by Ilya Gavrichenkov
05/26/2005 | 01:40 AM
Not so long ago we tested the first dual-core processors from Intel. The micro-processor giant implied that the CPUs with dual-core architecture will little by little oust the single-core solutions from the main market into the inexpensive product segment. However, as our test session results showed, it is a way too early to speak about competitive consumer potential of the dual-core solutions compared with the predecessors (for details please check out our article called Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 Dual-Core CPU Review). The dual-core CPUs failed to reveal their actual performance potential in most applications, because these applications should first of all support multi-threading in order for dual-core technology to really show its advantages. Unfortunately, there are still very few applications with multi-threading support, which makes the advantages of dual-core architectures in the desktop fields quite doubtful.
But, do not get upset too quickly. It is still too early to say farewell to single-core solutions. They will continue their peaceful coexistence with the dual-core rivals for quite a while. In particular, if you were not excited about the Smithfield based processors, Intel is proud to offer you another announcement. Today, on May 26, 2005, they are rolling out Pentium 4 670 CPU based on the Prescott-2M core.
However, the announcement of this CPU shouldn’t provide you with any false illusions regarding the future of single-core Intel solutions. This CPU with 2MB L2 cache memory and 3.8GHz clock frequency is destined to become practically the last model in the Pentium 4 family. The developer has no faster Pentium 4 solutions in mind. So, Intel definitely kept its word about the working frequencies of the CPUs with NetBurst architecture: they will never get over the 4GHz barrier. At the same time it would be incorrect to consider the launch of Pentium 4 670 as a final stage of the NetBurst architecture evolution. This architecture will continue living in the dual-core Pentium D processors. Besides, Pentium 4 processor family will soon undergo a few changes, which will have nothing to do with the core clock frequency increase.
Getting a little bit ahead of our story here I would like to say that the work on improving the currently existing Prescott-2M based processors is still in progress. This should result into the upcoming Intel’s announcement of the new Prescott-2M core stepping with Vanderpool virtualization technology support. Intel is planning to offer two processors based on this updated core stepping: models with 3.6GHz and 3.8GHz clock rates, which will be rated as 662 and 672 respectively. These processors with Vanderpool support will come to replace the top Pentium 4 processor models. In other words, it means that the single-core desktop processors will still get enhanced functionality.
Besides, you shouldn’t also forget that Intel is not giving up the idea of transferring the Pentium 4 processor family to a more advanced technological process: 65nm production technology. The NetBurst based core redesigned for this finer production technology is currently known as Cedarmill. The CPUs based on this core will features 2MB L2 cache, and support all technologies implemented in Prescott-2M, such as EM64T, EIST, etc. the CPUs on Cedarmill core are scheduled to arrive in Q1 2006.
However the upcoming 65nm Pentium 4 processors are positioned in such a way that we will never see them hit the 3.8GHz frequency point. The major goal of the new core is to ensure lower heat dissipation of the processors based on it and to guarantee lower production costs. Therefore, the maximum core frequency for the processors based on it will be3.6GHz, and the solutions will be targeted for the Value and Mainstream markets.
So, the Pentium 4 670 processor announced today will remain the fastest single-core solution from Intel. The launch of this processor may be good news for those Intel CPUs fans, who are still uncertain about the advantages of Intel’s dual-core initiative and prefer to stick with the solutions that stood the test of time. It may be good news, but will it actually be? Our tests are about to show it.
Prescott-2M core used for the today’s newcomer, Pentium 4 670 processor, has already been discussed in detail in our article called Intel Pentium 4 6XX and Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz CPU Review. That is why this time we will only list the major characteristics of the new CPU. For details you may always see our previous article.
Pentium 4 670
Typical heat dissipation
Max. typical case temperature
L2 cache size
Hyper-Threading Technology support
Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) support
Execute Disable Bit Feature (NX) support
As we see, the newcomer doesn’t strike as with anything special. This CPU is a full analog of Pentium 4 660 with that only difference that it works at higher clock frequency.
The diagnostic CPU-Z utility provides the following information about this processor:
Here I would like to note that this CPU, just like all other processors based on Prescott-2M core with the clock frequency multiplier over 14x, supports Demand Based Switching technologies set, i.e. C1E (Enhanced Halt State) Technology, TM2 (Thermal Monitor 2) Technology and EIST (Enhanced Intel SpeedStep) Technology. These technologies make the CPU reduce its working frequency to 2.8GHz in case of overheating or in the idle mode, which is actually no surprise for us, I should say.
