The great thing here is that POV-Ray has a built-in benchmark that loads the processor quite heavily and once finished shows how long it took to run the various rendering tests. The results didn’t come quite the way I expected taking over five minutes longer under Windows XP 64-bit for each of the two processors. However, it’s worth taking into consideration that it’s still early days for 64-bit computing. POV-Ray might be partially responsible here, as it is very likely that the 64-bit version hasn’t been optimised for the new Pentium 4 processors.
Slightly more worrying is the SYSmark 2004 scores under standard 32-bit Windows XP, with neither of the new processors managing to outperform a Pentium 4 560, which clocks in at 3.6GHz. The 660 scored 203 points overall while the 3.73GHz EE managed a score of 208. Compare this to the 560 which scored 210 and the results are quite disappointing. Even taking into consideration that the graphics card was different, this wouldn’t have more than a couple of points impact on the overall SYSmark score. * See Footnote *
The PCMark 2004 score initially show similar drops in performance, but the CPU score is up for both models compared to the 560, but not by a very big margin. The 3.73GHz EE scores much higher in the memory benchmarks, although this is down to the higher bus speed rather than anything else.
Considering the hefty price premium for the 64-bit processors at the moment, it is a questionable investment; unless you know for certain that you want to move to a 64-bit OS. You can purchase a Pentium 4 560J for £270.99 while the 660 will set you back £396.98, that’s a price difference of £126 less a penny. The 3.73GHz is as yet not available in the UK, but it has a list price in the US of $999 which seems to be the standard list price for every new Extreme Edition processor.
Intel’s first step into the 64-bit consumer market doesn’t impress, but time will tell how good these processors are under a 64-bit operating system. To be fair to Intel, the platform is rock solid as I ran a burn-in test for over 24 hours and the test setup didn’t crash nor did it show any sign of problems. It is just a shame about the average performance numbers, but hopefully this is something Intel can improve over time.
With no official word from Microsoft as to when the 64-bit version of Windows XP will launch, Intel has taken its first step into the consumer level 64-bit market with its latest processors. Initial test results don’t impress, but it would be unfair to draw too many conclusions based on a single test on an unreleased OS.
The SYSmark 2004 scores above definitely seemed odd to us, and after speaking with Intel we were told that there was no way that the 560 should be faster than the 660, and definitely not faster than the 3.73GHz EE. With this in mind, we built a totally fresh testing rig and benchmarked all three processors again, one after the other. The test rig comprised an Intel D925XECV2 925XE motherboard, 1GB (two 512MB modules) of Micron PC4200 (533MHz) DDR2 memory, a Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 SATA 200GB hard drive and an AOpen GeForce 6600GT PCI Express graphics card.
The results from the new SYSmark 2004 runs were far closer to our expectations, with both the 560 and 660 chips turning in scores of 191 and the 3.73GHz Extreme Edition racing ahead with 201 points. The discrepancy in the original results was probably due to driver and Service Pack changes between the original 560 review and this one. Assuming that we still have the hardware in the lab, all future comparisons of new and old technology will be done at the point of review in the exact same testing rig.