Much has changed since we last did one of these big comparative CPU reviews. New games like Doom 3 and Counter-Strike: Source have arrived. Microsoft has released Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, and ultra-low-latency DDR400 DIMMs have debuted. Intel has transitioned the focus of its CPU lineup to new-look Prescott-core chips with fancy model numbers and LGA775 packaging, and AMD has begun introducing chips made on its 90nm fab process into the mix, including lower end Socket 939 processors. Naturally, we've assembled a field of competitors, test rigs, and benchmarks that reflects these changes.
One of the most notable additions is a 90nm version of the Athlon 64 3500+. We've already done preliminary testing on its power consumption, and now we'll look at its performance versus the 130nm version of the same product. We're also curious to see how the new Socket 939 version of the Athlon 64 3200+ stacks up against the Pentium 4 540 running at 3.2GHz.
Please note that several of our test CPUs are actually underclocked versions of other products. Specifically, the Pentium 4 model 540 and 550 entries are actually our Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz engineering sample, which came with an unlocked multiplier for testing at different speeds, running at 3.2 and 3.4GHz. Similarly, the 130nm version of the Athlon 64 3500+ is a down-clocked Athlon 64 3800+, and our Athlon 64 3200+ results were achieved by testing the 90nm Athlon 64 3500+ at 2.0GHz. For most intents and purposes, save perhaps for our power consumption tests, these underclocked processors should perform just like the real McCoys.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to squeeze in any results from an Athlon 64 system with PCI Express. We've already looked briefly at the VIA K8T890 chipset in action, and PCI-E motherboards for the Athlon 64 based on chipsets from a number of different companies are reportedly very close. Fortunately, based on our experience with the K8T890, we anticipate that performance with PCI Express will track very closely with that of the AGP-based system we used for testing.
Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least twice, and the results were averaged.
Our test systems were configured like so:
|Processor||Athlon 64 3200+ 2.0GHz (S939)|
Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2GHz (90nm)
Athlon 64 3500+ 2.2GHz (130nm)
Athlon 64 3800+ 2.4GHz
Athlon 64 4000+ 2.4GHz
Athlon 64 FX-55 2.6GHz
| Pentium 4 540 3.2GHz|
Pentium 4 550 3.4GHz
Pentium 4 560 3.6GHz
Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz
|System bus||1GHz HyperTransport||800MHz (200MHz quad-pumped)|
|Motherboard||Asus A8V Deluxe||Abit AA8 DuraMax|
|BIOS revision||1008 beta 1||1.4|
|North bridge||K8T800 Pro||925X MCH|
|Chipset drivers||4-in-1 v.1.11 beta (9/7/04)||INF Update 22.214.171.1242|
IAA for RAID 126.96.36.19915
|Memory size||1GB (2 DIMMs)||1GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||OCZ PC3200 EL DDR SDRAM at 400MHz||OCZ PC2 5300 DDR2 SDRAM at 533MHz|
|RAS to CAS delay||2||3|
|Hard drive||Maxtor MaXLine III 250GB SATA 150|
|Audio||Integrated VT8237/ALC850 with 3.64 drivers||Integrated ICH6R/ALC880 with 188.8.131.5222 drivers|
|InGraphics||GeForce 6800 GT 256MB AGP with ForceWare 66.81 drivers||GeForce 6800 GT 256MB PCI-E with ForceWare 66.81 drivers|
|OS||Microsoft Windows XP Professional|
|OS updates||Service Pack 2, DirectX 9.0c|
All tests on the Intel systems were run with Hyper-Threading enabled.
Thanks to OCZ for providing us with memory for our testing. If you're looking to tweak out your system to the max and maybe overclock it a little, OCZ's RAM is definitely worth considering.
The test systems' Windows desktops were set at 1152x864 in 32-bit color at an 85Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.
We used the following versions of our test applications:
The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
|Wait, we're giving away $1500 in PC hardware?||4|
|Nvidia GeForce R337.61 Beta Hotfix Display Driver released||0|
|AMD earnings previewed||4|
|Ars Technica reviews Windows Phone 8.1||4|
|Steam usage patterns reveal shameful number of unplayed games||43|
|Google buys Titan Aerospace||11|
|What's next after Google Glass? Try Google contact lenses||8|
|Major smartphone makers to integrate kill switches into future mobile devices||20|