For $193 a Allendale Can Be Yours!

With the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 priced under $200 it's the processor that many mainstream and budget shopers are picking up for use in their back to school computer systems. We have found that this entry level Intel Core 2 processor might cost just $193, but the performance that it offers is much more than what you're paying for.  With a little extra work and buying the right motherboard the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 is by far one of the best overclocking processors that we have ever seen on the test bench here at Legit Reviews.  Today Legit Reviews takes the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Processor and overclocks it to see what that means in terms of real world performance.

Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Processor

When it comes to pricing the Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6300 is still selling for a slight premium on the market, but rightfully so as you will soon find out.  According to the July 27th, 2006 price sheet the E6300 processor lists for $183 when purchased by the thousand, so the market price of $193 isn't that much of a premium for buying a single processor. With the E6300 retailing for under $200 it's attainable by many, but with the Core 2 Duo Processor family does come some issues. 

One of the main stumbling blocks for Conroe and Allendale is the lack of chipset options and the few number of boards on the market.  If you want run NVIDIA SLI graphics and an Intel Conroe/Allendale based processor you are limited to one board choice that is currently available on the market and that is the ASUS P5N32-SLI SE Deluxe motherboard.  All of the other boards use the Intel 975x or 965x chipsets, which both support ATI's CrossFire technology.  For our overclocking adventures we stuck with the Intel D975XBX 'bad axe' reference motherboard as it's known for it's overclocking abilities within reason and is readily available. We did have to do some minor adjustments to our motherboard to help out overclocking functionality, but our modifications can be done by anyone that can use a pen or pencil.

Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Features

The Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 comes with a 266MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) and a multiplier of 7, which means the final operating frequency of the processor is 1.86GHz at just 1.325 Volts on the CPU.

Brand Intel
Series Core 2 Duo
Model BX80557E6300
CPU Socket Type
CPU Socket Type LGA 775
Tech Spec
Core Conroe
Multi-Core Dual-Core
Name Core 2 Duo E6300
Operating Frequency 1.86GHz
FSB 1066MHz
L1 Cache 32KB+32KB
L2 Cache 2M shared
Process Type 65 nm
Vista Ready Yes
64 bit Support Yes
Hyper-Threading Support No
Virtualization Technology Support Yes
Multimedia Instruction MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSE4,EM64T
Voltage 0.850V-1.3525V
Cooling Device Heatsink and Fan
Warranty
Manufacturer Warranty 3-Year

We started off at all default settings to make sure that our test platform was up and running okay.  Using CPU-Z to confirm out BIOS settings we found that our computer was up and running just like a default Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor should be.

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Who wants to run default clock speeds?  Let's first try overclocking without touching any of the voltages. Note that in the above image the voltage is set to 1.325V, but CPU-Z only reads it as 1.125V on the processor.  Even when increasing the voltage CPU-Z did not detect the increases, so keep this in my when you overvolt the processor.

Bad Axe Board Modifications

With the Intel D975XBX motherboard ($235) easily performing better than any Intel desktop motherboard produced it's no wonder many enthusiasts are picking up reference Intel boards for the first time ever. While using a processor like the Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme X6800 gives you a fully unlocked BIOS many users with processors like the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 are finding a BIOS with no chipset voltage options, Vcore options, strap options, and 20% limited overclocking. While Intel did this on purpose there is a quick and easy way to get around it. When Intel originally developed the board they had a debug jumper on the board, but later removed it on recent revisions. In debug mode the BIOS made all features available so the system could be setup correctly. This mod will re-enable this feature allowing you to undervolt or overvolt the processor and chipset for under $7.

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The first step is to find a conductive pen. We tried connecting the traces with an old fashioned pencil, but it failed to do the trick on a number of our Bad Axe motherboards. We then went up to the local Radio Shack here in St. Louis and picked up a couple conductive pens for $6.97 on clearance (Cheaper at RadioShack online).

