Intel Pentium 4 6XX and Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz CPU Review

Intel Company has just announced new processors based on Prescott 2M core featuring 2M L2 cache memory. Besides that, these Pentium 4 CPUs also support Enhanced Memory 64 Technology and Enhanced Intel SpeedStep. Let’s find out if these architectural innovations will affect the situation in the processor market.

by Ilya Gavrichenkov
02/20/2005 | 12:05 AM

Last year already Intel was talking about the upcoming change of the priorities referring to the CPU development. Since the company faced some problems with increasing the clock frequencies of its Pentium 4 processors, they decided to focus their efforts on increasing the CPU performance instead of enlarging their functionality. Within the next year they made first steps in that direction. For instance, they started marking the CPUs with the so-called processor number, while the clock frequency remained secondary. However, the real steps aimed at providing the CPUs with the brand new functions were still planned for this year 2005. That is why we were so excited about the first processor announcements to come this year.

 

And finally it happened. Today Intel announced new processors in its Pentium 4 family based on the new core also known as Prescott 2M. Although Intel’s vital desire to bring dual-core architectures to desktop solutions hasn’t yet affected the new products, Pentium 4 processors with 6XX ratings boast a number of exciting features and functions. That is exactly why Pentium 4 processors on Prescott 2M core are so interesting for us: we get larger L2 cache memory and Enhanced Memory 64 technology and Enhanced Intel SpeedStep support, which are new for the desktop computer market.

Together with Intel Pentium 4 6XX processor family, the company is launching a new solution for hardware enthusiasts. This processor belongs to the Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition family and is expected to raise the Intel’s performance bar and to become the company’s fastest processor in the market. Therefore, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, which doesn’t have all the functionality typical of the new Pentium 6XX, works at higher core clock rates and supports higher bus frequency.

However, we could actually approach Intel products from the other side, too. Against the indisputable success of their major competitor, AMD, Pentium 4 processors didn’t look like the best choice out there until today. The top Athlon 64 models outperformed similar Intel solutions and offered broader functionality. Now Intel is evidently undertaking a new attempt to catch up with the competitor. Larger L2 cache memory of the new Prescott 2M processor should speed up their performance. And the introduction of the new Enhanced Memory 64 Technology and Enhanced Intel SpeedStep in the new Pentium 4 6XX CPUs can be regarded as Intel’s response to AMD64 and Cool’n’Quiet implemented in Athlon 64.

In this article we are going to take a closer look at new Intel solutions. We will study in detail all new features provided by the technologies implemented in Intel Pentium 4 processors based on Prescott 2M core, the performance gain obtained by the Pentium 4 6XX and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, and their ability to successfully compete with  the top AMD Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX solutions. However, as usual we would like to go a little bit into theoretical details before passing over to the performance test.

New Pentium 4 6XX and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz CPUs

Well, today, on February 20, 2005 Intel officially announced new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz processor and Pentium 4 6XX series processors. All these CPUs are based on one and the same processor core aka Prescott 2M, which major distinguishing feature is larger L2 cache memory of 2MB. All the other specs of this core including the 90nm strained silicon production technology are similar to those of the predecessor, Prescott, which has been used in the Pentium 4 5XX processors for a long time now.

You can even see how similar the two cores are from the side-by-side pictures of Prescott and Prescott 2M:

Prescott
     

Prescott 2M

Pentium 4 6XX processor family includes a few models today working at frequencies ranging from 3.0GHz to 3.6GHz. All these CPUs, just like their predecessors, use 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus. The slowest model is marked as 630, the 3.2GHz model – as 640, the 3.4GHz model – as 650, and the 3.6GHz model – as 660. I have to note that the frequency of the top processor from the 600-family, that of Pentium 4 660, is smaller than the frequency of the top Pentium 4 processor on the regular Prescott core, Pentium 4 570, which works at 3.8GHz. However, Pentium 4 6XX still boasts a number of advantages compared to its younger brothers.

