With three 300mm fabs online for 2004 Intel is obviously planning on getting large numbers of this chip on shelves in the shortest possible time, an area where rival AMD has struggled to perform recently. Announcing new processors is all well and good but if you can’t buy them they may as well not exist.
Our initial batch of benchmarks certainly seem to suggest that Prescott is slower than its equivalent speed Northwood predecessor but I’d suggest it’s not enough to be noticeable in general use. However it’s also perfectly reasonable to conclude that these initial results don’t portray the whole story in that none of the benchmarks used were written to take advantage of SSE3, Hyper Threading or indeed a great many of Prescott’s specific features.
Much as we saw when the Pentium 4 was first introduced it may be a case of having to wait a little while for software to evolve in order to see the full benefits of the newly re-jigged architecture.
Impressive though many of Prescott’s new technologies are, most have been implemented in order to give Intel room to introduce faster chips without needing to completely redesign it, probably up to around the 5GHz level if speculation proves accurate.
So in summary we have a more feature rich if slightly slower processor with far greater headroom to scale to much higher frequencies. And the price? Well, OcUK has the Prescott 3.2GHz listed at £225.00 + VAT while the Northwood 3.2GHz is selling for only very slightly less at £222.50 + VAT. On that basis your buying decision is simple. If you want maximum speed today and nothing else matters buy Northwood. If however you don’t want to face upgrading again in the short term and you’re prepared to gamble that Prescott’s new features will catapult it to ever increasing levels of performance as software learns to make the most of the new capabilities, buy Prescott.