Quad-Core Performance (December 2007)

Currently, AMD and Intel have different ideas on how to build a quad-core processor. Intel's approach is to essentially stick two dual-core processors together on a single chip, while AMD's approach is to build a true quad-core processor.

Both approaches have their advantages; Intel's approach allowed them to bring quad-core processors to market much faster, while AMD's approach should allow them to build higher performance quad-core processors.

Of course, the question is whether AMD's "true" quad-core processors are faster than Intel's quad-core processors. In order to answer that question I thought I'd take a look at Geekbench 2 results for two different systems; one built around an AMD Phenom 9600 and one built around an Intel Core 2 Quad 6600.


  • AMD Phenom

    • AMD Phenom 9600 @ 2.30 GHz
    • Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. GA-MA790FX-DS5
    • 4.00 GB 800 MHz
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Intel Core 2 Quad

    • Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.40 GHz
    • Gigabyte Technology Co., Ltd. 965P-S3
    • 4.00 GB 800 MHz
    • Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate

I’m reporting the baseline score, rather than the raw score, for the benchmarks (where a score of 1000 is the score a Power Mac G5 1.6GHz would receive). Higher is better.


Overall Performance

AMD Phenom 9600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600

Integer Performance

AMD Phenom 9600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600

Floating Point Performance

AMD Phenom 9600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600

Memory Performance

AMD Phenom 9600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600

Stream Performance

AMD Phenom 9600
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600


Looking at the results, it's not clear there's an advantage to AMD's "true" quad-core design, at least as implemented in the Phenom 9600. While the Phenom 9600 has a slightly lower clock frequency than the Q6600, and managed to outscore the Q6600 in a couple of benchmark sections, it was also outscored by the Q6600 in a couple of other benchmark sections, and received essentially the same score as the Q6600 overall.

When you consider that both processors are approximately the same price, it's hard to recommend one over the other. Personally, I'd choose the Q6600 over the Phenom 9600 for no other reason than the Q6600 (and the accompanying motherboards) is much more mature. I'm not confident AMD has sorted out all of the initial problems with the Phenom.

Also, while the Phenom 9600 is the fastest quad-core desktop processor AMD offers, the Core 2 Quad Q6600 is the slowest quad-core desktop processor Intel offers. If you want the fastest quad-core processor available (and don't mind spending a lot), you'll want an Intel processor.

John Poole is the founder of Primate Labs and lives in Toronto, Ontario with his wife Deborah. You can find John on Twitter or .