Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: February 5, 2008
So you say you want a high performance computer? You've bought the best components on the market for your build, and now you need that final piece of the puzzle, the processor. Will it be dual core or quad core? Each has its merits. With many of the newer DX10 games starting to use multiple cores, a quad core would seem to be the better choice. You can have a Q6600 that runs at a nice 2.4GHz, but will it be enough to feed the need since you don't want to overclock (blasphemy I say!)? If not, then Intel has something that just might fit the bill. Intel will soon begin selling the top dog in its Core 2 Extreme lineup, the QX9770. Featuring a 1600MHz bus speed, 12MB of L2 cache, 45nm manufacturing process, Hafnium Hi-K metal gates, 800 million+ transistors and running at 3.2GHz, it should more than cover anything you can throw at it.
Will the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 be just a speed bump from the 3.0Ghz of the QX9650, or will it be something more? Will the 1600MHz bus speed enable it to perform at a level beyond that of the QX9650? Follow along as I find out!
The rumor is that good things come in small packages. I guess the definition of good is subject to interpretation. But in this case, the little black box contains the latest and greatest from Intel's Core 2 Extreme lineup, the QX9770. The processor is shipped to us in a foam lined box, the purpose of which is to isolate the processor from damage during transit.
The Intel QX9770 that I received was an engineering sample. This can be good or bad, depending on when it was produced during the development process. Sometimes you get a diamond, sometimes a lump of coal. In other words, the amount of overclocking headroom over the stock speed that you achieve will vary from processor to processor. Is this one a diamond? Let's find out.
Number of cores
L2 Cache size
L2 Cache Speed
45nm, Hafnium (Hi-K) Metal gate technology
Thermal Design Power
0.85V – 1.3625V
- Quad-Core Processing: Provides four independent execution cores in a single processor package. Four dedicated processing threadshelp operating systems and applications deliver additional performance, so end users can experience better
multitasking and multi-threaded performance across many types of applications and workloads.
- Chipset Support: Intel® Express Chipsets offer an array of exciting capabilities including dual graphics and deliver an impressivelevel of performance for demanding users. Other third-party chipsets may support Intel Core 2 Extreme quad-core processors; contact your board manufacturer for compatibility.
- Intel® Wide Dynamic Execution: Improves execution speed and efficiency, delivering more instructions per clock cycle. Each core can complete up to four full instructions simultaneously
- Intel® Smart Memory Access: Optimizes the use of the data bandwidth from the memory subsystem to accelerate out-of-order execution.A prediction mechanism reduces the time in-flight instructions have to wait for data. Pre-fetch algorithms
move data from system memory into fast L2 cache in advance of execution. These functions keep the pipeline full, improving instruction throughput and performance. 45nm versions further improve this feature,with more efficient methods of loading and storing data in main memory.
- Intel® Advanced Smart Cache: Dynamically allocates the shared L2 cache to each processor core based on workload. This efficient, dual-core-optimized implementation increases the probability that each core can access data from fast L2 cache, significantly reducing latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
- Intel® Advanced DigitalMedia Boost: Accelerates the execution of Streaming SIMD Extension (SSE) instructions to significantly improve the performance on a broad range of multimedia and compute intensive applications. The 128-bit SSE instructions
are now issued at a throughput rate of one per clock cycle, effectively doubling their speed of execution on a per-clock basis over previous generation processors. 45nm versions include a new Super Shuffle Engine,which improves existing SSE instructions while enabling significant gains on the latest SSE4 instruction set. SSE4-optimized applications, such as video editing and encoding in high-definition resolution, will see additional performance improvements.
- Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT): Allows one hardware platform to function as multiple “virtual” platforms. Intel VT improves manageability, limits downtime, and maintains worker productivity by isolating computing activities into separate partitions
- Intel® 64 Architecture: Allows the processor to access larger amounts of memory. With appropriate 64-bit hardware and software, platforms based on an Intel processor supporting Intel 64 architecture can allow the use of extended virtual
and physical memory.
- Execute Disable Bit: Provides enhanced virus protection when deployed with a supported operating system and prevents the code from infecting the system. Memory can be marked as executable or non-executable, allowing the processor
to raise an error to the operating system if malicious code attempts to run in non-executable memory.
- Better Acoustics:Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core processors are equipped with a Digital Thermal Sensor (DTS) to enable more efficientprocessor and platform thermal control. Thermal sensors located within the processor measure the maximum temperature on the die at any given time. The acoustic benefit of temperature monitoring is that system fans spin only as fast as needed to cool the system and slower spinning fans generate less noise. This Intel-designed thermal solution for boxed processors utilizes a 4-pin header with variable fan speed control, based on processor temperature and power usage to minimize acoustic noise levels. The latest 45nm boxed Intel Core 2 Extreme processor includes a new, more advanced thermal solution with improved acoustic and thermal performance
The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 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 clock speed 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 Core 2 Extreme QX9770.
