It looks as though Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) just couldn't contain its enthusiasm any longer. The company has lifted the nondisclosure restrictions on advance samples of its upcoming Core 2 (Solo and Duo) line of chips, so the lucky few computer hardware sites that were furnished with one can talk about it today. And boy, do they talk it up.

The new processor architecture is the first real ground-up redesign since the launch of the Pentium 4 -- and in hindsight, that one turned out to be a bet on the wrong architectural horse. The P4 was in many ways a step down from the older Pentium II/III designs, and the older design philosophy made a comeback years later as the basis for the very successful Pentium M mobile family of processors. And so it goes.

But the Core 2 family (formerly known as Woodcrest, Conroe, and Merom) is blowing its predecessors out of the water and overwhelming the competition from AMD (NYSE:AMD) as well. If the benchmarks are any indication -- and that's what they're meant for, after all -- then AMD is going back to the old, familiar role of performance runner-up until further notice.

I think that Sharky Extreme's review very eloquently sums up the consensus opinion on the new chips: "The launch of the Core 2 processor line has hit the market with a bang and offers up an incredible combination of performance and value, coupled with low heat and power specifications. These processors are so good that it's difficult to highlight any real negatives."

AMD isn't slated to release any real response until next year, with the architecture currently codenamed K8L. In the meantime, there's the 4x4 enthusiast solution, designed for multiprocessor scalability and enabling the addition of specialized processing units, much in the way that the floating-point math co-processor was added to the 386 line in the mid-'90s. And, of course, there will be price cuts to respond to Intel's very aggressive Core 2 pricing. If you can't have the outright performance lead, then better price/performance ratios will have to do. It will hurt AMD's bottom line, but it has to be done.

No wonder, then, that Intel is excited. The performance crown is back atop the old king for the first time in years, and the company would be foolish -- in a bad way -- if it didn't take every opportunity to promote the new wonder-chip. Expect lots of Core 2 talk on the earnings conference call tomorrow night. And Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is looking mighty smart for switching to Intel-based systems now that Conroe is out of the bag and slated for appearances inside Mac Pro systems.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund welcomes healthy competition and hopes the Core 2 Duo design team in Haifa steers clear of any stray rockets. He holds no position in any company mentioned; Foolish disclosure rules would make him tell you if he did. Check out his holdings.