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Intel's Pentium 4 2.4GHz processor

Furiously fast—no foolin'
— 12:00 AM on April 2, 2002

THEY SAY sportswriters have to be some of the most inventive, creative writers anywhere in order to keep their reports about an endless series of sporting events interesting. I say those guys have nothing on us, because if you compare Craig Barrett to Latrell Sprewell...

OK, let's not do that.

But you get the idea. Today, we're looking at yet another speed grade of the Pentium 4, following closely on the heels of a little clock speed bump from AMD for its Athlon XP. This processor is—wait for it—0.2GHz faster than the last revision of the Pentium 4. And that's about it.

However, we're bound and determined to keep this thing interesting, and we're fortunate to have an ample dose of help from Intel and AMD. Last week, Intel broke its long and determined spell of pretending AMD doesn't exist, only to start talking smack about AMD's processor "model number" scheme (in which the Athlon XP 1.73GHz, for instance, is called the Athlon XP 2100+.) Intel even slipped a fifty to a journalist covering the beat to write up the story. No doubt Jerry "Colonel" Sanders cut out the choicest quotations and hung 'em in the break room for the Hammer development team to read.

Of course, the smack talk was warranted for one of two reasons. Reason one: Intel is confident they've got the game to beat AMD, big time. Or reason two: Intel isn't confident they've got the game to beat AMD without talking a little trash. (Or maybe the folks at Intel just spent too much time watching those IBM "Infrastructure" commercials during March Madness.)

Whatever the case, we have one heck of a contest here today between the fastest x86 processors around. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Athlon XP 2100+ just edged out the Pentium 4 2.2GHz in our suite of performance tests. Today, though, we've changed the rules a little to keep things interesting. We're testing with faster hard drives, a few new benchmarks, and NVIDIA's bone-shatteringly fast GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics chip. In short, these processors will have a little more headroom, and more opportunity to distinguish themselves. Can the newest Pentium 4 outscore the Athlon XP decisively, or will the Athlon XP pull it out with a jump shot at the buzzer?

I dunno. Let's run some benchmarks.

A gander at the goods
The Pentium 4 2.4GHz looks like, well, a Pentium 4. Specifically, this chip is of the newer, Socket 478 variety. In case you're not familiar, here's how it looks.

The Pentium 4 2.4GHz

478 pins. Count 'em. I dare you.