Performance Analysis & Conclusion
When we look at the entire spread of benchmark readings we took here for you today, we see the P4 pulling down six wins to the Athlon 64's five wins, with two virtual draws in the 3DMark05 and Lame MP3 tests. These metrics should be contrasted by the fact that the benchmarks that were won by the Athlons were more mainstream desktop and gaming applications that many of our readership finds most important. The P4 definitely excels in audio and video media encoding, as well as mutlithreaded applications like Cinema 4D in our Cinebench benchmarks. The Athlons were the clear and distinct victors everywhere else. Finally, we noted a smallish 1 – 3% advantage for the new 3.46GHz P4 Extreme Edition and i925XE chipset, versus the current standard P4 EE and the i925X.
We are consistently reminded by you, our readers, to "tell it like it is." Our role at HotHardware.com, as tech journalists, is fairly straightforward and simple: test, re-test, evaluate, summarize, and pass some level of judgment. We'll sum things up for you here by saying that Intel's high-end desktop enthusiast platform has fallen behind, dollar for dollar, versus AMD's. If you are the type who is heavily into media encoding, then there is no better choice than the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor. If you're a gamer and standard business app user, like the apps we've shown you in our Business and Content Creation Winstone tests, then there's no better CPU right now than the Athlon 64. Additionally, the latter group of end users we described in these two scenarios is arguably significantly larger than the former. We can't tell the story any more plainly than that.
The new 3.46GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition coupled with the i925XE chipset offers a small performance gain for the enthusiast in certain gaming scenarios and the occasional Media Encoding or 3D Rendering workload. Again, the performance gains we observed were in the 1 – 3% range, hardly what we expected frankly. In fact, equal performance gains can be realized just by making the move to lower latency DDR2 DRAM set at CAS 3, 3, 3, 8 timings. With identical system memory timings in our i925X and i925XE systems, the net gain from a high-speed 1066MHz FSB is observable but frankly nothing to write home about, at least in the applications we tested it in.
The new 3.46GHz Pentium 4 EE is going to list in 1,000 piece pricing at $999, and we expect all motherboard OEMs to transition to the i925XE in their high-end lineup. Our last price check shows Athlon FX-55 chips at around $900 in retail. If you are the type to belly up with this kind of coin, then it certainly makes sense to make your move to the new 1066MHz-enabled P4 EE, but the Athlon FX-55 for all intents and purposes is a much better value for the masses, with significantly less expensive platform components like motherboards and RAM. Intel is expected to release a new version of the Prescott core Pentium 4, with an integrated 2MB of L2 cache, a tweaked branch predictor in its pipeline and targeted improved power efficiencies, as well. At a rumored 3.73GHz, Intel needs to get this chip out the door soon, but we're hearing that it is being pushed out to at least until sometime in early 2005. We'll be here with the details and benchmarks when the time comes, rest assured.