First of all, Pentium 4 6XX processor family support Enhanced Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) – 64-bit extensions of x86 architecture, which are analogous to AMD64 extensions. Due to this fact all Pentium 4 6XX processors are compatible with Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, which we have already discussed in detail in our earlier article called Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Preview: AMD64 and Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology. The compatibility with this OS provided Pentium 4 6XX processors with the whole number of advantages, which we so far have seen only by AMD Athlon 64 CPUs. Among those I would first of all like to point out simultaneous compliance with 32-bit and 64-bit applications and support of over 4GB of RAM.

The second advantage of the new Pentium 4 6XX processors is the support of Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology (EIST). This technology is fully identical to a mechanism implemented in Intel mobile processors, which now allows Pentium 4 6XX processors to reduce their clock frequency when no high performance is required. This technology allows to significantly reduce the heat dissipation and power consumption during work.

Moreover, all Pentium 4 6XX processors support Execute Disable Bit technology (XD bit), which was first introduced in Pentium 4 5XXJ when Intel released their 3.8GHz model marked as 570J.

This way, even though Pentium 4 6XX processors work at lower clock frequencies than the predecessors, they are still much more functional than their predecessors, Pentium 4 5XX CPU.

I would also like to remind you that Intel decided to give up the release of Prescott based processors with the clock frequencies of 4GHz and up. This is also true for the CPUs based on the Prescott 2M core. In other words, Pentium 4 570 working at 3.8GHz will remain the top model in the Pentium 4 5XX family based on Prescott core. As far as the Pentium 4 6XX processor family is concerned, the top model as of today is the CPU marked as 660 and working at 3.6GHz core clock.

So, there is still room for the new faster CPUs to come out within this product family. In Q2 2005 Intel is going to announce Pentium 4 670 working at 3.8GHz.

However, the question about the “fastest CPU” title is so far not in favor of Pentium 4 660, and not in favor of Pentium 4 570. There is one more CPU based on Prescott 2M core, which has just been announced today and which belongs to the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition family. This newcomer works at 3.73GHz clock rate and is intended to support 1066MHz bus frequency. Note that even though the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz boasts most of the features present in the new Pentium 4 6XX processors, it doesn’t support EIST technology. The other two technologies, XD bit and EM64T, are fully supported.

And here is the info we get from the CPU-Z diagnostic utility about the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz and Pentium 4 660 processors:


Intel Pentium 4 660


Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz

Summing up, I would like to offer you a table with all the formal characteristics of the newly announced Pentium 4 6XX and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz processors. For a more illustrative comparison we are also offering you the specs for the Pentium 4 5XX side-by-side with those of the newcomers:

 

Pentium 4 5XX

Pentium 4 6XX

Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73 GHz

Package

LGA775

LGA775

LGA775

Processor rating

570, 560, 550, 540, 530, 520

660, 650, 640, 630

None

Clock frequencies

2.8 – 3.8 GHz

3.0 – 3.6 GHz

3.73 GHz

Bus frequency

800 MHz

800 MHz

1066 MHz

Core

Prescott

Prescott 2M

Prescott 2M

Manufacturing technology

90nm, strained silicon

90nm, strained silicon

90nm, strained silicon

L1 data cache

16 KB

16 KB

16 KB

Trace cache

12000 micro-ops

12000 micro-ops

12000 micro-ops

L2 cache

1024 KB

2048 KB

2048 KB

EM64T

None

Yes

Yes

XD-bit

Yes

Yes

Yes

EIST

None

Yes

None

Hyper-Threading technology

Yes

Yes

Yes

SIMD-instructions support

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

SSE, SSE2, SSE3

Number of transistors

125 mln

169 mln

169 mln

Die size

112 sq.mm

135 sq.mm

135 sq.mm

As for the thermal characteristics of the new processors, I should say that their heat dissipation lies within the same range as that of the Pentium 4 5XX CPU family. It means that Pentium 4 6XX working at up to 3.4GHz frequencies fit into the 84W TDP, while the top models including the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz feature 115W TDP.