As we see from the specification, the increase of the Pentium 4 670 working frequency to 3.8GHz didn’t lead to any TDP increase. Therefore, we can conclude that the CPU doesn’t set any specific requirements to the mainboards and cooling systems and from the compatibility point of view works just like Pentium 4 660. Nevertheless, when we measured its power consumption under real-life workload (maximum workload) we could see that it got slightly higher than that of the predecessor.
Pentium 4 670 power consumption under maximum workload (as usual we used S&M 1.5.1 utility to load the CPU) approaches the power consumption rate of the top dual-core Intel solution, which boasts the TDP of 130W. This is actually one of the reasons why Intel decided to stop raising the Pentium 4 core clock rates. Although our previous CPU overclocking experiments shows that the Prescott-2M core hasn’t yet exhausted its frequency potential. The same was actually proven by the results obtained during the new Pentium 4 670 overclocking.
During our overclocking experiments we used ASUS P5ND2-SLI Deluxe mainboard based on NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition). We overclocked the processor by increasing the FSB frequency, while the PCI Express bus, PCI and memory frequencies were locked at their nominal values (the NVIDIA chipset allows doing it easily). The processor Vcore remained at its nominal value, too, because in case of Pentium 4 processors it is not efficient. During our overclocking experiments we cooled the CPU with the Zalman CNPS7700Cu cooler.
As you can see from the screenshot above, we managed to increase the FSB frequency to 230MHz, which allowed the CPU core clock to rise up to 4.37GHz. The system remained stable at this clock rate. In fact, this is a pretty logical result: we have already managed to overclock Pentium 4 processors beyond the 4.3GHz barrier. As you may remember from our previous reviews, we overclocked the Pentium 4 660 on Prescott-2M core with N0 stepping and Pentium 4 570 processor on Prescott core with E0 stepping notably beyond 4.3GHz.
Summing up, I would like to say that from the point of view of the features and capabilities of the new processor, Pentium 4 670 didn’t prepare any surprises for us. The only remarkable thing worth mentioning separately is the price of the newcomer. Unfortunately, Pentium 4 670 will for now occupy the niche between Pentium 4 660 and Pentium 4 XE 3.73GHz, and will not initiate the long-awaited price reduction for all processor models. Therefore, the new CPU will be offered at a pretty high price - $851. Is it really worth the money they ask for it? Well, our benchmarks results will show right now.
During this test session we will compare the performance of the new Pentium 4 670 processor against that of the top single- and dual-core solutions targeted for the same market segment. So, Intel Pentium 4 670 will be competing today against Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 X2, Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and Pentium Extreme Edition processors.
We assembled a few systems for our tests from the following components:
The new Pentium 4 670 CPU didn’t reveal any unexpected results in Business Winstone 2004. The performance has got slightly higher compared with what we saw by Pentium 4 660, so that our hero outperformed Pentium 4 570 working at 3.8GHz. At the same time it failed to catch up with the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz.
The situation is pretty natural in the multi-threaded tests of the Business Winstone 2004 package. The only remarkable thing here worth mentioning is the fact that Pentium 4 670 manages to outperform the dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 under relatively low multi-threaded workload in the first two benchmarks out of three.
SYSmark2004 shows that the performance of Pentium 4 670 in some tasks can approach the result of Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz. However, this is not surprising at all. The newcomer works at higher clock frequency of 3.8GHz, and the only thing Pentium 4 XE has to oppose the higher clock rate with is the faster system bus working at 1067MHz.
If we compare the performance of our Pentium 4 670 with that of its predecessors, the performance gain will be quite small. The new solution costs $851, which is hardly justified by the benchmark results we see today.
The same conclusions could be made if we look at the SYSmark2004 results. The new CPU is hardly that much faster than the Pentium 4 570 with the twice as small L2 cache and the same core clock rate: we see the advantage of only 1-2%. However, Pentium 4 670 manages to defeat Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz. This once again proves the fact that all High-End Intel processors are offering pretty similar performance these days.
PCMark04 doesn’t reveal any unexpected results, too. I would only like to point out the fact that this benchmark is quite insensitive to the increase in the L2 cache size, therefore Pentium 4 670 and Pentium 4 570 run almost equally fast.
According to the results of the popular 3DMark 2001 SE benchmark, the performance of the CPUs with NetBurst architecture is greatly dependent on the bus frequency as well as on the L2 cache size. That is why Pentium 4 670 outpaces all other members of the family except Pentium 4 Extreme Edition targeted for gaming enthusiasts.
The results of the new 3DMark05 test set do not depend that much on the CPU performance, that is why we would like to discuss only the special CPU tests from this package.