- Processor:Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 400 x 8
- Motherboard: Asus Blitz Extreme
- Memory: Patriot Viper Fin PC3 12800 7-6-6-18 2 x 1GB
- Video Card(s): Evga 8800 GTS 640MB
- Power Supply: Mushkin 650watt Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive:1 x Seagate 320GB SATA
- Opticals: NEC DV5700
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme
- Sytem Memory: Patriot Viper Fin PC3 12800 8-7-7-20
400 x 10 at 1.325 volts for a first boot was a promising start to my overclocking adventure with the QX9770. 400 x 11 at 1.50 volts came easy as well but the required voltage was more than my poor water cooling setup could handle under load. At this level the stability was not there on the test system. It was stable enough to run Super Pi 1m and I was graced with the best score I have had to date. At that point I started hunting for a combination of FSB and multiplier that was acceptable for day to day use. 475 x 9 (4.3GHz) at 1.4625 volts ended up being the sweet spot for benchmarking and successfully completed our entire benchmark suite. For day to day operations, I settled on 455 x 9 (4.1GHz) at 1.395 volts. Hitting 4.0+GHz stable for everyday use makes for one e-ticket rig. Getting to the 475 FSB threshold required adjusting the northbridge voltage, FSB termination voltage, PLL volts, memory and southbridge voltages to gain stability. Getting to 4.0GHz on a Core 2 Extreme is the simple part. Getting more requires some work to make it happen. Keep the CPU temperature in check and the sky may be the limit. Of course your mileage may vary.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02 Final
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.54
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Jaurez
- 3DMark 06 Professional
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:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
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.
In Apophysis the QX9770 shows a 28% performance improvement. WinRar shows large gains as well.
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.
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 across the board in Specview is fairly similar. The results in PcMark Vantage show a 5% increase in performance at stock speeds.
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.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The performance of the QX9770 just blows away the Q6600.
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
Performance scales well in this series of benchmarks. Drive performance shows little to no difference between processors.
Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
- Advanced settings to medium
The benchmark scores in Crysis are within +/- 1 frame per second on each benchmark. The demands that Crysis puts on a system makes small increases a measurable difference.
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:
- AA: x0
- Image Quality: High
- Direct X Version: 10
- All resolutions 60HZ
The results in Knights of the Sea show increases across the board.
BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. 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.
- All settings to Maximum
- V-Sync off
Across the board performance scales nicely. Increases are seen across all three resolutions
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:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Anistropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings Max
13 frames per second at 1024x768 and 5 frames per second at 1680x1050 are real gains. Even overclocked to 3.3GHz, the Q6600 cannot keep pace with the QX9770 while the QX9650 at least makes it a somewhat fair comparison.
World In Conflict is a newly released DX10 real time strategy game that simulated the all out war that 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. You advance by conquering your foe.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- 0 X AA
- 16X AF
- Graphic Detail :Very High
While the performance gains are small, they are consistent and repeatable.
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.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap size 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti Aliasing: MSAA 4X
Little gain was seen in this benchmark. The additional clock speed and L2 cache seem to provide an additional couple of frames per second at the lowest resolution.
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.
- 8x AA
- All other settings to maximum
This iteration of the game is more graphically demanding than its predecessor.
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.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 is easily, hands down, the quickest and fastest processor we have ever tested here at OCC. With the ability to scale well above 4.0GHz speeds, the performance is just amazing. The performance provided by the QX9770 at stock speeds just blew away the Q6600 and even out performed the QX9650 comparison processor. Whether you overclock or not is a personal decision. Stock performance is great, but the potential performance left on the table is huge. I was able to push the frontside bus of this particular QX9770 to 475 FSB for a nice performance boost. A high frontside bus is not needed with a processor that sports an unlocked multiplier. Maximum speed can be obtained with just a change to the multiplier; adjust it up or down to suit your performance needs.
The Intel QX9770 was introduced to the world on the day AMD launched its Phenom processors and "Spider" platform. Tests have shown that the Intel Extreme line maintains its dominance over the latest offerings from AMD. The performance disparity between the two is, to coin a phrase, "Phenomenal."
The one downside to the QX9770 is the cost of entry into the world of Extreme processor power. Rumored to be on the high side of $1,300, that e-ticket rig will cost just a bit more than originally envisioned. But for those with deep enough pockets or the undying urge to have the best on the market, the Intel QX9770 is there ready, willing and able to give the performance we as enthusiasts demand.
The reason that I chose an editors chioce award for this CPU is for one simple reason, Power! It has it in spades. The Intel QX9770 "IS" the fastest thing going "Today" hands down. That performance does come with a price, but in my eyes its worth it!
- Blazing fast performance
- Overclocking head room
- 12MB of L2 cache
- 400 frontside bus
- Price; you need to be Extreme to get one