Fast: First Benchmarks of Intel's Penryn Processor

Intel is showing off its next processor this week, and while Penryn won't ship until early next year, the chip giant already has its new chip--its first to use a 45nm manufacturing process--happily running benchmarks. As it has done with past CPUs, Intel offered PC World a chance to put some early dual- and quad-core Penryn systems through their paces in a series of approved benchmarks set up on systems in its labs.

The usual caveats about benchmarks that are run outside of our labs on systems set up by a vendor still apply, but we thought you'd be interested in this early look at Penryn's performance.

Intel's test setup pits a pair of Penryn chips--one dual-core and one quad-core--against its current high-end CPU, the quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX6800. The results below highlight the new technology Intel has built into the Penryn family. You'll see some impressive results on video processing and encoding tasks, in particular. Such applications are among the first to take true advantage of dual- and quad-core processing.

Benchmark Core 2 Extreme
QX6800 System 1
Penryn (45nm) 2
Penryn (45nm) 3
3DMark06 v1.1 Pro
CPU Score
4070 3061 4957
3DMark06 v1.1 Pro
Overall Score
11123 11015 11963
Half-Life 2 Lost Coast
(build 2707) frames per second
running at 1024 by 768
153 210 210
Video / Video Encoding
Cinebench R9.5
CPU Benchmark Score
1549 1134 1935
Cinebench R10 (beta)
CPU Benchmark Score
10416 7045 13068
Mainconcept H.264
Encoder (seconds)
89 119 73
Divx 6.6 Alpha with
VirtualDub 1.7.1
38 22 18
Notes: All systems were tested under the 32-bit version of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. The test systems were each equipped with 2GB of Corsair memory running at DDR2 800 speed, an Asus GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board, and a 320GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard drive.
1 The Core 2 Extreme system used a quad-core QX6800 chip with 8MB of cache. That chip was running at 2.93 GHz with a 1066-MHz front-side bus on an Intel BadAxe2 Desktop motherboard using a D975XBX2 chip set.
2 The dual-core Penryn prototype included 6MB of cache and ran at 3.33 GHz using a 1333-MHz front-side bus. It was installed in a preproduction Intel BadAxe2 Desktop motherboard using a D975XBX2 chip set.
3 The quad-core Penryn prototype included 12MB of cache and ran at 3.33 GHz using a 1333-MHz front-side bus. It was installed in a preproduction Intel BadAxe2 Desktop motherboard using a D975XBX2 chip set.

By moving to 45nm, Intel was able to push clock speeds past 3 GHz without boosting the amount of power the chip consumes. Penryn also runs on a 1333-MHz bus, compared to the 1066-MHz bus that current Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme chips use. So even in games like Half-Life 2 that don't take advantage of quad-core, the chip posts some significant gains.

When heavy graphics processing kicks in, as in the overall 3DMark test, the system relies much more heavily on its graphics board, erasing much of the difference between the CPU families. Take the GPU out of the equation, as in the 3DMark CPU score, and the dramatic results return. Since the CPU test takes advantage of more that two cores, both quad-core chips outperform the dual-core Penryn.

And quad-core continues to reign as we move to video encoding. While more cores carry the day in Cinebench and Mainconcept, Intel's Divx test showed some particularly interesting results. The alpha version of the Divx encoder used in the test makes use of the SSE4 instructions built into Penryn--in particular, a shuffle instruction that allows the CPU to more efficiently reorder data for processing. So while more CPU cores still help with Divx encoding, the SSE4 support in this alpha encoder allowed even the dual-core Penryn to outpace its current quad-core competition.

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