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Review: Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz

by Tarinder Sandhu on 23 June 2003, 00:00 4.0

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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Ramp it up

The high-end / enthusiast sectors are after only one thing........ speed, and lots of it. That's something the latest 'C' line of Pentium 4 processors have in abundance. Just think about it, the all-new 3.2GHz Pentium 4 runs at an astonishing, nominal speed of 3 billion, 200 million clock cycles per second. However, as we all should by now know, ultimate clock speed is only one part of the equation when it comes to defining overall performance. That's why AMD are still in the fight, so to speak.

Intel and AMD continually fight it out to be crowned the x86 speed champion. There's hell of a lot of prestige and kudos in having the fastest line of processors around. The performance war has been raging intently since AMD launched their Athlon derivative CPUs back in '99. The core architecture from the then Slot A CPUs has largely remained intact to today's XP3200. Sure, they have now adopted a different socket layout and new, improved motherboard logics, but one cannot get away from the fact that the XP3200, running at 2200MHz off a 200MHz FSB, is still a potent speedfreak, especially with an accompanying nForce2 motherboard.

Intel, on the other hand, chose to end their successful line of Pentium 3 (non-Tualatin) at the ill-fated 1.13GHz. Replaced by the stunted Pentium 4 Willamette, a processor characterised by a low work-per-clock-cycle ethos and an initially low clock speed, and you could see why supporters of AMD were a content bunch. However, the migration down to a 0.13-micron manufacturing process and an additional 256kb of L2 cache (super-fast, on-chip memory used to store frequently used data) saw the birth of the rampaging Pentium 4 Northwood. And since the inception of the very latest dual-channel motherboards and 200FSB (800FSB quad pumped) CPUs with inherent Hyper-Threading support, Intel, before today, arguably held the performance crown with their 3.00GHz (200FSB) / Canterwood / Springdale combinations.

The lack of overall clock speed increase since the November '02 launch of the 3.06GHz (133FSB) CPU gave rise to some interesting commentary. It appeared that Intel didn't need to launch a faster MHz processor to combat AMD's burgeoning threat. Rather, we inferred, Intel were satisfied with the FSB-loaded 3.0GHz part. After all, performance is more than just clock speed.

This brief history lesson brings us to the newest and fastest maestro of the Northwood family. Rather predictably, the incumbent 3.0GHz Pentium 4 'C' will make way for the 3.2GHz CPU. Sporting all the efficiency of the 200FSB 'C' series, it will undoubtedly be the fastest Pentium 4 to date. How fast is that ?. Let's find out.