This way the new CPUs can be freely used in the same mainboards as the previous generation of Pentium 4 LGA775 processors. The only requirement is the support of the new CPUs in the mainboard BIOS.

So, please meet the newcomers:


Pentium 4 570, Pentium 4 660, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73 GHz

Prescott 2M Core: Different Cache Memory

Since larger L2 cache memory appeared one of the major innovations introduced in the Pentium 4 processors when they moved to Prescott 2M core, we are going to pay special attention to the L2 cache memory structure in our article.  In order to better understand how the L2 cache-memory is arranged in the new Prescott 2M core, we once again resorted to CPU-Z diagnostic utility. For a better comparison we are also offering you our older data obtained for the CPU on the regular Prescott core.


Prescott


Prescott 2M

As we see, Prescott 2M and Prescott have similar structure of the L2 cache memory. It is only the size of this memory that is different. The L2 cache of both cores has 8-way associativity and processes 64-byte long strings. However the same number of associativity ways for cache memory of different size automatically implies that it takes more time to perform data search in a larger cache. As a result, L2 cache of Prescott 2M based processors should be slower than that of the CPUs based on the regular Prescott core.

In order to check out this supposition we resorted to Cache Burst 32 utility. The testbed we used for this experiment was built on Intel Desktop D925XECV2 Board based on i925XE Express chipset and was equipped with dual-channel DDR2-533 SDRAM with 4-4-4-11 timings. For our tests we used Pentium 4 560 and Pentium 3 660 on Prescott and Prescott 2M cores respectively.

According to the obtained results, the L2 cache read speed is lower by Pentium 4 660 processor compared with what we see by Pentium 4 560 CPU with smaller L2 cache. At the same time the write speed and cache latency is the same in both cases. However when we copy data, the L2 cache memory of the Prescott 2M based processor appears somewhat faster than the cache memory of the CPU on the regular Prescott core.

This way we have to state that the increase in the L2 cache memory size by the new Pentium 4 6XX processors resulted into certain architectural changes, which affected the performance of the L2 cache during data processing. And this effect was not highly positive. Note that this has already happened to NetBurst architecture once, when they shifted from Northwood core to Prescott. So we have to point out one more time that increase in the L2 cache memory size is not very beneficial for its overall performance.

Demand Based Switching Details

When Intel introduced Enhanced Intel SpeedStep technology in its new Pentium 4 6XX processor family, the CPUs automatically acquired three new technologies, which all belong to the so-called Demand Based Switching type of technologies. We have already paid due attention to the first two technologies of the kind when we reviewed Pentium 4 570J processor based on Prescott E0 core stepping (for more details see our article called Intel Pentium 4 570J CPU Review. This new core stepping provided Pentium 4 processors with a new TM2 thermal monitoring mechanism and a new C1E power consumption reduction scheme. EIST was a nice addition to these two technologies in the new Prescott 2M core, so that now Pentium 4 6XX CPUs can also boast lower average power consumption and heat dissipation.

EIST technology is intended to manage the CPU clock frequency and its Vcore depending on the workload and level of CPU utilization, just like they do it in mobile PCs. In the desktop segment Cool’n’Quiet technology from AMD implemented in Athlon 64 processors can be regarded as an analog to EIST. We can say that this technology allows using the processor resources in a more rational way: when we work in applications that do not require 100% CPU utilization, processor doesn’t have to work at the top of its potential, so its clock frequency can be reduced, which will at the same time allow reducing the heat dissipation and power consumption of the CPU. If the application requires maximum CPU performance, the clock frequency will rise back up to its nominal value, and so will the Vcore.

EIST technology can be enabled just like Cool’n’Quiet. For example, in Windows XP there is a page called Power Option Properties. You have to change the Power Scheme from Home/Office Desk to Minimal Power Management. After that the CPU will start reducing its clock frequency when it is not fully loaded. The processor driver required for this technology is also included into Service Pack 2, which makes EIST technology compatible with Windows XP once SP2 has been installed.