The processor tests from 3DMark05 test suite support multi-threading. Therefore, dual-core CPus show pretty high performance here. As for our today’s main hero, Pentium 4 670, it proves the fastest among Intel’s contemporary single-core solutions. The only thing that can actually spoil the triumph of the new Intel solution is the pretty high results shown by rivals from AMD, which have always worked faster in gaming applications than their Intel competitors.
In gaming applications Pentium 4 670 is a little bit slower than Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz featuring faster bus. At the same time, all other Intel processors prove slower than the newcomer. However, I don’t think it will greatly improve the mood of Intel fans: the CPUs from this manufacturer have always been beaten by AMD Athlon 64 processor family in games.
The situation in archiving utilities is pretty much the same. Pentium 4 670 runs pretty fast compared with other Intel’s solutions. However, when we compare the results with what AMD rivals demonstrate here, the conclusions do not please us at all.
In applications dealing with audio and video encoding, Pentium 4 processors have always been faster than their competitors from AMD. Pentium 4 670 with the highest clock rate and largest L2 cache appears the leader among Intel’s single-core solutions. In fact, only dual-core CPUs can compete with Pentium 4 670 in this type of tasks, though this competition is not always a success for the latter. Some codecs, such as Mainconcept and XviD, for instance, are still running faster on single-core processors.
Pentium 4 670 appears just a little bit behind Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz in popular Adobe applications for image editing and video processing, although it outperforms all other Intel’s solutions with 800MHz bus. In fact, dual-core processors suit much better for applications of this kind, so we would still recommend using them for this type of tasks.
The same picture can be observed in ABBYY Finereader 7.0.
The newcomer from Intel appeared the fastest Intel CPU in Mathematica 5.1 and MATLAB 7. However, Athlon 64 micro-architecture has more advantages for math1ematical calculations therefore, we cannot announce Pentium 4 670 an indisputable winner here.
The situation turns out slightly different in Sciencemark 2.0. Pentium 4 670 is defeated by Pentium 4 570 although it boasts twice as much L2 cache memory as the latter. The results can be explained by the L2 cache organization in the Prescott-2M core. As we have already mentioned in our article called Intel Pentium 4 6XX and Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz CPU Review, the larger L2 cache of the Prescott-2M core works slightly slower than the cache of the regular Prescott. If it is the performance of the L2 cache memory and not the size that the given application is critical for, then 5XX processors from the Pentium 4 family will appear faster than their 6XX counterparts working at the same clock frequencies.
Pentium 4 570 CPU also often outpaces the new Pentium 4 670 in the popular rendering applications, such as Lightwave and 3ds max. However, it doesn’t prevent Pentium 4 670 from defeating the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz here. Anyway, dual-core solutions show the best results in applications of this type.
The announcement of another Intel processors, Pentium 4 670, is very unlikely to change anything in the current processor market. The performance of the newcomer is not very much different from the performance of Pentium 4 570. In fact, the major goal behind this processor launch is to offer an alternative to Pentium 4 570, because Intel is going to discontinue CPUs with 1M L2 cache memory in the near future. Moreover, you should also keep in mind that all currently available Pentium 4 5XX processor modifications do not support 64-bit EM64T extensions, which turns into a significant drawback today. However, in a few weeks we will see new 5X1 processor solutions, which will be just the same as regular Prescott based CPUs with added EM64T technology support. These processors are expected to start shipping on June 10.
Although the new Pentium 4 670 processors work at higher 3.8GHz core frequency, which is higher than the working frequency of the top Pentium 4 Extreme Edition CPU, we still cannot state that the newcomer appeared faster than the CPU for wealthy hardware enthusiasts. Pentium 4 Extreme Edition still wins this race due to faster bus in most applications. But at the same time, the difference between the Pentium 4 and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors got unacceptably small.
So, there is a pretty curious situation right now in the high-end Intel processor market: the manufacturer is offering a few processor models with about the same performance, but completely different prices. Only dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 manages to stand out here, which it is faster than the top single-core solutions in a number of tasks and falls dramatically behind them in a few other applications at the same time.
All in all we get the following situation here. From the price-to-performance point of view AMD Athlon 64 processors are still the best choice for gamers. In audio and video encoding applications dual-core AMD CPUs and top Pentium 4 5XX and 6XX Intel CPUs take the lead that is why Pentium 4 5XX will look most attractive due to its lower price. In image editing tasks and during streaming video processing you will get the maximum performance if you are using only dual-core solutions from either of the manufacturers. Mathematical calculations have always been the prerogative of AMD Athlon 64. And for final rendering you might want to consider getting a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2. As for the regular work in popular office applications, any of the above discussed CPUs will do just fine.