Core 2 Duo (Conroe) launched about twelve days ago with a lot of fanfare. With the largest boost in real performance the industry has seen in almost a decade it is easy to understand the big splash Core 2 Duo has made in a very short time. AnandTech delivered an in-depth analysis of CPU performance in Intel's Core 2 Extreme & Core 2 Duo: The Empire Strikes Back. With so much new and exciting information about Conroe's performance, it is easy to assume that since Core 2 Duo uses DDR2, just like NetBurst, then memory performance must therefore be very similar to the DDR2-based Intel NetBurst architecture.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. While the chipsets still include 975X and the new P965 and the CPU is still Socket T, the shorter pipes, 4 MB unified cache, intelligent look-ahead, and more work per clock cycle all contribute to Conroe exhibiting very different DDR2 memory behavior. It would be easy to say that Core 2 Duo is more like the AMD AM2, launched May 23rd, which now supports DDR2 memory as well. That would be a stretch, however, since AM2 uses an efficient on-processor memory controller, and the launch review found Core 2 Duo faster at the same clock speed than the current AM2. This is another way of saying Conroe is capable of doing more work per cycle - something we had been saying for several years about Athlon64 compared to NetBurst,

The move by AMD from Socket 939 to Socket AM2 is pretty straightforward. The new AM2 processors will continue to be built using the same 90nm manufacturing process currently used for Athlon 64 processors until some time in early to mid-2007. AMD will then slowly roll-out their 65nm process from the bottom of the line to the top according to AMD road-maps. This could include memory controller enhancements and possibly more. Performance of AM2 only changed very slightly with the move to DDR2, generally in the range of 0% to 5%. The only substantive difference with AM2 is the move from DDR memory to official AMD DDR2 memory support.

Our AM2 launch reviews and the article First Look: AM2 DDR2 vs. 939 DDR Performance found that AM2 with DDR2-533 memory performed roughly the same as the older Socket 939 with fast DDR400 memory. Memory faster than DDR2-533, namely DDR2-667 and DDR2-800, brought slightly higher memory performance to AM2.

The Core 2 Duo introduction is quite different. Clock speed moved down and performance moved up. The top Core 2 Duo, the X6800, is almost 1GHz slower than the older top NetBurst chip and performs 35% to 45% faster. With the huge efficiency and performance increases comes different behavior with DDR2 memory.

With the world now united behind DDR2, it is time to take a closer look at how DDR2 behaves on both the new Intel Core 2 Duo and the AMD AM2 platforms. The performance of both new DDR2 platforms will also be compared to NetBurst DDR2 performance, since the DDR2 NetBurst Architecture has been around for a couple of years and is familiar. We specifically want to know the measured latency of each new platform, how they compare in memory bandwidth, and the scaling of both Core 2 Duo and AM2 as we increase memory speed to DDR2-1067 and beyond. With this information and tests of the same memory on each platform, we hope to be able to answer whether memory test results on Conroe, for instance, will tell us how the memory will perform on AM2.

In addition we have an apples-apples comparison of AM2 and Core 2 Duo running at 2.93GHz (11x266) using the same memory at the same timings and voltages with the same GPU, hard drive, and PSU. This allows a direct memory comparison at 2.93GHz at DDR2-1067. It also provides some very revealing performance results for Core 2 Duo and AM2 at the exact same speeds in the same configurations.

DDR/NetBurst Memory Bandwidth and Latency
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Zebo - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    Nice one Wes and it makes sense no matter what to have memory testing done on the top dog platform, Conroe.
  • Mclendo06 - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    Is there any reason that either company, Intel or AMD, couldn't design a future processor both with an intelligent pre-fetching algorithm such as is seen in the Core 2 Duo and an on-die memory controller like on the AM2 processors? Seems like the apparent memory latencies could be dropped very significantly by combining these features.
  • Calin - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    We are hoping in the next big update to AMD processor (the K8L) to have some kind of intelligent prefetching (it is entirely possible, but it costs a number of transistors). Possibly that "intelligent prefetching" means reordering loads from memory, and this happens before the memory controller
  • Ingas - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link


    Possibly that "intelligent prefetching" means reordering loads from memory, and this happens before the memory controller

    How can Core 2 Duo do prefetch before memory controller?
    I miss some point, do I?
  • Calin - Wednesday, July 26, 2006 - link

    I wasn't clear enough. The memory controller gets requests for memory, and returns that memory. Nothing more, nothing less.
    All the logic for preordering is housed in the proper microprocessor, and not in the memory controller - as such, it has no relation with the integrated/discrete implementation of the memory controller.
  • vailr - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    Has anyone run: a Core2 Duo CPU comparison of DDR vs. DDR2, running on the ASrock 775Dual-VSTA? To determine how much slowdown would occur, by using the older DDR memory?
  • Ingas - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    Interesting point!
    Maybe Core intelligent look-ahead so intelligent, that it even performs equaly on DDR!
    Very interesting!
  • Gary Key - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    We will show this in our review. ASRock just released bios 1.4 that addressed a few issues we noticed in our preview of the board.
  • photoguy99 - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    ...that AMD is thoroughly owned.

    It's amazing the arguments have still persisted up until now about excuses for Core2 doing so well.

    It was mentioned that AMD survived before at the lower end of the market - but remember how much trouble they had? There were losing money all the time back then. Now they have taken *all* of their 2.5B cash reserve and spent it on ATI. Nice.

    It hurt AMD's credibility even more when Dirk Diggler recently said 4x4 was going to be an answer to Core2. Right. After 30 years of dual socket systems being a niche they are finally going to take off and save you - good luck with that.

  • duploxxx - Tuesday, July 25, 2006 - link

    because you have no idea what is going behind the scene and only looking at performance of a desktop cpu and think this is the real world.

    almost no review site is proud enough to get up against the hyping marketing machine from intel. well then believe the marketing hype and own a cpu that has a crapy design when it comes to real multithread and 64bit. way to go to the future knowing vista is comming your way.

    multicore/multisocket is the future, even intel knows it.

    amd is in a much stronger position know and by the end of this year the make procs with a price tag 50% lower than intel intel can only counter this by going to 45nm end of 2007. knowing the cost of all the intel crew, fabs and size of the processors.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now