At first sight, EIST seems to be pretty simple. However, I have to assure you that this pretty interesting technology is full of surprises. The thing is that all three Demand Based Switching technologies – C1E, TM2 and EIST – use the same working algorithm. That is why we decided we should once again specify how particularly they work.

The work of C1E, TM2 and EIST is based on the fact that Pentium 4 processors with Prescott E0 and Prescott 2M N0 core steppings can change their Vid multiplier coefficient “on the fly”. To be more exact, Prescott and Prescott 2M processors can reduce their clock multiplier to 14x if necessary (and this is the minimal supported value for Prescott core), and at the same time drop down the Vcore by about 0.25V. The combination of these features determines the so widely spread “power-saving mode” when the CPU starts running at 2.8GHz core clock and reduced core voltage. Here is what we get from CPU-Z utility run for the Pentium 4 660 processor (supporting 3.6GHz nominal frequency), when it works in “power-saving mode”:

Another interesting peculiarity is the fact that the power-saving mode is the same for all the Pentium 4 6XX CPUs with different nominal clock frequencies: in this mode all of them work at 2.8GHz core clock speed, independent of their initial nominal frequency.

It is important to stress that the stability during the switch to this mode and back is granted by the gradual transition to the lower working frequency. When the CPU switches to power-saving mode, the clock frequency multiplier is at first reduced to 14x and then the Vcore is little by little dropped down to the appropriate value. When the CPU switches back from the power-saving mode to normal, the same steps are undertaken in the reverse order: at first the core voltage increases and then the multiplier is set to the nominal value.

All three Demand Based Switching technologies, C1E, TM2 and EIST, use this power-saving mode. But they differ by the moments this mode gets enabled.

C1E (Enhanced Halt State) Technology activated power-saving mode when the CPU received the Halt command, which indicates the wait state for the processor. The OS sends this command to the CPU, when there are no other instructions to be performed. In other words, Pentium 4 processors used to switch their execution units into idle mode when they received the Halt command. Now the C1E mode allows reducing the heat dissipation and power consumption even more due to the additional reduction in the CPU clock frequency in this case.

TM2 (Thermal Monitor 2) Technology is intended to protect the CPU against overheating, but uses the same 2.8GHz power-saving mode. TM2 switches the CPU into this mode upon a special command received by the thermal diode built into the processor core. If the die temperature exceeds a certain barrier (and this value is calibrated for each CPU individually), the CPU frequency drops down to 2.8GHz together with the processor core voltage. This mechanism allows reducing the processor temperature down to the acceptable level 40% faster than the TM1 mechanism based on the internal clock frequency modulation algorithm did.

EIST (Enhanced Intel SpeedStep) Technology. Strange as it might seem, this technology also switches the CPU into the 2.8GHz power-saving mode. Here the switch is initiated by the system OS. If the processor driver reports low CPU utilization at a given moment of time, the OS transfers the CPU into the power-saving mode by means of a corresponding ACPI command. In other words, EIST allows reducing the processor heat dissipation not only in idle mode but also under light workload.

Now I have to point out a pretty disappointing observation of ours. Since the minimal allowed clock frequency multiplier for Prescott and Prescott 2M cores is 14x, C1E, TM2 and EIST technologies can only work for the CPUs featuring higher nominal clock multiplier. For instance, the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73Ghz CPU doesn’t support these new technologies at all, because its nominal clock frequency multiplier equals 14x. So, the higher is the nominal clock frequency multiplier of the CPU, the more efficient are all Demand Based Switching technologies described above.

Thermal Characteristics and Power Consumption

Now that we have discussed in detail all the new power-saving technologies implemented by Intel in their new Pentium 4 6XX processors, it is high time we estimated their practical value in real-life applications.

