Then there are the budget-minded enthusiasts, who strategically wait for prices to drop on the previous generation hardware before making a purchase. While not as powerful as the newly released item(s), previous generation hardware does have its advantages. As I just mentioned, it is much cheaper than the latest and greatest. Also, since the hardware is at the end of its production cycle, odds are that all of the bugs and kinks have been taken care of in previous revisions. And perhaps most importantly, the hardware has been in the community for a while which means it is well documented on tech sites and forums across the net, so you will have a good idea of what to expect in terms of performance and overclocking before buying.
If you fall into that latter category and have been thinking of upgrading your aging socket 775 processor, now may be the time to pull the trigger. Today we will be taking a look at a potential upgrade candidate, the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650.
Intel sent over the Q9650 that you see above. The phrase "INTEL CONFIDENTIAL" and the "ES" abbreviation simply means that this is an engineering sample, which is not intended to be offered for sale or resale to the general public. Intel sends out these chips to reviewers strictly for benchmark and evaluation purposes. On Intel's website, they state the following: "Engineering sample processors are designed and built like normal processors, but offer additional features for testing purposes." While this was true for previous ES chips (they were multiplier unlocked), the Q9650 that arrived on my doorstep is multiplier locked (only values of 6-9 are available) and as far as I can tell, is no different than your standard off-the-shelf processor.
Normally if this were a new processor launch, I would spend some time discussing all of the in-depth technical architecture and new features of the chip, but since that isn't the case with this Core 2 Quad chip, I will spare you the technical jargon and skip right to the meat and potatoes of the processor - the stuff you really care about.
Excluding the Core 2 Extreme line which boasts an unlocked multiplier (and a price tag of over a grand for the entry model), the Q9650 is the fastest Core 2 generation chip Intel offers. The Q9650 is built using the 45 nm manufacturing process and comes clocked at 3.0 GHz with a 1333 MHz FSB and a whopping 12MB of L2 cache, all with a max TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 95W.
You can check out the chart below for a little more information on the Q9650, borrowed from Intel's website.
With the recent price drop of nearly $200 on the Q9650, could this be the chip to hold you over for the foreseeable future? Continue ahead as we put it to the test!