Intel Pentium 4 EE 840 3.2GHz

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Intel Pentium 4 EE 840 3.2GHz

Pros

  • Great performance with programs designed to recognize the dual core.

Cons

  • Requires a mainboard upgrade

Bottom Line

Don't expect dual-core to be the top performer today for games and other demanding single-threaded applications but that will change as applications are rewritten.

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Our tests show Intel's new dual-core desktop processors should deliver some real benefits when used with software designed to take advantage of the two cores, or when you're performing multiple tasks simultaneously--virus scanning while surfing the Web, for instance.

Dual-core processors incorporate two physical processors and two level 2 memory caches into one piece of silicon, functioning, in practice, like two separate processors.

The 3.2GHz Pentium Extreme Edition 840 (which carries 1MB of L2 cache per core) was Intel's first dual-core chip. In addition to dual-core, it has Intel's Hyper-Threading technology in each core, which theoretically brings you a "virtual" second processor per core. (Hyper-Threading is designed to increase a processor's efficiency, enabling it to come closer to reaching its full theoretical processing potential.)

To use an Intel dual-core chip, you need a motherboard that supports them, so you would probably have to upgrade you motherboard along with your processor. Unlike Intel's dual-core chips, the new AMD dual-core processors don't require new chipsets or motherboards, just a BIOS upgrade.

Like AMD's Athlon 64 chips and other new high-end Pentium EE chips, the dual-core CPU has 64-bit support.

We tested a preproduction reference system from Intel with engineering samples of the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 and the new 955X Express chipset; 1GB of DDR2-667 memory; and a Sapphire Radeon 850XT graphics card. The system ran Windows XP Professional.

The dual-core unit showed a slight improvement overall on PC WorldBench 5 versus the same system equipped with a 3.2GHz P4 (both with Hyper-Threading on). But the new system truly showed its mettle in certain portions of PC WorldBench 5--specifically our multi­tasking test and our media tests with Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator and Windows Media Encoder. Both applications are multithreaded, which means they can recognise and use the two cores as if they were two separate processors. On the multitasking test, the dual-core CPU produced its best result: it took just nine minutes and 50 seconds to open numerous Web pages while converting video and music files to Windows Media format, whereas the single-core 3.2GHz Pentium 4 took almost 12 minutes.

Interestingly, we found that the dual-core unit performed better on the multithreaded applications with Hyper-Threading turned off than with the technology enabled.

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