With the Conductive Pen in hand find the the 3-pin header called "BIOS CONFIG" that we all love to use BIOS flashing and "Oh Shit I Screwed Up" mode. Directly below (or above depending on how you look at it) you will find a silk-screen location labeled 'OC DEBUG'. The two circles that do not have the triangle pointing to them need to be connected. The OC Debug location is shown in the red box.

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After the area is free of dust or dirt take your conductive pen and connect the two 'dots' that are on the right (in the above image) to complete the mod.

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It doesn't look pretty, but it gets the job done. The two points are now connected and the board thinks it is in debug mode. Now hit F2 when the system is rebooted and you should have all the BIOS options available that users who can afford the X6800 have after completing this simple 'debug' mod.

The mod takes about 15 minutes to complete and 10 minutes of that are letting the conductive ink dry. This does void the Intel warranty, but the conductive material can be removed by a fingernail (it can be undone).

Overclocking The E6300

After the 'debug mod' on the previous page has been completed you should be able ot go into the BIOS and adjust the CPU Voltage by disabling the "Default CPU VID" and manually changing the voltage in the line below called "CPU VID".  At the default voltage of 1.325 we were able to go up to 40% overclocking on default volts. To reach the highest stable overclock we have to increase the CPU VID to 1.400V from 1.325V to become stable.  Note that if Widows starts to crash on the desktop giving you BSOD's with memory dumps you need to increase the "MCH Voltage Override" to 1.650V as we have had to do that on a few picky boards.

Screenshot of the BIOS settings

We left the memory dividers at 667MHz and bumped up the voltage to 2.2V on our Corsair PC2-6400C4 memory running 4-4-4-12 timings during the whole overclocking adventure, so we were never memory bound during any of our testing.

CPU-Z Image of the Overclocked Intel E6300 Processor

While the system would benchmark at 45% and 46% overclocks it wasn't Prime 95 or double 32M Super Pi stable, so the highest stable overclock was 44%.  Our processor that started out life as a 1.86GHz bottom end Conroe is now a 2.69GHz monster thanks to a huge overclock! This overclock is an 822MHz increase on the overall frequency and overclocks close to 1GHz don't happen this easy too often! Let's take a look at what this means for system performance.

The Test System

Intel Test Platform

Here is the Intel Test Platform:

Intel Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core 2 Duo E6300

Motherboard

Intel D975XBX v304

Memory

2GB Corsair PC2-6400C4

Video Card

XFX GeForce 7600GS

Hard Drive

Western Digital 250MB

Cooling

Corsair Nautilus 500

Power Supply

Corsair 620W PSU

Operating System

Windows XP Professional

Testing Procedure:

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows XP Professional build 2600 with Service Pack 2 and DirectX 9.0c. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. No overclocking was done on the video card during any of this review. We did disable the Firewire, and LAN features if found in the BIOS menu for all the testing completed during this review. No overclocking was done on the video card and NVIDIA 91.33 drivers were used on the XFX GeForce 7600GS video card.  The memory was run with a 667MHz divider at 4-4-4-12 timings for both stock and overclocked benchmarking at 2.2Vdimm. The above photo show's an ATI card, but an XFX GeForce 7600GS was used. Let's move on and take a look at the testing!

Pov-Ray 3.7 and Cinebench

Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7 Beta 13a:

The Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer was developed from DKBTrace 2.12 (written by David K. Buck and Aaron A. Collins) by a bunch of people (called the POV-Team) in their spare time. It is an high-quality, totally free tool for creating stunning three-dimensional graphics. It is available in official versions for Windows, Mac OS/Mac OS X and i86 Linux. The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package. These scenes can be modified so you do not have to start from scratch. In addition to the pre-defined scenes, a large library of pre-defined shapes and materials is provided. You can include these shapes and materials in your own scenes by just including the library file name at the top of your scene file, and by using the shape or material name in your scene. Since this is free software feel free to download this version and try it out on your own.

The most significant change from the end-user point of view between versions 3.6 and 3.7 is the addition of SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) support, which in a nutshell allows the renderer to run on as many CPU's as you have installed on your computer. This will be particularly useful for those users who intend purchasing a dual-core CPU or who already have a two (or more) processor machine. On a two-CPU system the rendering speed in some scenes almost doubles. For our benchmarking we used version 3.7 as all of the processors we are testing today are dual-core.

