Xeon 3000 vs. Core2 Duo (Confused? Read on ... )

A few new additions to SingleHop's offerings may have some confused. With similar, and in some cases identical, specs from the Xeon 3000 line and the Core2 Duo, making an educated decision on which chip is best for your dedicated server can feel kind of like a joke to which you just don’t get the punchline. You can scour the internet’s vast resources in attempt to find a solid difference between the Xeon E3110 and the Core2 Duo E8400, the X3360 and the Q9550, or even just one convincing enough reason why these parts should be any different in price. If you are solely considering processor specs and performance benchmarks, you won’t find anything funny.

The E3110 is the Xeon counterpart for the E8400. They are both factory clocked at 3.0Ghz, with a 6MB L2 Cache and a 1333mhz front side bus (fsb). There is literally no difference between them, the two parts even have the same CPU ID string, which is an identifying mark hard-coded into every Intel processor. However, the E8400 is close to being discontinued, while the E3110 is seated firmly for the moment at the low end of Intel’s server processor market.

What this means is that availability is high for the E3110, making it actually cost less than the equally outfitted E8400. In addition, the E8400 was released as a high-end Core2 Duo at a time when they were in high market demand. Because of this, the cost was quite high right out the door. Later, when the E3110 was released, it was intended to corner the lower end of the server market. Simply put, supply and demand with a little bit of market strategy presents us with a “low-end” processor in the E3110 that is identically capable to the “high-end” Core2 E8400 at a lower cost.

The situation is much the same between the Core2 Quad Q9550 and the X3360. Both are clocked at 2.83Ghz, and have the same size L2 cache, same speed fsb, except the X3360 is positioned at the high-end of its line, as is the Q9550. Because the X3360 is a slightly newer part, and its positioning in this particular corner of the market, it doesn’t enjoy the same cost-to-performance ratio that the E3110 holds over the E8400.

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To clarify this point to whomever is interested, I recently ran an in-house benchmark of the E8400 and E3110 side-by-side. I used Passmark, (www.passmark.com) which is a very popular and easy to use CPU benchmark. Both servers were installed with Windows Server 2008 Standard 64 bit, on an X7SBL-LN2 motherboard with 4GB of ddr2 5300 RAM and a 7200 RPM Western Digital Enterprise-Class 500GB SATA II drive.  The hardware was mirrored perfectly in every way, and brand-new out of the box. The results are pictured here, which show the Xeon class chip and the Core2 duo performing identically.

One last thing to consider is the overall difference between a Xeon server processor, and a Core2 Duo desktop/workstation processor. There is a slight tweak to the instruction set with the Xeon line that makes it slightly more ideal for servers. An example of this is an instruction called I/OAT, which is dedicated to processing TCP/IP overhead, leaving extra system resources to handle other processing jobs. This instruction is found in Xeon processors, and not Core2.

The microprocessor industry is one that is constantly moving forward. Sometimes, performance gains from one generation to the next are tangible numbers and facts that we easily see. Other times, such as what we see in the X3000 line, improvements in more abstract ideas like fabrication and market design are the driving force in the next step.