Reigning supreme: Pentium 4 3.2GHz

We've already looked at AMD's new Athlon XP 3200+ processor, which operates at an actual clock speed of 2.2GHz (see review: http://pcworld.idg.com.au/index.php?id=915798600&fp=2&fpid=36). Now we test Intel's new 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor.

Our results indicate that the AMD equivalent CPU does not match this processor for grunt in either productivity or multimedia applications.

Architecturally, the 3.2GHz P4 is the same as its 3GHz stablemate except for the faster clock speed, and maintains a 512KB Level 2 cache, an 800MHz front side bus speed and, of course, it supports Hyper-Threading. A growing number of applications have been written to take advantage of Hyper-Threading, such as Adobe Premiere 7.0, SonicFoundry Acid Pro 4.0 and Unreal 2 but, of course, this technology will boost the performance of existing applications, particularly multitasking.

Early adopters who have already invested in a 3GHz P4 should not be too concerned with the release of this new increment, as 3GHz is still more than enough for today's popular applications and games. The 3.2GHz P4 has a 5 per cent improvement for productivity applications, so Microsoft Office will run just that little bit faster.

The 3.2GHz part will obviously be the most expensive Pentium 4 in the line-up due to it being the flagship model, but Intel was unable to provide pricing at the time of writing and we could not obtain approximate pricing from other sources. Usually, the release of a faster processor means price cuts to the older models in the product family, but Intel was also unable to provide forecast information on the pricing of its 3GHz part.

We tested the 3.2GHz chip using an Intel D875PBZ motherboard with the latest BIOS version from Intel's developer Web site. This motherboard is based on the high-end 875P chipset. We also installed 512MB (two 256MB) of PC3200 DDR SDRAM in a dual channel configuration, and a 128MB Chaintech GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics adapter. Two 120GB, 7200rpm, Serial ATA Seagate Barracuda hard drives were used in a RAID 0 configuration and a fresh copy of Windows XP Professional was installed to run all our tests. The results are shown in the table below. The platform performed very reliably and quickly, and we experienced no software crashes or freezes at all.

A machine featuring a top-of-the-line CPU such as this is perfect for users who are keen video and graphics editors, or music creators, as these tasks rely very heavily on the CPU when encoding or rendering information in large projects.

PERFORMANCE RESULTS 3.2GHz (800MHz FSB) 3GHz (800MHz FSB)
SYSMark 2001 301 287
Internet content creation 341 322
Office content creation 266 256
3DMark 2001 SE 14978 13352
Quake III 640x480 420 410

In brief: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz
With a performance boost of about 5 per cent over a 3GHz P4 and about 10 per cent over a 3200+ Athlon, the 3.2GHz assumes the position as the performance leader for consumer personal computers and workstations. Of course, be prepared to pay a premium price.
Price: $1155
Vendor: Intel
URL: www.intel.com.au

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