Home Pentium 4 has us flummoxed
News

Pentium 4 has us flummoxed

Scott Wasson Former Editor-in-Chief Author expertise
Disclosure
Disclosure
In our content, we occasionally include affiliate links. Should you click on these links, we may earn a commission, though this incurs no additional cost to you. Your use of this website signifies your acceptance of our terms and conditions as well as our privacy policy.

Folks just don’t know what to make of the Pentium 4. It’s so radically new, so good (or potentially good) in some ways, and so bad in others. This new NetBurst microarchitecture is more of a departure from the status quo than anything since the Pentium, I’d wager, and its performance balance is just plain funky. Memory access is stellar; the front-side bus is blistering; and the clock rates are higher than a pre-bust Robert Downey, Jr. But the basic integer performance isn’t much to write home about; the really fast stuff (SSE2) requires specially optimized code, and the x87 floating-point unit is a dog.

Had AMD introduced this microarchitecture a year ago, they’d be YAVS (Yet Another Via Subsidiary) by now.

But this particular square peg comes from Intel, who has the oomph to stuff the thing into a round hole if it darn well pleases. The industry knows it: chips will be sold, programs will be recompiled, plans will be adjusted, and all will be well by the time the P4 ramps up and ascends to the x86 throne. AMD didn’t have this luxury with the Athlon, so they produced a chip that runs Pentium II/III-oriented code like Mario Andretti on smack.

None of this matters to PC buyers immediately. Intel is extracting profits from early adopters, and the P4 is far from being a good value right now. PC buyers would do better with an Athlon for the Christmas season.

The question is: how will the P4 and Athlon match up in six months? A year? Were Intel’s choices and compromises in the P4 core design justified, or not?

Some of the discussion going on around the web is indicative of the difficulty reviewers are having trying to anticipate an answer to that second set of questions. Tom Pabst has yet another update to his Pentium 4 review, as he tries to sift through variously compiled binaries with optimizations for the P4, Athlon, SSE2, and the like. He’s testing the FlasK MPEG4 video compression proggy, with some help from Intel. The terrifyingly feisty AMD Zone waded into the FlasK, as well, testing with (imagine this) Athlon-optimized binaries. All very interesting stuff, if you want to get a sense of how the P4 will stack up once software starts supporting it. (Or how the Athlon will stack up, once software starts supporting it. Ahem.)

Then there’s Dean Kent, hovering above the fray and offering his own commentary on the difficulty of processor benchmarking and evaluation. He offers some sharp criticisms and expresses pessimism about the prospects for processor reviews—which is all true, except that such evaluations must be done. Having them done by reasonably competent folks whose requirements ought to be, conveniently, quite similar to those of their readers is no bad thing, in my view. (But then I have a bit of a bias here.) Still, Mr. Kent’s analysis is generally clear-headed and very much worth reading.

In the end, I tend to think the public ambivalence we’ve seen expressed over the Pentium 4 is, in a funny way, precisely the appropriate response. Intel’s taking us all on a very wild ride, and we’re not sure we like it yet. But I think it will be fun to watch folks trying to make up their minds.

The Tech Report - Editorial ProcessOur Editorial Process

The Tech Report editorial policy is centered on providing helpful, accurate content that offers real value to our readers. We only work with experienced writers who have specific knowledge in the topics they cover, including latest developments in technology, online privacy, cryptocurrencies, software, and more. Our editorial policy ensures that each topic is researched and curated by our in-house editors. We maintain rigorous journalistic standards, and every article is 100% written by real authors.

Scott Wasson Former Editor-in-Chief

Scott Wasson Former Editor-in-Chief

Scott Wasson is a veteran in the tech industry and the former Editor-in-Chief at Tech Report. With a laser focus on tech product reviews, Wasson's expertise shines in evaluating CPUs and graphics cards, and much more.

Latest News

Crypto News

Crypto Expert Predicts Dogecoin ETF is Next After SEC Ethereum ETF Approval

FCC to Introduce a New Law That Will Require Disclosures for AI Used in Political Ads
News

FCC to Introduce a New Law That Will Require Disclosures for AI Used in Political Ads

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it’s planning to introduce a new set of rules that will require political ads to include disclaimers if they’ve been created with the...

350,000 Ethereum (ETH) Options with $3,200 Max Pain Point to Expire Today
Crypto News

350,000 Ethereum (ETH) Options with $3,200 Max Pain Point to Expire Today

Given Ethereum’s ongoing price trajectory, the approval of spot Ethereum ETFs in the US Yesterday, May 23, seems like a buy-the-rumor, sell-the-news scenario. With Ethereum down over 4%, approximately 350,000...

Japanese Investment Firm Sees Massive Jump After Embracing Bitcoin
Crypto News

Japanese Investment Firm Sees Massive Jump After Embracing Bitcoin

Detained Binance Executive Collapses During Money Laundering Trial in Nigeria
Crypto News

Detained Binance Executive Collapses During Money Laundering Trial in Nigeria

Bitcoin (BTC) Plummets After Testing $71,500 – Is it the End of the Bullish Ride?
Crypto News

Bitcoin (BTC) Plummets After Testing $71,500 – Is it the End of the Bullish Ride?

highest-paid college football coaches
Statistics

Top 10 Highest Paid College Football Coaches in 2023-24