Actually we have already shown everything regarding the performance of our testing participants in different types of applications. Now I would like to express some ideas about the prospects and value of the existing processor families.
Intel Pentium 4 (Prescott). At present this processor family from Intel based on the new 90nm core doesn’t demonstrate any worthy advantages over the predecessors. Although, we didn’t expect much today, to tell the truth. Prescott core was first of all developed to allow Intel increase the core clock frequency potential of its Pentium 4 processor family. The current models, however, cannot boast high working frequencies compared with Northwood. Therefore, Prescott based processors are often even slower than those on a 130nm Northwood core. In fact, there are only two types of tasks where improved NetBurst architecture of the Prescott core shows its advantages. They are data compression and compilation. In all other cases, Northwood based CPUs run as fast as Prescott based ones, or even faster.
Intel Pentium 4 (Northwood). Northwood family also acquired a new model working at 3.4GHz. Therefore, the clock frequencies of the today’s top Prescott and Northwood CPUs are equal. Their prices are also equal. Taking into account this fact we have to admit that Northwood should become a better buy today. And it is not only about performance, although the 130nm core provides a tangible advantage in games, audio and video encoding applications, image editing and final rendering, and is quite fast in scientific calculations. Northwood based CPUs dissipate considerably less heat, and their overclocking potential is not that much worse than that of the Prescott based processors.
Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. However, those users who care about high performance in the first place, could take a look at another processor family from Intel – Pentium 4 XE. Based on Northwood core equipped with a 2MB L3 cache, Pentium 4 XE is much faster than Northwood based processors, and definitely Prescott based ones. However, when you pay around $1000 for a CPU, you want to get not just good, but simply matchless performance. However, we cannot use this word to describe the performance of Intel Pentium 4 XE: the competing solutions from AMD sometimes outpace even the top model with 3.4GHz core clock.
AMD Athlon XP. This processor family is little by little leaving the stage. These processors can no longer offer competitive performance level, although the prices of the top models remain quite high.
AMD Athlon 64. The major solution AMD offers for the mainstream market today appears pretty attractive. Athlon 64 is very fast in many applications outperforming Pentium 4 and even Pentium 4 Extreme Edition in some of them. Moreover, these CPUs have a very strong hidden trump: they support 64bit mode, which might become very useful as soon as corresponding software comes out. However, there are two types of tasks where Athlon 64 is no rival to Intel’s solutions: audio/video encoding and Photoshop. If it were not for these tasks, we would have every right to call Athlon 64 the best CPU in the today’s market.
AMD Athlon 64 FX. High-End processor family from AMD is targeted for the same user-group as Intel Pentium 4 XE, but is priced somewhat lower than the competitor. As for the performance, Athlon 64 FX-51 is sometimes even faster than Pentium 4 XE 3.4GHz. So, I would call Athlon 64 FX a better offer than Intel’s Pentium 4 XE from the price-to-performance point of view. However, you shouldn’t forget that Athlon 64 FX-51 has the same weak spots as the regular Athlon 64: it is pretty slow during media encoding and in Photoshop. Moreover, Athlon 64 3400+ is twice as inexpensive as the FX model, however, it performs really close to the high-end CPU from AMD.