For our testing experiments we assembled the following test system:

First of all, we measured the temperatures of LGA775 Pentium 4 6XX and Pentium 4 5XX processors. Among the latter CPUs we used the solutions based on Prescott E0 core stepping, i.e. the CPUs that support C1E and TM2. The frequencies of the tested CPUs were set to 2.8GHz, 3.0GHz, 3.2GHz, 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz, and those for the CPU on Prescott E0 core stepping – to 3.8GHz. The bus was working at its nominal frequency in all cases. The processor Vcore also stayed nominal. For all our tests we used the same boxed LGA775 cooler. The processor temperatures were measured with the help of a built-in on-die thermal diode. We measured all temperatures in two modes: in idle mode and under maximum workload created by a special S&M utility version 0.3.2, which is the best tool out there today for CPU heating experiments.

Besides the temperatures of the Pentium 4 5XX and 6XX processors, we also added the data for the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz to the final diagrams. Although this CPU is also based on the same Prescott 2M core with N0 stepping, like all other Pentium 4 6XX processors, it doesn’t support C1E, TM2 and EIST technologies. That is why we are going to pay special attention to its thermal characteristics and power consumption.

As we see, Pentium 4 5XX and Pentium 4 6XX processors working at the same frequencies generate about the same amount of heat under maximum workload. It means that larger L2 cache memory hasn’t affected the thermal characteristics of the new CPUs at all. However, we would specifically like to draw your attention to the processors performance in idle mode. First of all, note that Pentium 4 5XX and Pentium 4 6XX run at the same temperatures independent of their nominal clock frequency in this mode. It can be explained by the fact that in idle mode these CPUs run in power-saving regime at 2.8GHz clock speed, independent of their nominal frequency. For example, Pentium 4 XE 3.73GHz , which doesn’t support C1E, TM2 and EIST technologies, heats up notably more in idle mode. It is actually quite logical, as it continues working at its nominal frequency in this mode unlike Pentium 4 5XX and 6XX processors.

Also, besides the temperature measurements, we also evaluated the power consumption of the Pentium 4 processors based on Prescott and Prescott 2M cores. For this purpose we took a special clump multimeter and measured the current in the 12V circuit powering the CPU. In other words, the data given below takes into account the performance index of the CPU power converter, that is why you may find these numbers a little bit higher than the actual processor power consumption values (about 10%):

The picture appears pretty much the same as the one we just saw for the temperatures. However, I have to point out that the new Prescott 2M based CPUs boast lower power consumption than the processors on the regular Prescott core even despite a larger number of transistors they use. This way there is quite a bit of reserve for further increase in the Pentium 4 6XX clock frequencies.

Overclocking

To evaluate how big this reserve is and to better understand if the new Prescott 2M core with N0 stepping will be beloved by overclocking enthusiasts we decided to test the new Pentium 4 660 processor working at the nominal 3.6GHz clock rate during overclocking. The test system we used in this case included the following hardware components:

To cool down Pentium 4 660 during our overclocking experiments we used the best air cooler for LGA775 CPUs available in the market today: Zalman CNPS7700Cu. We didn’t increase the CPU Vcore during overclocking: the top processors based on Prescott 2M core as well as their predecessors can hardly benefit from this trick. We overclocked the processor by raising the FSB frequency over the nominal 200MHz, the PCI Express and PCI bus frequencies were locked at the nominal 100MHz and 33MHz respectively.

Before we pass over to the actual results of our overclocking experiment we would like to remind you that the maximum frequency we managed to obtain for the Pentium 4 570 processor on Prescott core with E0 core stepping equaled 4.3GHz. We didn’t expect our Pentium 4 660 based on a core with more transistors to show anything like that. However, our tests showed that we should have had more trust in that baby.

The CPU-Z screenshot below is a clear evidence of our success:

In other words, Pentium 4 660 working at the nominal 3.6GHz overclocked to 4.33GHz. It is a very good result, which proves that the Prescott 2M core boast a pretty significant overclocking potential. This way, we can state that slower Pentium 4 6XX CPU models may turn into very interesting overclocking solutions.