Once rendering on the object we selected was completed, we took the score from dialog box, which indicates the average PPS for the benchmark. A higher PPS indicates faster system performance.

Pov-Ray 3.7 Beta 13

The pixel rate counter (PPS) in POV-Ray is based off of the number of pixels rendered in the current frame divided by the total amount of time spent on the whole animation. This gives the effect of dividing the true pixels per second by the current frame number. With POV-Ray 3.7 Beta 13a we are able to look at a recent SMP benchmark to judge the differences between our stock and overclocked Intel E6300 dual-core processor. The benchmark shows that the 44% overclocking really helps and it is the winner by a long shot.

MAXON; CINEBENCH 9.5:

CINEBENCH 9.5 is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D R8. The tool is set to deliver accurate benchmarks by testing not only a computer's raw processing speed but also all other areas that affect system performance such as OpenGL, multithreading, multiprocessors and Intel's new HT Technology. Again, higher Frames/Second and lower rendering time in seconds equal better performance.

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Super Pi 1.5 and ScienceMark 2.0

Super Pi Mod Version 1.5 XS:

Super Pi calculates the number Pi in this raw number crunching benchmark. The benchmark is fairly diverse and allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated. In this benchmark we ran Super Pi to 1 million places, 4 million places, and 32 million places.

Probably some of the most jaw-dropping results that we saw with the Core 2 Duo benchmarks happened to be in the Super PI tests.  As you know, one of the big challenges between enthusiasts is to get the lowest SuperPi times possible.  Many have used extreme means (read: cooling, like water, Dry Ice and Phase Change) to do this.  As you can see in the results, the Core 2 Duo processor does very well in Super Pi and by overclocking the processor we cut our time down by nearly 50%! 

ScienceMark 2.0 Beta:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias.

Comanche 4 Benchmarking

Comanche 4 Benchmark

NovaLogic; Comanche 4:

The Comanche 4 benchmark demo is a unique benchmark as it represents a real-world gaming experience. It contains the single player Eagle's Talon mission from the game as well as a detailed cinematic. This DirectX 8.1 benchmark demo measures your system's performance in the standard frames per second format. This game is very old, but even today it is one of the best gaming benchmarks to show raw CPU performance.

Comanche 4 Benchmark Performance

At 800 x 600 with the sound disabled the overclocked Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6300 running at 2.68GHz spanked the stock clocked processor with it's 1.86GHz clock frequency.  The reason we run old benchmarks like Comance 4 is because how well they show processor differences. In this case we overclocked our E6300 by 44% and low and behold when benchmarking in Comanche 4 we see exactly a 44% difference in the frame rate.  Comanche 4 is an older DirectX 8.1 game that is clearly CPU and not GPU limited.

F.E.A.R. Benchmarking

F.E.A.R. Benchmark

Sierra; F.E.A.R w/ v1.0.5 patch:

F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault and Recon) is a first-person close-quarters combat game for the PC. The story begins when a paramilitary force infiltrates a multi-billion dollar aerospace compound, and the government responds by sending in Special Forces. The group loses contact with the government when an eerie signal interrupts radio communications--and when that interference subsides moments later, the team has been destroyed. That's where you come in. As part of a classified strike team created to deal with threats no one else can handle, your mission is simple: eliminate the intruders at any cost, determine the origin of the signal, and contain the potential crisis before it gets out of control.

F.E.A.R. Benchmarking

F.E.A.R. is a pretty recent game title that many people are still playing today.  The game runs at a native resolution of 1280x960 and that is why we ran this benchmark at this setting and not 1280x1024. At 1280x960 with no AA or AF we found just a single frame per second difference between the E6300 overclocked and not.  The limiting factor here is clearly the GeForce 7600GS video card and not the processor.  Benchmarking games like F.E.A.R. show why higher end video cards are needed for gaming at higher resolutions.

