It is hard to become too excited by 200 MHz incremental clock speed increases when such steppings are accompanied by the high prices historically placed on new processors. Yet the performance of the 3.4 Extreme Edition cannot be denied, and those seeking bragging rights with the pockets to afford its price tag should give the processor consideration. As for the Pentium 4 560 (3.6 GHz), while SimHQ planned on including its benchmark scores with this article we were simply unable to run the CPU with the heatsink and fan provided by Intel. Interestingly enough, while the 3.4 EE would idle with Windows XP loaded at a tolerable temperature of 34 degrees Celsius, the 560 never dropped below 65 degrees, and often spiked — unexplainably — above 70 degrees. Perhaps its current market absence will give Intel time to improve the thermal issues with the 560. Yet regarding the new socket itself, while much ado has been made online regarding the LGA775 format’s potential for broken pins and OEM woes, the installation and removal of the CPUs were an easy chore so long as they were lowered or lifted as vertically as possible.
As for Intel’s new platform, the D925XCV motherboard used during testing provided an extremely stable and robust foundation. Incredibly feature-rich, the 9xx chipsets boast enough on board functionality in terms of graphics, sound, and networking that add-in board vendors should feel their market shares quite threatened as the new Intel platform begins saturating the market. Moreover, the GMA 900 is such a significant advancement for integrated graphics in terms of advanced features supported that it could act as the single most powerful market influence on game developers to truly begin including these features in their upcoming titles. Yet it must be stated that Intel seems to be betting rather strongly on these features being the leverage that pushes the new platform into the market, because new technologies such as PCI Express and DDR2 serve to increase costs for those looking to upgrade as they remove the option of migrating existing parts — such as, obviously, current DDR memory or AGP graphics boards — to a new, 9xx-based desktop system. And while there are fewer perceptible gains for the gaming and hardware enthusiast communities with Intel’s new platform than what otherwise might be expected, the company has perhaps laid the groundwork with technologies such as PCI Express and the LGA775 socket for better things to come.
Download a pdf of this article here (352 kb).
The “How SimHQ Tests” page is here.
The page includes our test criteria and links to the new Benchmark Suite.