We in our turn have to say once again that Intel’s decision not to release any 90nm CPUs with the clock frequencies over 4GHz is most likely based on some marketing reasons rather than the exhausted technological potential. As we have just proven once again, the existing Prescott and Prescott 2M cores with E0 and N0 core steppings can easily run at 4GHz+ frequencies.

Testbed and Methods

The main goal of this test session is to find out the performance level provided by the new Intel Pentium 4 6XX processors and the Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz processor, and to compare their performance with that of the predecessors and competitors. For our tests we took two top models from the 6XX family, Pentium 4 660 working at 3.6GHz and Pentium 4 650 working at 3.4GHz.

The testbeds were configured as follows:

We ran the tests in MS Windows XP SP2 with installed DirectX 9.0c. The test systems were configured for maximum performance. Note that we increased the Cycle Time (Tras) in Athlon 64 to 10. Our practical experience shows that in this mode the memory controller of AMD Athlon 64 processor works better than in case this timing is set to the minimal value of 5.

This time we included much more applications into the tests, because we decided to start using a PC WorldBench 5 standard scripts set, which is widely used in the industry today for benchmarking purposes.

Performance

FutureMark PCMark04, 3DMark2001 SE and 3DMark05

First of all we decided to discuss the results obtained in popular synthetic tests from FutureMark:

PCMark04 test uses Hyper-Threading technology a lot, which allows Intel processors to show better results in this test package. As far as the performance differences between processor families from Intel are concerned, we can say that 6XX family with larger 2MB L2 cache memory are just a little bit faster than Pentium 4 5XX. While Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz outperforms its predecessor, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz on Gallatin core, due to significant working frequency increase and a newer processor die.

The results obtained in the subtest measuring the memory subsystem performance are also very interesting. Larger L2 cache in Pentium 4 6XX processors sped up their work with the data, which allowed these CPUs to catch up with Athlon 64 processors, which have always been strong in this test due to the integrated memory controller. In other words, the use of large 2MB L2 cache eliminated high latencies of the DDR2 SDRAM used in contemporary Pentium 4 systems.

The old 3DMark2001 SE benchmark is still very popular. However, today it is much more suitable for CPU testing rather than for graphics cards testing. You remember that the top positions in this test have always been occupied by Athlon 64 CPUs. But now the situation has changed. The use of larger L2 cache in the new Pentium 4 processors on Prescott 2M core allowed these processors to improve their results in this test, which helped Pentium 4 660 to outperform Athlon 64 3500+, and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz to catch up with Athlon 64 3800+. Of course, we can’t really call these results Intel’s indisputable success, but they undoubtedly indicate that in gaming applications larger L2 cache of the Prescott 2M based CPUs will have a highly positive effect on the CPU performance.

The results obtained in the newest FutureMark 3DMark05 package also show that larger L2 cache memory is going to be efficient for gaming 3D graphics. However, the CPU performance index from this benchmark doesn’t allow Pentium 4 660 outpace Pentium 4 570 working at 200MHz higher core clock. Anyway, it doesn’t prevent Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz from winning the first place, as it manages to defeat even AMD Athlon 64 FX-55 here.

Gaming Applications

Since the first Athlon 64 CPUs appeared, they have been defeating their competitors from the Pentium 4 family in all gaming applications. The launch of the Pentium 4 6XX CPUs and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz didn’t change the situation here. Despite the larger L2 cache memory of the newcomers, which resulted into an overall 3-6% performance increase in games, Athlon 64 is still considerably faster than the Intel rivals. Even the new Extreme Edition processor doesn’t save the situation: its performance is slower than that of Athlon 64 3500+ here.

Office Applications

When we work in Microsoft Office, the processor performance doesn’t affect that much the overall system performance.

However web-pages rendering in one of the most popular browsers – Mozilla (its engine is used in even more widely spread FireFox) – is performed much faster on Athlon 64 processors than on the competing CPUs from Intel.

