by John Reynolds
With the introduction of dual-core processors, Intel has announced the intention of transitioning their product lines away from single-core offerings, though exactly when and at what final clock speed the ubiquitous Pentium 4 parts will finally be phased out of production remains to be seen. This transition to more complex, larger dies that run at lower frequencies is perhaps an inevitable course for Intel to follow as the company attempts to work around the obstacles — heat dissipation, wire delay, and memory bandwidth — that have brought the traditional reliance upon higher clock speeds for performance gains to a scorching halt. The newest Pentium, the 3.8GHz P4P 670, could very well be the last single-core desktop CPU from Intel.
The 6xx series of processors are based on the Prescott core, manufactured with Intel’s 90nm process, run on an 800MHz front-side bus, and launch out of the production chute with 2 MB of L2 cache. As noted in SimHQ’s P4 660 review, the 6xx series bears striking resemblance to Intel’s Extreme Edition processors in terms of cache size, transistor count (169m), and supported features, though the latter runs on the faster 1066MHz front-side bus. These parts also support Intel’s EM64T technology for x64 operating systems and 64-bit applications, and Execute Disable for preventing the running of malicious code. The on-die advanced power management of the Prescott architecture dynamically adjusts clock speed and voltage to help the processors regulate their heat output, though as discussed below the retail cooling solution Intel ships barely suffices to keep the 670 running coolly.
For this review, SimHQ decided to pit the new 670 against the 3.6GHz 660 to see if the 200MHz clock speed difference brings any appreciable performance gains to the table. Also included in the testing is the 3.73GHz Extreme Edition for its support of a faster front-side bus. All processors were installed and tested on the 955X chipset-based motherboard.
Test System Setup
- Intel Pentium 4 660 (3.6GHz), Pentium 4 670 (3.8GHz), and 3.73GHz Extreme Edition CPUs
- Intel 955X motherboard
- 1 GB (2×512 MB) Micron DDR2 533MHz memory
- ATI Radeon X800 XT 256 MB (Catalyst 5.4)
- Windows XP Professional (SP2)
- DirectX 9.0c
The benchmark suite used to evaluate this test system is listed here. As standard practice, 32-bit color and trilinear texture filtering are the default baseline during testing, and anti-aliasing and anisotropic texture filtering are disabled throughout all tests, along with ATI’s A.I. optimizations. Also, Windows XP Professional was configured to have Automatic Update, System Restore, and all unnecessary startup services disabled. And the licensed version of Fraps 2.5.5 was used to record performance scores unless otherwise noted. While SimHQ traditionally tests the games included in our benchmark suite using high in-game settings, because the clock speeds of the processors tested are so similar, lower, less demanding, settings were used to allow the CPUs to differentiate their performances.