Quake 4 Benchmarking

Quake 4 Benchmark

ID Software; Quake 4 v1.2

ID Software?s QUAKE 4, developed by Raven Software, takes players into an epic invasion on a barbaric alien planet in one of the most anticipated first person shooters for 2005. Even today in 2006 Quake 4 is played by professional gamers around the world in the famed World Series of Video Games (WSVG) and still one of the most played first person shooters on the market today.

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Quake 4 runs on an updated version of the DOOM 3 graphics engine, so performance is expected to be on par with that of DOOM 3.  We ran Quake 4 with the version 1.2 patch, which adds dual-core processor support.  At 1280x1024 with no AA and AF we found that less than a single frame per second difference, which shows that the NVIDIA GeForce 7600GS is holdling the system back performance wise. At a lower resolution of 1024 x 768 the overclocked Conroe core performs nicely leading by over 15 frames per second.  

Power Consumption and Temperatures

When it comes to power consumption overclocking is defiantly not going to save you money on your monthly bill.  We had to increase the voltage on the processor and raise the voltage on the memory modules to reach a stable 44% overclock with our E6300 and D975XBX combination.

Power Consumption Graph

At idle our overclocked system consumes 43W more and when it's run at 100% CPU load on both cores the overclocked processor consumes 66W more than it originally did. Let's see what the temperatures are doing at idle and load.

Idle and Load Temperature Graph

With the processor overclocked we saw a big increase in temperatures as we observed a 10 degree difference at idle alone.  With load temperatures hitting 57C even with our use of water cooling we highly suggest water cooling if attempting overclocks as large as this. No big shocker here!   If you want to save energy and lower temperatures overclocking your processor 800+MHz is not the way to do it, but the performance you get from overclocking is nothing short of amazing.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

Earlier this month I was able to write up an article on overclocking the AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ AM2 processor using both air cooling and water cooling with promising results and now I have gotten the chance to do the same on the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor. Overclocking the E6300 and 4200+ AM2 both proved to be easy and fun experiences, but I have to admit that overclocking the AMD processor was simpler. I didn't have to do any mods to the motherboard and make a trip to Radio Shack, but hey what fun is overclocking something if you don't have to work for it?

The Retail Boxed Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Processor

It's clear that the Intel Core 2 processors are the fastest processors out on the market and paired with the right motherboard and cooling solution these can be insane overclockers also.  The Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6300 will set you back $193  and the Corsair Nautilus 500 we used to cool it is another $149.99, so to hit an overclock 24/7 like this you'll have to invest in a decent cooling solution to keep everything nice and happy inside your case.   Our testing also showed that the XFX GeForce 7600GS graphics card was limiting our graphics performance at resolutions of 1280x1024 and higher with no AA or AF enabled.  Turn on that eye candy at 1024x768 and we were GPU bound once again.  We wanted to run a 7600GS as it's a mainstream card and to help so that if overclocking is something you want to try in the future a mainstream card isn't going to hack it in the real world.

Those with a sharp eye might notice that we used an Engineering Sample processor in this article, but we also have retail boxed processors here that perform EXACTLY the same. We actually tried our E6300 processors on three different Intel D975XBX 'Bad Axe' motherboards using both retail and our ES processors with all of them reaching a maximum overclock of around 44-46%.  We actually used the slowest of the group for this article as we didn't want to lead people on and that just happened to be an ES processor.

Well that wraps up another article that was fun to work on from our perspective.  It's always fun to put away the X6800 processor and X1950 Crossfire graphics cards and get out the mainstream hardware that our readers actually use and see what it can do.  Sure our system was GPU limited on some of the game benchmarks and we could have used lower memory timings, but that wasn't the point of this article.  We wanted what the average joe runs and for many that's roughly $150 graphics cards, $200 processors, and mainstream CL4 memory.

Legit Bottom Line: With proper cooling the Intel Core 2 Duo Processor E6300 with the Conroe core is very overclockable and can be had for roughly $193 shipped.