However, if there is any other resource-hungry process running in the background while you are browsing the web-sites, Pentium 4 solution turns out more efficient due to Hyper-Threading technology support.

As we see, the performance of one more widespread Nero application intended for CD and DVD disks burning is also hardly dependent on the CPU speed.

Data Compression

The speed of data compression applications and archiving utilities depends a lot on the algorithms they use. As we see, WinZip is somewhat better optimized for Intel CPUs, while in WinRAR the competing Athlon 64 processor works wonders.

By the way, according to the results obtained in WinRAR, which is very sensitive to any changes in the system architecture, larger L2 cache memory is hardly that efficient: the performance boost made only 3%.

Audio and Video Encoding

In video encoding tasks Pentium 4 processors are indisputable winners. The applications used for video compression are very well optimized for NetBurst architecture and often use SSE3 instructions set, which can actually improve the performance notably. That is why we have to state once again that Pentium 4 is unrivaled here.

As for the audio encoding into mp3 format, Intel and AMD solutions cope with this task almost equally fast.

I would also like to say that in audio and video encoding applications Pentium 4 6XX processors are just a little faster than Pentium 4 5XX. The twice as large L2 cache memory doesn’t provide more than 1% performance gain in these applications.

Image Editing

The performance of our testing participants in ACDSee, which consists of simple packet functions for image editing and in fully-fledged Adobe Photoshop is about the same. Athlon 64 processor family seems to be a little bit better suited for image processing, than the solutions from Intel.

At the same time we have to state that Pentium 4 6XX CPUs outperform their predecessors from the Pentium 4 5XX family by just a few tenths of a percent. In other words, the increase of the L2 cache memory in Prescott 2M CPUs is hardly noticeable in graphics editing apps.

Video Editing

In Roxio Video Wave Movie Creator, which is a pretty simple application for personal video editing, the laurels are won by CPUs with NetBurst architecture. If we turn to the professional Adobe Premiere application, the situation will change to completely the contrary. Now the victory will totally belong to AMD Athlon 64.

Mathematical Calculations

Athlon 64 processors are so fast exactly due to their high computational power. That is why their indisputable victory in special math1ematical software packages is quite logical.

However, there is another interesting thing here I would like to draw your attention to. First of all, Mathematica is one of the few applications that cares a lot about the size of the L2 cache memory. The advantage of Pentium 4 processors on Prescott 2M core over their predecessors on the regular Prescott core working at the same clock frequency appears about 7%, which is nearly the maximum value we see in this test. Secondly, Mathematica is very loyal to the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor working at 3.46GHz and based on the old 130nm Gallatin core. As we see, this CPU turns out a performance leader among Intel CPUs despite its not very high working frequency.

As for the MATLAB test package, the situation there is quite common that is why no additional commentary is necessary I assume.

Professional 3D Applications

Here we are offering you the performance data for a popular 3ds max viewport rendering. We used different graphics API during this rendering session, however, the results appeared very similar: Athlon 64 processors managed to show better results during viewport rendering than Intel solutions.

Final rendering

Final rendering process in 3ds max can effectively use multi-threading algorithms. Therefore, Pentium 4 CPUs supporting Hyper-Threading technology work here faster than AMD CPUs. Note though that during animation movie rendering instead of the static image, Athlon 64 CPUs appear somewhat faster. The top Athlon 64 FX-55 CPU manages to outperform even Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz, which has lost quite a bit of its power here because of the shift to a new Prescott 2M core from the older Gallatin.

The performance during final rendering in Lightwave is very dependent on the type of the image rendered. So, the leadership travels between AMD and Intel solutions in this test.

Also note that in any 3D rendering applications the L2 cache memory size doesn’t tell that much on the results. This is true for both: Pentium 4 6XX as well as Athlon 64 with 1MB L2 cache.

Moreover, keep in mind that in Lightwave Pentium 4 6XX processors lose to Pentium 4 5XX processors working at the same core frequency. This is most probably caused by slower L2 cache memory in the new Prescott 2M core.

