Intel unleashes fastest dual-core CPU yet

Quad-core chips might be a blessing for multi-threaded software, but for many people there’s just no substitute for a healthy supply of of pure Gigahertz, and this is where Intel’s new Core i5 680 could come in handy.

Following a few weeks of rumours, the CPU has now been surreptitiously added to Intel’s official CPU line-up without any big fanfare. There hasn’t been a big party to celebrate the launch, but the CPU appeared on the company’s price list for shareholders when it was updated yesterday.

Based on Intel’s 32nm manufacturing process, the processor has 4MB of Level 3 cache, two processing cores and the ability to handle four simultaneous threads via Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology.

More important, however, is its massive 3.6GHz clock speed. This is a level of clock speed that we haven’t seen since the NetBurst days, and the fact that the chip is based on Intel’s Core i5 architecture should make this the company’s fastest dual-core CPU yet.

Although more cores are better for many tasks that can be easily multi-threaded, such as transcoding, there are still many areas, such as gaming, that benefit more from higher clock speeds. Intel clearly sees this as a premium CPU in the dual-core business too; the cost on the price list is identical to that of a quad-core Core i7 930. You can already pre-order the CPU in the UK for £236.97 inc VAT.

In addition to the Core i5 680, the updated price list also saw the addition of a new low-end dual-core chip at the bottom end of the scale. The Pentium E5500 is clocked at 2.8GHz and features 2MB of Level 2 cache.

This budget CPU is manufactured on Intel’s 45nm process, and uses an 800MHz front side bus. Unlike Intel’s newer chips, there’s no Hyper-Threading either, so the E5500 can only handle two threads simultaneously.

On the plus side, though, it should be cheap. We haven’t spotted the E5500 on any UK retailers yet, but the cost on the price list is $75. However, given that its predecessor, the E5400, currently goes for £52.33, we imagine that it will cost somewhere around £55.