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  Intel Pentium 4 2.40GHz 
  Apr 02, 2002, 12:00pm EST 


By: Dan Mepham

As much as youíd be able to guess that the Pentium 4 2.40GHz would be marginally faster than the Pentium 4 2.20GHz, you could probably have also guessed that it would be very significantly faster than the older Pentium III 800. Nevertheless, weíve quantified the difference somewhat, and hopefully you can now appreciate how a faster processor can actually save you time in front of a computer in some situations.

But do you actually need it? The answer will vary for each user, but for most, the answer is quite likely no. At the same time, saying a 2.40GHz processor is overkill isnít universally true either. It just depends on whether the user can keep up. Even if youíre a quick and skilled user, though, there are still better options than the Pentium 4 2.40GHz. Buying second from the top is always advisable -- you could save yourself well in excess of one or two hundred dollars by opting for the 2.20GHz part instead, which is only marginally slower, but much cheaper. Likewise, AMDís Athlon remains a viable option for many users, particularly as an upgrade for those who already have early Socket-A motherboards. Older SDRAM memory does not cripple the Athlonís performance as much as it does the Pentium 4ís.

As to which memory to pair with the Pentium 4, well, that again depends on your situation. If youíre building from scratch, DDR or (preferably) RDRAM are the best options. If you currently own a desktop with SDRAM, though, and are looking for a cheap upgrade, 845/SDR motherboards are a cheap and effective way to breathe new life into an old system. We donít recommend SDRAM for the Pentium 4, but it remains an option for some. Where possible, though, stick to RDRAM (especially for professional 3D or 3D gaming), or DDR. Scientific or encoding (or, generally, any DSP-like) tasks won't be as dependent on memory bandwidth.

As a side note, if interested in a Pentium 4, do yourself a favor and stick to Intel chipsets. 850 is by far the best performing option. If you donít like RDRAM, use 845D or 845. Now that Intel has RDRAM, DDR, and SDRAM chipsets available, in our opinion, there is absolutely no reason to even consider the P4X266, 645, or M1671 chipsets. There's just no good reason anymore. Not one of those chipsets does anything that an Intel chipset can't do better.

And there you have it. Intelís 130nm process is ramping quite nicely, and the Pentium 4 is becoming an ever more attractive option. If you want the latest and greatest, the Pentium 4 2.40GHz is for you. For almost equivalent performance with much less required capital, look into a 2.00-2.20GHz part, or AMD Athlon XP instead.

Dan Mepham

P.s. For those of you that are interested in Intel's new 300-mm wafer process which debuted with the 2.4GHz Pentium 4, be sure to check for addition information and a tour of Intel's first 300-mm plant in Oregon.

1. Introduction
2. Same Old Northwood, 200 More Megahertz
3. Heat and Power
4. Testing Methodologies
5. Performance - Cache & Memory
6. Performance - Audio & Video Encoding
7. Performance - Scientific & Boot Time
8. Performance - OpenGL Gaming
9. Performance - Direct3D Gaming
10. Performance - Professional OpenGL
11. Summary

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