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Intel Pentium 4


Performance

As has been found with previous Pentium 4 processor releases, assessing performance is not quite as straightforward as is with the AMD Athlon or Pentium III. This is mainly due to the design goals (and compromises) set out by the engineers at Intel. There have been a number of Pentium 4 benchmarks at sites such as:

The extra 256 KB Level 2 cache added to the “Northwood” Pentium 4 has given the chip a performance boost in a number of areas. In many gaming and professional benchmarks the new Pentium 4 (A) has closed the performance gap which existed between it and the AMD Athlon XP. In many professional 3D graphics and workstation applications the Pentium 4 (A) is a match for its lower clocked AMD counterpart. The 2.4 Ghz chip is continuing to keep the pressure upon the Athlon XP. How it will compare to the new “Thoroughbred” core for the Athlon XP is not yet known.

In many multi-tasking application benchmarks the Pentium 4 (A) also manages to post impressive results mostly due to the impressive memory bandwidth afforded to it by the new 512 KB Level 2 cache and DDR chipsets such as the i845D and VIA P4X266A.

An area where the Pentium 4 (A) takes a clear lead over its AMD counterpart is in applications which make use of Intel’s new SSE2 instruction set. Any benchmark using Adobe Photoshop always manages to yield impressive results for the Pentium 4 due to it being highly optimised for SSE2. Currently the AMD Athlon XP does not feature the SSE2 instruction support and is an area where the Pentium 4 has an advantage.

In previous articles concerning the Pentium 4 we have focussed upon the deficiencies found in the implementation of the Pentium 4's x87 Floating Point Unit (FPU). Whilst we cast scorn on Intel’s decision to reduce the x87 FPU from 2 pipelines (FMUL plus a combined FADD & FSTORE) to a single pipeline an interesting effect is now appeaaring. As the 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 runs at over 600 MHz faster than the AMD Athlon XP 2100+ (1.73 GHz clock speed), this is having the effect of cancelling out most of the performance difference between the two companies high-end offerings. Thus the 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 does offer very fast x87 power. Needless to say, when AMD releases a chip that actually runs at 2.4 GHz (XP 3000+?), the effect of its tri-pipelined FPU will mean far faster x87 performance.

Conclusion

Overall the new 2.4 Ghz Pentium 4 is just about the fastest x86 CPU currently available. The margins though are small and there are other chips awaiting release in the coming weeks such as the “Thoroughbred” core AMD Athlon XP and the 533 MHz front side bus compatible Pentium 4. These may want to grab your attention if you are going to pay full price for a new Intel chip (around $580, UK price likely to be the same figure in £s).

The 2.4 Ghz Pentium 4 is a very good chip, but our honest advice is to wait a few weeks until the 533 MHz front side bus compatible Pentium 4 is released and the 2.4 Ghz part (using a 400 MHz bus) reduces in price. Then it will be far more competitive on a price/performance ratio to the AMD Athlon XP. Currently there is a price difference in the region of £150 between the 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 and the Athlon XP 2100+.

What this chip does show is that the Pentium 4 is steadily becoming a far more credible chip as it’s clock speed rises.


Pentium 4 2.4 GHz - Page 1.



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