Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 - Budget Phenom Slayer

For those that haven't been keeping up with all the new processor launches the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor is the newest 45nm quad-core 'Yorkfield' processor.  It is also the entry level 45nm quad-core processor, which means it has the lowest price tag!  At $285.99 plus shipping on PriceGrabber the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 is still fairly pricey, but you get what you pay for and it should run circles around the $235 AMD Phenom 9850 quad-core processor. The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor has been getting a ton of attention these days as retailers are offering it in some pretty killer bundles. Microcenter for example has the Intel Core 2 Quad Processor Q9300 (OEM) processor and a 2GB (2x1GB) OCZ Gold DDR2-800 memory kit being offered together for $250.  If these deals are looking tempting, but you are unsure about the processor and how it stacks up against others on the market you are in luck as we are going to run the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 against seven other processors to see how it does.

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Review

With the latest version of CPU-Z 1.44.2, we can see our quad-core 'Yorkfield' processor is correctly identified at 2.50 GHz with a 1333MHz FSB and 6MB L2 cache.Our processor is an M1 stepping and has a TDP of 95W, which is the same as the Q6600 that it replaces. The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 should be a pretty good overclocker, but it only has a 7.5 multiplier (333MHz FSB x 7.5 multiplier = 2.5GHz). With a somewhat low multiplier the FSB will have to be increased beyond 450MHz to break the 3.5GHz mark. This eliminates the use of many low end motherboards as to hit FSB speeds above 450MHz it will really tax the platform. If you increase the FSB to 400MHz that will make the CPU 3.0GHz, which should be easy to reach! We will try to reach these higher clock frequencies in our overclocking section as many enthusiasts will be buying this processor just to overclock it.

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Review

Moving over to the cache tab in CPU-Z the 6MB of L2 cache can be seen.

The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Bottom

Flipping the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor over, some differences can be noted between the various 45nm processors by Intel.

The Test System

Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test system that was used.

The Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. All of the modules were run in dual channel mode with a 120mm fan placed on top of them to keep them cool. The XFX GeForce 8800 GTS 512MB used NVIDIA ForceWare 169.28 video card drivers and the ASUS P5E3 motherboard using BIOS version 1009, which was the most recent available when testing was done. The AMD Phenom test system was done on the MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard with BIOS v1.4 installed along with ATI system driver version 8.452. 

Memory Settings:

Here is the Intel X38 Express Test platform:

Intel Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

See Above LGA775 CPUs

Motherboard

ASUS P5E3 Deluxe

Memory

4GB Corsair DDR3 1800C7

Video Card

EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS 512

Hard Drive

Western Digital RaptorX 150GB

Cooling

Corsair Nautilus 500

Power Supply

PC Power and Cooling 1KW

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

Here is the Intel Skulltrail Test platform:

Skulltrail Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

2x Intel Core 2 QX9775

Motherboard

Intel D5400XS 

Memory

4GB Micron 800MHz FB-DIMM

Video Card

EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS 512

Hard Drive

Western Digital RaptorX 150GB

Cooling

Zalman AT Fan/Heatsink

Power Supply

PC Power and Cooling 1KW

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

Here is the AMD Phenom Test platform:

AMD Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

AMD Phenom 9600/9850

Motherboard

MSI K9A2 Platinum

Memory

4GB OCZ Flex PC2-6400

Video Card

EVGA GeForce 8800 GTS 512

Hard Drive

Western Digital RaptorX 150GB

Cooling

Zalman AT Fan/Heatsink

Power Supply

PC Power and Cooling 1KW

Operating System

Windows Vista Ultimate 64-Bit

Sandra XII SP1 Memory Bandwidth

Sisoft; Sandra XII SP1:

Sisoftware Sandra 2008

The Sisoft Sandra XII SP1 benchmark utility just came out a couple months ago and we have started to include it in out benchmarking. With Sandra XII SP1 you can now easily compare the performance of the tested device with its speed and its (published) power (TDP)! Sandra XII SP1 also has SSE4 (Intel) and SSE4A (AMD) benchmark code-paths, which is great for those of you testing next-generation AMD & Intel chips.

Sandra XII SP1 Benchmark Scores

Results: Sandra XII SP1 showed that the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 has much better memory bandwidth than the old Q6600 thanks to the higher 1333MHz FSB speed. With the memory now running at 1333MHz with CL7 timings the bandwidth is much better than running at 1066MHz with CL7 timings.

Photodex ProShow Gold 3.2

ProShow Gold allows the user to combine photos, videos and music to create spectacular slide shows. The software provides the capability to share memories with friends and family on DVD, PC and the Web. ProShow Gold brings still photos to life by adding motion effects like pan, zoom, and rotate. The user can also add captions to a photo or video and choose from over 280 transition effects.

Photodex Proshow Gold 3.2 Benchmark Settings

The workload we are using takes 29 high resolution jpeg photos and converts them to an mpeg2, widescreen DVD quality, 3min 9sec slideshow video file. The input photos are in 3872x2592 resolution and total about 170MB in size.

Photodex Proshow Gold 3.2 Benchmarking

ProShow Gold 3.2 lets you share your slide shows in virtually any format and on any device. You can upload your shows directly to YouTube or choose from over 20 devices to directly output to including the iPod, Blackberry, ZuneTM and more. Not bad for software that runs under $70 and is optimized for eight-cores! Our benchmark testing wasn't at 100% load the entire time, but averaged around 95% during the testing period.

Photodex Proshow Gold 3.2 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Photodex Proshow software showed that the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was quick enough to pass up all the AMD Phenom quad-core processors and even the Q6600. The Intel Q6600 operates at a slower 2.4GHz, but has 8M shared L3 Cache. The 2.5GHz Intel Q9300 with just 6MB of cache seems to do just fine as you can tell here.  

Sony Vegas 8.0b

The Vegas Pro collection combines Vegas Pro 8, DVD Architect Pro 4.5, and Dolby Digital AC-3 encoding software to offer an integrated environment for all phases of professional video, audio, DVD, and broadcast production. These tools let you edit and process DV, AVCHD, HDV, SD/HD-SDI, and all XDCAM formats in real time, fine-tune audio with precision, and author surround sound, dual-layer DVDs. Vegas Pro software also supports 24p, HD and HDV editing, which is what we are going to look at in this benchmark.

Sony Vegas Benchmarking

The Sony Vegas 8.0b workload that we are using takes a series of short movie and audio files and creates a single video that incorporated special effects and transitions. It uses a MainConcept HDV encoding profile to render the 24p widescreen video clip at a resolution of 1440x1080x32.

Sony Vegas Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Running our custom Sony Vegas 8.0b benchmark shows just how important a CPU is when it comes to create a single video clip from multiple clips. The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was found to be 9.5% faster than the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600.

Microsoft Excel 2007

Microsoft Office Excel 2007 is a powerful and widely used tool with which you can create and format spreadsheets, and analyze and share information to make more informed decisions. It allows you to import, organize and explore massive data sets within spreadsheets and then communicate your analysis with professional-looking charts. Excel 2007 also provides tools to “see” important trends and find exceptions in your data. Legit Reviews has two benchmarking tests that we do on Microsoft Office Excel 2007.

Microsoft Excel 2007 Testing

The first workload executes approximately 28,000 sets of calculations using the most common calculations and functions found in Excel. These include common arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, division, rounding and square root. It also includes common statistical analysis functions such as Max, Min, Median and Average. The calculations are performed after a spreadsheet with a large dataset is updated with new values and must re-calculate many data points. The input file is the 6.2 MB spreadsheet seen above.

Microsoft Excel 2007 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Lots of people use Microsoft Office at work and home, so this is an important test for many of our readers. Many people don't run 28,000 sets of calculations at once, but if you do the CPU will determine how fast the task is completed. 

The Black-Scholes model is used in our second Excel test to calculate a theoretical call and put price using the five key determinants of an option's price: stock price, strike price, volatility, time to expiration, and short-term (risk free) interest rate.

Microsoft Excel 2007 Testing

This workload calculates the European Put and Call option valuation for Black-Scholes option pricing using Monte Carlo simulation. It simulates the calculations performed when a spreadsheet with input parameters is updated and must recalculate the option valuation. In this scenario we execute approximately 300,000 iterations of Monte Carlo simulation. In addition, the workload uses Excel lookup functions to compare the put price from the model with the historical market price for 50,000 rows to understand the convergence. The input file is a 70.1 MB spreadsheet and with 10 times the calculations of the first test, this one should take a bit longer to complete.

Microsoft Excel 2007 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: With 300,000 iterations of Monte Carlo simulation taking place in this benchmark it takes all the processors a bit longer to finish as it puts a good load on the system.  The Intel Skulltrail system is in a league of its own as it completes the task in less than ten seconds.  The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was slower than the Q6600 in these benchmarks, which might be due to the smaller cache.

Cinebench R9.5

MAXON; CINEBENCH 9.5:

CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 9.5 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer's performance in everyday use. Especially a system's CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). During the testing procedure, all relevant data is ascertained with which the performance of different computers can subsequently be compared, regardless of operating system. Again, higher Frames/Second and lower rendering time in seconds equal better performance.

Cinebench 9.5 Benchmarking

Cinebench 9.5 was able to put a 100% load across all the cores, which makes this a great benchmark to look at multi-core platforms.

Cinebench 9.5 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Cinebench 9.5 was tested in both 64-bit and 32-bit, which resulted in some minor performance differences as seen above. The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was back in front of the Q6600 by 11.7%.

Cinebench R10

MAXON; CINEBENCH R10:

CINEBENCH is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D. Consequently, the results of tests conducted using CINEBENCH 10 carry significant weight when analyzing a computer's performance in everyday use. Especially a system's CPU and the OpenGL capabilities of its graphics card are put through their paces (even multiprocessor systems with up to 16 dedicated CPUs or processor cores). The test procedure consists of two main components: The first test sequence is dedicated to the computer's main processor. A 3D scene file is used to render a photo reaslistic image. The scene makes use of various CPU-intensive features such as reflection, ambient occlusion, area lights and procedural shaders. In the first run, the benchmark only uses one CPU (or CPU core), to ascertain a reference value. On machines that have multiple CPUs or CPU cores, and also on those who simulate multiple CPUs (via HyperThreading or similar technolgies), MAXON CINEBENCH will run a second test using all available CPU power. Again, higher Frames/Second and lower rendering time in seconds equal better performance.

Cinebench 10

Cinebench R10 was able to put a 100% load across all the cores on all of the processors, which makes this a great benchmark to look at multi-core platforms.

Cinebench R10 Results

Results: Running Cinebench R10 in 64-bit mode showed a significant improvement in performance on all of the processors and the results were in-line with what we expected.

POV-Ray 3.7 Beta 25

Processor Performance on Pov-Ray 3.7 Beta 25:

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 on 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 beta 25, which is the most recent version available.  The benchmark used all available cores to complete the render.

Pov-Ray 3.7 Beta 25

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 25

Benchmark Results: Looking at POV-Ray 3.7 Beta 25, the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was 6.7% faster than the Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600. The AMD Phenom 9850 quad-core processor was over 19% slower than the Q9300!

POV-Ray Real-Time Raytracing

Legit Reviews was e-mailed by one of the developers over at POV-Ray to see if LR could include real-time raytracing in our performance analysis, and we were more than happy to include the data in our testing. 

E-Mail From POV-Ray -- I thought I might ping you about an experimental feature we've added to the POV-Ray SMP beta: real-time raytracing. It's mostly useful to folks who have multi-core systems and in fact is something that I've wanted to do for years but the hardware just wasn't there (at least not in the consumer price range). It works best on a kentsfield or later, but a core 2 duo should be sufficient if you don't mind sub-10fps frame rates.

If you want to try it out it please feel free to grab it from:  http://www.povray.org/beta/rtr/

POV-Ray real-time raytracing

This experimental software by POV-Ray was a welcomed addition to our testing and was able to spread the work load across all the cores in even our eight core test system as seen above.

POV Ray RTR Benchmark Chart

Results: POV-Ray Real-Time Raytracing is a great benchmark that we love to use on Legit Reviews and it does a great job at showing how performance scales with CPU cores. Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was more than two Frames Per Second (FPS) faster than the Q6600!

Futuremark 3DMark06

Futuremark 3DMark 2006

3DMark06

Futuremark's 3DMark06 has a built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded DirectX gaming metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems. This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance. Calculations that are normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering. The frame-rate generated in each test is used to determine the final score.

Futuremark CPU Benchmark Results

Futuremark CPU Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The 3DMark 2006 CPU test showed that the Intel Q9300 once again out performed the Q6600 by a few hundred points.

Overclocking Results

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you will might be able to get.

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Default Settings

With stock BIOS settings, the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 runs with a 333MHz bus speed and has a 7.5 multiplier that are used to reach the final core clock of 2.50GHz.  As you can see above, the ASUS P5E3 Deluxe motherboard FSB runs at 334.0MHz, so right out of the box we were running 1MHz higher than stock settings. Let's start off by overclocking without adjusting any voltages to see what the Q9300 quad-core processor can do out of the box.

Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 Processor Overclocking

The ASUS P5E3 Deluxe motherboard BIOS is very simple to use and to see what the processor could do with default settings we just had to increase the 'FSB Frequency' setting from 333MHz to 400MHz. Just by making this one adjustment the board really picks up some speed and you can feel it when using applications.

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Default Settings

By leaving all the settings in the BIOS on 'auto' we increased the FSB speed to 400MHz and the system was rock solid.  By increasing the FSB to 400MHz we could now run the DDR3 memory at 1600MHz versus the previous speed of 1333MHz.  It also allowed for the overall clock frequency to increase from 2.5GHz to 3.0GHz.  Not bad for leaving everything in the BIOS on 'Auto' other than the Front Side Bus Frequency!

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Default Settings

With the voltage still set to auto we kept increasing the FSB until the board became unstable. We were able to reach 450MHz FSB before things started to get unstable. By increasing the FSB to 450MHz we could now run the DDR3 memory at 1800MHz, which provides some serious bandwidth with 7-7-7-20 timings.

Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 Processor Default Settings

It was possible to reach a bus speed of 470MHz, but we had to run the processor at 1.3125V in order for the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 to be able to reach these speeds. This is just over a 1GHz overclock, which is very nice. The Corsair DOMINATOR 1800MHz memory kit was able to run stable at 1880MHz with 7-7-7-20 timings with 2.1V. This is ~41% higher clock frequency improvement! Overclocking varies from processor to processor and will void your warranty, so no complaints on this nice speed boost.

Intel Core 2 Duo Processor Overclock Benchmarking

When it comes to benchmarks, the overclocked Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 was a monster. The 41% clock frequency improvement improved performance 28% and actually put the Q9300 above the QX9770! The only setup faster was skulltrail at stock settings, but remember that has eight cores!

Power Consumption and Final Thoughts

Power Consumption

Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fan, video card and hard drive model. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements POV-Ray 3.7 was run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load. All of the systems used identical hardware minus the motherboard and processor.

Power Consumption Results

Results: When it came to idle power consumption the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor consumed less power than the Q6600, which makes since as it has less cache.  The entire system consumed just 139W at idle, which is impressive considering the quad-core system has a water cooler hooked up to it. At full load the Q9300 consumes roughly the same Wattage as the dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ Black Edition.  This means that consumers can update from processors like the 5000+ that they have had for the past year or two and not see a significant increase in power consumption thanks to energy efficient processors like the Q9300.

The Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 Processor

Final Thoughts

Intel has a winner on their hands with the Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor. At $285.99 shipped to your door it is priced higher than any AMD Phenom quad-core processor, but rightly so as our benchmarking showed it out performing Phenom in every benchmark except memory bandwidth. Not too shabby for the entry level 45nm quad-core processor!

Power Consumption Results

Intel has also released Q9450 and Q9550 processors, which have higher clock frequencies and twice as much cache as the Q9300 that we reviewed here today. The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 will set you back $620.99, so the Q9300 looks like a pretty good deal considering how it performs and overclocks. Speaking of overclocking, being able to hit 470MHz FSB with just ~1.31Vcore was very impressive. Our top overclock was over 1GHz higher than the stock frequency and that pushed the final clock frequency to 3.5GHz! For those wanting more performance the Q9300 didn't disappoint.   The only negative on the Q9300 is the relatively low multiplier of 7.5 and this is only a negative for those wanting to reach over 4GHz. With a 7.5 multiplier a FSB of 533MHz will need to be reached to hit the magical 4GHz mark.  This is beyond the limits of most motherboards, so if you plan on overclocking don't expect to get much more than 3.5GHz with the Q9300. 

Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor might be the entry-level 45nm quad-core processor, but the performance numbers sure doesn't suggest that!