Ten years of Core2Duo

Ten years ago, Conroe Core2Duo was released, superceding the P4 NetBurst architecture. This marked a change from the megahertz chasing era into the trend of more instructions-per-cycle (IPC) and efficiency. It kept the original LGA775 socket, moving pins from the more expensive processor to the less expensive motherboard, as first introduced with the Pentium 4 Northwood or Prescott family, if I’m not mistaken. This processor also marked a huge leap in performance, not seen again until Sandy Bridge.

It’s been more than a decade and this processor, while dated, can still hold its own in offices. Of course it chokes now with media rich websites and ever growing processor intensive tasks, and maybe a shortage of RAM, but otherwise, it runs and runs well. I still see a fleet of units in service at a library running Windows 8, alongside some i3 (of unknown variant, possibly Ivy Bridge, to be updated) units. These Core2 based boxes would still be performant if only its RAM was upgraded from today’s paltry 2GB. Plenty, during its prime. Clock for clock performance and power efficiency compared to its successors as expected, is less, but such is progress.

I remember the time when it first came out. It was similar to the time when the Pentium 4 was released: much hype. But this time, it did live up to its hype. Not unlike the Pentium 4 which, from personal experience, was unbearably loud. It was so loud and hot I could hear its fan from a floor downstairs while at the same time literally raising a small (mine) room’s temperature up 5 degrees Celsius. I don’t have the measurements to back it up but you could definitely feel the heat. Don’t get me started about power efficiency! Running that thing for 24h for a few days raised our electricity bill a substantial amount.

Back to the Core2Duo: we never had a desktop chip, only a mobile one. Too bad it was a lemon unit from the OEM. However, when it worked, it worked nicely. The laptop died prematurely thanks to a bad voltage regulator chip according to the tech. I did get to save some of its parts for future use, like its LCD panel and hard drive. I don’t know when we’ll get to use it again, but hey, spare parts.

It’s gotten me through several significant milestones of my life, projects, and other miscalleneous things and I’ve worked that thing so hard several times. From editing video to playing games to encoding H.264 HD videos, it lasted me through my whole high school life and in between until its demise.

Interestingly enough, I’m the only one with a full blown x86 based PC in the household and I’m not sure why. Most of the time, I’d attribute it to not having enough money for another one. But in hindsight, mobile and handheld devices have become powerful enough to supplant a lot of the casual user’s needs1. Thanks to the “there’s an app for that” mindset, a lot of things usually done on a full blown computer can now be done on a handheld. Word processing? There’s Office Mobile, Polaris Office, or maybe Google’s web based office suite2? Browsing? Firefox Mobile, Chrome, and others have you covered. Then there’s dedicated apps for your favorite social networks. Email is largely now in the domain of webapps, but dedicated clients like K9 Mail or Gmail are available. Someone even got bored enough to run Windows on Android.

As for me, I’ll stay with my Sandy Bridge based laptop, going strong and hopefully will still be with years to come.

Much credit to Anandtech’s article for bringing its decade anniversary into awareness and as this piece’s inspiration.

  1. I would like to point out the Ultra-mobile PC. A previous concept, while unfortunately unsuccessful, possibly shaped the tablet concept into what we know today. And honestly, I would have loved to have my hands on one. 
  2. Sure you could, but why? Not unless it’s a short note or you have a decent keyboard to type that piece on. Touchscreen keyboards is something I might not warm up to for a very long time. 

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