Intel's Newest P4 Challenges Athlon 64

Looking to play spoiler to Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon 64 launch, Intel is rolling out a new higher-performance processor dubbed the Pentium 4 With Hyperthreading Extreme Edition--but exclusive PCWorld.com tests show AMD may have the last laugh.

Systems running AMD's new high-end Athlon 64 FX-51 processor outperformed a test system using Intel's as-yet-unpriced processor on most tests. Additional test results of the new AMD Athlon 64 are also available.

While it didn't best AMD's top chip in early tests, the new P4 HT EE, which was announced last week at the Intel Developer Forum, makes for a much closer race. Intel's new CPU did outperform PCs running today's fastest P4 chip on all tests. It also outran a system with AMD's new mainstream processor, the Athlon 64 3100+, in some tests.

WorldBench 4 Advantage: AMD

Tests of the new P4 HT EE, a 3.2-GHz chip with a whopping 2MB L3 cache, were run on an Alienware PC originally equipped with a standard 3.2-GHz P4. Intel says the new processor should work in systems that support today's 800-MHz frontside bus P4 and include a 400-watt (or higher) power supply. That system, along with three Athlon 64 FX-51-based systems (from Alienware, Falcon Northwest, and Voodoo), all included 1GB of memory and an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card with 256MB of graphics memory.

On PC WorldBench 4, the average score of the three Athlon 64 FX-51 systems was 145, about 11 percent faster than the P4 HT EE system's score of 131.

The AMD systems dominated in our AUGI Gauge and Premiere 6.0 tests, too. In tests where a lower score is better, the FX-51 systems notched, on average, a score of 171 in AUGI Gauge, which is about 33 percent faster than the P4 HT EE system's score of 227. In Premiere, the FX-51 PCs average a score of 174, about 22 percent faster than the P4 HT EE's score of 213.

Closer on Encoding, Gaming

The P4 HT EE's one testing win came in the Musicmatch 7 test. In a benchmark where a lower score is better, the P4 HT EE system hit 139, about 9 percent faster than the averaged FX-51 systems' score of 152.

The FX-51 systems beat the P4 HT EE PC in Photoshop and VideoWave tests, where a lower score is better. The AMD-based PCs scored an average of 75 on our VideoWave test, 8 percent faster than the P4 HT EE's 81. The FX-51 systems averaged 255 on the Photoshop test, a mere 4 percent faster than the P4 HT EE system's score of 265.

When it comes to gaming, the target market for both chips, the test systems couldn't be any closer on some tests. In the Return to Castle Wolfenstein tests, where higher scores are better, the systems are literally in a dead heat.

At a resolution setting of 1024 by 768 and 16 bits, the average score of the FX-51 systems is exactly the same as that of the P4 HT EE system: 145 frames per second. At 1024 by 768 and 32 bits, they also score the same: 138 fps.

The FX-51-based systems pull ahead ever so slightly at 1280 by 1024 and 32 bits, with an averaged scored of 132 fps, an insignificant 2 percent faster than the P4 HT EE PC's score of 129 fps. And at 1600 by 1200 and 32 bits, the FX-51 systems net 111 fps, just 3 percent faster than the P4 EE PC's score of 108 fps.

In tests using Unreal Tournament 2003, the FX-51 systems pulled away more. At 1024 by 768 and 16 bits, the FX-51 PCs averaged 379, about 11 percent faster than the P4 HT EE system's score of 340. At 1024 by 768 and 32 bits, the FX-51 systems averaged 276 fps, about 8 percent faster than the P4 HT EE system's score of 256 fps. At 1280 by 1024 and 32 bits, the FX-51s achieved 183 fps, about 6 percent faster than the P4 HT EE's 173 fps. And finally, at 1600 by 1200 and 32 bits, the FX-51 units notch 131 fps, about 6 percent faster than the P4 HT EE unit's 124 fps.

CPU Details to Come

While Intel is quick to provide reviewers with processors and motherboards for testing, the company has yet to announce a price or a definitive launch date for the HT Extreme Edition.

It's clear the processor is meant to compete with AMD's Athlon. However, analysts noted last week that the new CPU could also be Intel's way to cover a possible slip in the launch date of its next-generation desktop processor, code-named Prescott.

Prescott is still scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter. Intel executives maintain the chip will generate revenue for the company before year's end, but still decline to tell a launch date.

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