential in performance being just a couple FPS. Company of Heros was a sweep of the Intel Quads but the Phenom came up huge in this benchmark. Reality sets in during the Crysis and 3DMark06 testing that shows the performance that a Quad core CPU brings to the table. So does the dual core E8400 perform this well because of the 3.0GHz clock speed or just because some of the games "work" better with a dual core CPU?

When compared to a quad core CPU, the performance of the E8400 is overshadowed by the Quads. Taken on its own merits, the performance of the E8400 is very respectable. The way to try and equalize that performance is by overclocking the CPU to gain some additional power. You know we all love something "Extra." When it came time to overclock the E8400, it gave all it had to the tune of 4.5GHz; a 1.5GHz overclock on air is pretty decent in my book. However, there is also a point where long term stability has to come into play since I'm not a huge fan of reloading the OS every week. This point was reached at 4.2GHz, with 1.45 volts needed to make this overclock Prime 95 stable. At 4.2GHz there is a nice performance bump to be had. If you play at this voltage range be prpared for temperatures higher than you would like with a retail heatsink. By using a Tuniq Tower the temperatures were kept under control in the mid to high 50 degrees Celsius range. Aftermarket cooling will be a mandatory item for overclocking. Overclocking is not the great equalizer in terms of performance, but the extra power is there if you need it.

Since the release of the E8600 just a few weeks back at $280, the price on the E8400 is pretty attractive at $169. This is almost $100 less than the Q9300 and about $10 less than the Kentsfield based Q6600. In this price range and performance level, the E8400 is a good value for the dollars you spend. I still think I smell smoke!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: