Intels' Core 2 Duo E6400 joins the Price/Performance Charts

Posted by Mark Raby

How could we have left out Intel's Core 2 Duo E6400 from our Price/Performance charts? Several readers complained last week about the lack of Intel's E6400/E6300 mainstream processors in our charts which provide a weekly update on the best value in the retail processor market. This week, the data of the E6400 became available - and began to cause more headaches for the green team.

Last week, we took a look at the performance power and value of a handful of processors from both Intel and AMD. At the time, AMD provided less value in the high-end market but offered a very reliable pricing structure. Intel, on the other hand, had relatively over-priced entry-level models and erratic pricing across the board. However, they did offer more value per dollar in their high-end products, like the Core 2 Duo processors.

Now, one week later, we've taken another look at the prices of these processors relative to their performance - in anticipation to see another adjustment of prices that typically surfaces towards the end of every week. We were not disappointed, as average prices of processors have shifted since a week ago. Keep in mind that we are looking at average market pricing data that is provided my Pricegrabber.com. These numbers are always dynamically changing and you may be able to find each processor for a substantially higher or lower price, depending on the retailer.

Additionally, this week, the guys over at Tom's Hardware put to the test an overclocked Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 processor, at 3.34 GHz. We took the benchmark data from that, as well as from a standard E6400, and added them to our data. While you cannot buy an overclocked version of that processor, the additional performance and improved positioning in our chart may be especially valuable to users who enjoy overclocking their processors. We will be enhancing our charts with a performance/watt chart as soon as sufficient and reliable data is available, which may change the location of such overclocked processors in the ranking.

This week revealed slight price fluctuations of between $4 and $15 pretty much across the board, which is to be expected in a dynamic market. The more noteworthy changes include the price of Intel's Pentium D 840 processor, which dropped 9% or $51 over the past week. The D 820 fell by 11% or $29 and now costs $106, which is dramatically less than our reference processor's (Pentium 4 520) $155. The Pentium EE 965 dipped by $31, though that's hardly a dent in the wildly overpriced processor. The Netburst architecture-based processor currently sells for an average of $1050, while the newer, Core-based Core 2 Extreme sells for $1003 - which is just $4 above Intel's $999 tray price.

The only notable increase on the Intel side comes from the Core 2 Duo E6700 - the company's fastest mainstream processor. Last week, the average price for one of those was an even $500. This week, it rose to $526, which could be an early sign of the approaching holiday season and higher demand for those processors. Most places that sold the processor in the sub-$500 range last week have the chip on backorder this week.

The AMD side offers an interesting story and it appears that at least half of the firm's batch hasn't found its pricing spot yet. Half of the eight processors we're looking at showed significant fluctuations. The Athlon 64 FX-62 and X2 4800+ dropped by $31 and $35, respectively, AMD's high-end gaming processor was priced in the $1000 a few weeks ago, now you can get it for a more affordable and average $677. The mainstream X2 side also brought some price drops this week: The X2 5000+ decreased by 14% or $69 to $429. A particularly popular processor appeared to be the 4400+ version, which increased its pricing by more than 50% to $383, making it more expensive than the 4600+ and 4800+. The 4400+ is a major factor that shifts AMD's price-performance correlation this week.


Price/Performance Update 14 Oct 2006

Once again, we've separated the price-performance graphs into two variations - one that includes the upcoming Core 2 Extreme QX6700 and one that doesn't. Because it is so much more powerful than the other processors, it skews the look of the graph. Also, since it has not yet been released, comparisons between it and other processors are somewhat artificial. But we remain certain that retail versions - if available at all this year - will hover around the $1200 range when the processor will be released.

In this graph, it's clear that the correlation of the AMD curve is not quite as strong as it was last week. As noted, the surprising jump in price for the X2 4400+ is the most obvious stray point. The other processors more or less fit the curve. The correlation is still 0.903, which indicates a very strong relationship between price and performance, but it is not quite as good as the uncanny, almost linear 0.965 correlation AMD showed last week.

However, that's all small potatoes compared to what we have with Intel. Even more so than last week, there is almost no underlying correlation between the processors' prices and performance levels. Last week, the correlation coefficient was about 0.50. This week, most substantially because of the addition of the overclocked E6400, the coefficient dropped to 0.34. There is not a single point that even touches the curve.

Our decision to include the overclocked versions in the chart contributes to this scenario, but there is no denying that buyers of Intel processors have to be more watchful what processors they are buying, if a price/performance rationale plays a part in the purchase decision.

There is one more point to be made, which can be seen from all the data we've shown, but it becomes especially evident in this graph. AMD had lost some of its advantage in the entry-level processor market. Last week, AMD's price-performance curve showed a better value per dollar for processors up to the relative performance value of a little over 1.6. However, now, it has dropped to 1.55. The single reason for this event is the addition of the E6400 processor to the chart, whose performance became available to us this week.

The outgoing Pentium D 805 still offers an outstanding value in terms of plain, overclockable performance, but users who are looking for a more power-efficient processor may find their new champion in the E6400 - and the possible the E6300, which we will add as soon as performance data becomes available.

Overall, the shift of the curve in favor of Intel is obvious and it is clear that AMD will need a higher performance processor rather sooner than later. Industry sources suggest that a 4x4 package, consisting of two FX dual-core processor, could hit the market later this month for a price of $800 to $900, which could bring down the green curve significantly, if the performance of the platform comes close to Intel's quad-core QX6700.