Conclusion

Within this review we introduced to you a new processor family from Intel based on the Prescott 2M core. Although at first glance the major advantage of this core is a larger 2MB L2 cache, the CPUs based on Prescott 2M hide much more exciting features in themselves. Pentium 4 6XX processor family feature not just larger cache-memory than their predecessors. They also boast a few additional features enriching significantly their functionality.

In the first place I have to point out that Pentium 4 6XX CPUs appeared the first Intel processors for desktop systems supporting 64-bit extensions of x86 architecture. Since 64-bit user operating systems, such as Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, are expected to appear in the market quite soon, Intel decided to supports AMD’s initiative about the introduction and spreading of the x86-64 architecture and provided its new CPUs with the corresponding extensions. This way, the support of x86-64 is no longer a unique feature of AMD Athlon 64 processors: competing solutions from Intel, new Pentium 4 6XX processors, now can also work with 64-bit applications and support over 4GB of RAM.

Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors also acquired similar 64-bit extensions of the x86 architecture. The new model in this CPU family, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz, based on the new Prescott 2M core also supports x86-64.

I can’t leave out the fact that new Pentium 4 6XX processors also got the support of Demand Based Switching technologies aimed at reducing the heat dissipation and power consumption of these processors when they do not have to work “at the upmost of their power”. Pentium 4 6XX CPUs support C1E, TM2 and EIST technologies and hence work at 2.8GHz and with reduced Vcore most of the time, speeding up to their nominal core clock frequency only when the system should run at its maximum speed.

This particular features set of the new Pentium 4 6XX processor allowed Intel to set a pretty high price for them compared with the price of their predecessors, Pentium 4 5XX on the regular Prescott core. Here is a quote from the official company price list) the prices are given for 1,000 units):

As for the effect the new processor launch had on the CPU market from the performance point of view, I cannot say that the release of the 6XX affected the situation in the processor market. Right now the clock frequency of these processors is lower than that of the top Pentium 4 5XX models, and larger L2 cache can hardly speed them up that much. On the graph below we are offering you the relative performance index for the new Pentium 4 660 processor compared with the performance of the Pentium 4 560 working at the same clock frequency but based on the regular Prescott core and featuring 1MB L2 cache.

As we see, in most cases the twice as large L2 cache memory doesn’t allow improving the processor performance by more than 5%. That is why Pentium 4  570 working at 3.8GHz core frequency and featuring 1MB L2 cache should be regarded as a higher performance model than the new Pentium 4 660 working at 3.6GHz and featuring 2MB L2 cache. The strengths of the newcomer, however, are EM64T support and the new Demand based Switching technologies: C1E, TM2 and EIST.

As far as the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.37GHz is concerned, it comes to replace Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz based on Gallatin core. The new processor core, the 2MB of memory moved from the L3 cache to L2 and a significant increase in the core frequency did their job and the new Extreme Edition processor did turn out noticeably faster.

But this picture can be observed not at all times. Moreover, in gaming applications where the new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is targeted for, the new 3.73GHz solution doesn’t outperform its predecessor. 130nm derivative of the good old Northwood core aka Gallatin the old Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz is based on still proves more efficient in games than Prescott.

However, we shouldn’t forget that an indisputable advantage of Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73GHz is the support of 64-bit EM64T extensions.

As for the general situation between AMD and Intel in the today’s processor market, we can now state that in terms of supported features Prescott 2M based CPUs have finally leveled out with the Athlon 64 processor family. Instead of 64-bit AMD64 extensions of Athlon 64 processors, Pentium 4 6XX support EM64T extensions. An analogue to AMD’s Cool’n’Quiet technology is the EIST from Intel. Moreover, Intel processors acquired NX-bit support (XD-bit, as Intel calls it).

The performance of the top Intel CPUs is still somewhat lower than that of the top Athlon 64 solutions. Although Pentium 4 processors retain leadership in their traditionally strong fields such as video data encoding or final rendering, they still yield to AMD CPUs in most applications including contemporary games.