Review: Low end parts go to 3600 MHz
Alternate was kind to send us a Celeron 430 and a Pentium Dual Core E2160, soon be known as Core 2 E2160. With this test we would like to determine if any of Intel's cheapest offers are worth the bucks and how they compete with their more expensive counterparts.
The new Celeron line is also based on the Core 2 Duo architecture but instead of two cores you get only one. Furthermore the CPU is crippeld to only 512kB 2nd level cache, no virtualization technology and the worst of all: no engergy savings at all.
Pentium Dual Core E2160 aka Core 2 E2160:
The cheapest Core 2 Duo offer from Intel is in fact a full Core 2 Duo, the only difference here is the 1MB crippled shared 2nd level cache and of course no virtualization technology.
Intel packs both CPUs with the same cooler, which looks like most stock coolers but lacks the cooper core, it is only an aluminum cooler. If you like to overclock, avoid this cooler by any means. Both CPUs are available in a tray version, without the cooler.
We will see what effect the small cache will have on performace in games, but of course VT is no concern for us. Furthermore we will see if overclocking helps and if it can be an alternative to a "standard" cpu, such the E6700.
We were quite impressed with both CPUs. You can increase to 2.4GHz without any increase of VCore. The E2160 was also able to go as high as 3GHz without any increase, which is incredible. Both CPUs reached 3.6GHz but only with massive increase of VCore. We will not recommend doing this, because it draws much more power and the benefits are only marginale. We would have liked to undervoltage the VCore, but the MSI board was not able to do so, however we suspect you can go down to "idle" power with 1.1V and run them with the specified frequency.
MSI P35 Platinum 1.1 (provided by MSI)
Intel Celeron 430 (provided by Alternate)
Intel Pentium Dual Core E2160 (provided by Alternate)
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (provided by Intel)
Scythe Andy Samurai Master (provided by Scythe-Europe)
Kingston 2GB PC2-9600U Kit KHX9600D2K2/1G (provided by Kingston)
CL5-5-5-15-CR2T at 1.90V@ 800MHz
CL5-5-5-16-CR2T at 2.30V@ 1066MHz/1200MHz
Corsair Dominator 2GB PC2-10000U Kit TWIN2X2048-10000C5D (provided by Corsair)
CL5-5-5-15-CR2T at 1.90V @ 800MHz
CL5-5-5-16-CR2T at 2.40V @1066MHz/1200MHz
AMD ATI Radeon X1950XTX (provided by AMD)
Silverstone Element SF50EF-Plus (provided by Silverstone)
Western Digital WD4000KD (provided by Ditech)
SilenX iXtrema Pro 14dB(A) (provided by PC-Cooling.at)
We used one very popular and one not so popular game, both with very nice graphics. Our MSI board was not able to reduce the FSB to 200MHz with the E6700 CPU, but you can expect it would have been slighly faster.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is still one of the most popular games and we chose to use it as a benchmark.
We see S.T.A.L.K.E.R. does not care so much about the CPU, but heavily relies on the graphic-card.
Not quite as popular yet, but features nice graphics and has an built in benchmark, which is nice for our purposes. As usual it seems the graphics card is the limiting factor.
This is the first benchmark which indicates that two cores can make a difference. Even when not used 100%, the second core is able to speed up. Neverthenless this game is also limited by the graphics card.
We did not test it with the Celeron, because only one core will crash the results for sure, so let's check what the bigger cache can do.
The E2160 results @ 3.6GHz are odd, but after several repeats they did not change. Maybe it was to much for the CPU anyways and the heat protection kicked in. It did not crash but it needed 1.70V VCore which is only applied for such testing. We highly recommend not to go over 1.60V at any circumstances, because it may also crash your board especially when using only air-cooling.
We ran the E2160 with EIST and did not manipulate the multiplicator, such is impossible with the E6700 - we do not have an E6600 in our labs. If you want to know how much the E6700 will consume, please check our MSI P35 Platinum review.
Now look how the CPUs will increase your power-bill:
This CPU did fine, but has a big drawback: It uses as much power as the E2160 does and does not have any energy-savings functions such as EIST. The performance was ok and it will do fine in games, but we would avoid such an inefficient CPU. Intel marketing speaks of reducing CO² emissions with more efficent CPUs, but Intel avoids to do so on there low-cost products.
Pentium Dual Core E2160:
This is indeed a very fine CPU, overclocks to 3GHz without more VCore, but of course needs more power when under load. This was to be expected, but is not that much a downside as it is with a Celeron. 3.6GHz may possible but only with insane VCore settings, which you should avoid, more than 1.60V VCore is quite unhealthy except you cool with water - but such users will own a more expensive CPU anyway. For office use this CPU is perfect, it does not need much power and it's really cheap.
The most important thing for gaming is the graphics card. It seems AMD and Nvidia had an agreement to cripple their new mainstream products to 128bit memory interface which is devastating for performance. The new mainstream is slower than the older models. If you are into gaming avoid buying them, especially you own a screen with 1280x1024 or higher resolution. Go for a Nvidia 8800 GTS card at least, or try to get a cheap AMD X1950XT, even the AMD X1950 Pro is a good choice, because most of the time it's faster than HD 2600 XT or GeForce 8600 GTS, especially in higher resolutions.
The Celeron 430 is available for about €40,-, the E2160 with two cores does not cost twice as much, only a mere €69,- which is a really good offer.