Intel’s Pentium 4 – A Worthy Successor?

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Summary

So what does all this tell us? Well it appears that the P4 does well in some applications – mostly what I’d call “multimedia”. It holds it’s own in most “traditional” applications, except maybe business graphic (Winbench graphics results) applications. But in thinking about it, do you need more speed for your word processor program (I think not) to display screen updates or in your multimedia applications (I think that’s where you’d notice it)?

Is it the new architecture that gives those better scores allowing the P4 to beat the P3 or is it just because it runs 800MHz faster? And why do we not see any real gain in the business based benchmarks, even though the actual clock speed of the P4 CPU is much faster than the P3? Well, to me it just doesn’t really matter because the P3 is at the end of it’s life and will not go any faster than the current Tualatin P3 1.2GHz, at least on the desktop. I would guess that some of the architecture changes made in the P4 were needed just to get to higher clock speeds, while others are geared toward enhancing multimedia performance. Business application performance is fine and it does appear that multimedia performance is enhanced. As time goes on and as both the Operating system and applications are re-written or recompiled to take advantage of the P4’s architecture we may see even better performance from this processor. Intel is heavily promoting Windows XP as the OS to use with the P4, and that seems to give some indication that we will see some advantages from using it.

As for RDRAM, I’ve not touched much on that but it will be interesting to compare it to the upcoming Intel SDRAM based mainboards, and the DDR SDRAM when they are available next year. To me it’s really a non-issue – just use what is available, as the cost isn’t too high these days anyway. We can argue all day which is the best technology, but in the long run all that matters is what works and is available, and at what price.

Price is another item I’ve not covered. The P4 is expensive, especially the 2.0GHz model. The P4 2.0 currently (9/6/01) runs about twice as much as a P3 1.2, while the P4 1.7 runs about a third of what the 2.0 version does. RDRAM costs about 3 times more than PC133. An 850 based Mainboard (Intel) runs about 40% more than an 815EP based. Although it all adds up, with the low prices for computer components it doesn’t cost that much more overall.

You may have noticed something missing here – no comparison to the AMD Athlon. I did that on purpose, so this did not end up being an AMD vs. Intel issue. That I will leave for another time, after AMD releases the Palomino core Athlon at 1.5GHz and testing can be done under Windows XP (and hopefully using SYSmark 2001 also). It should be interesting to say the least.

So did the P4 meet my expectations? I’d have to say it more than did. I did see some weak points, but also see a lot of potential. If my system usage was along the lines where the P4 excels I’d give it some serious thought as the CPU for a system. The same goes for RDRAM – it seems to be up to the job. And even the 850 chipset along with the D850MD Mainboard seem to work well with the CPU and memory.


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