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Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition

Now, I’m not entirely sure how many so called elite gamers there are in the world, but I’d say it’s a safe bet that there aren’t too many. Add to this the fact that most gamers that are good enough to make a living out of game tournaments are probably being sponsored by companies like Intel in the first place. Even if they’re not being sponsored by the likes of Intel or AMD, there’s a good chance that they’ll have some kind of sponsor that supplies them with hardware.

So, if you happen to be an elite gamer, and have to buy your own hardware, and have very deep pockets, what kind of performance could you expect from an Extreme Edition?

Running the SYSmark application benchmark produced a score of 330, which is coincidentally exactly the same result achieved by the Evesham Axis FX51 system based on an Athlon 64 FX-51 with 400MHz dual channel memory. Running the same benchmark on a standard 3.2GHz Pentium 4 produced a score of 321, which is lower than the Extreme Edition but not significantly.

The Extreme Edition turned in a score of 19,834 in 3DMark 2001 SE compared to 18,748 on a standard 3.2GHz P4. The Athlon 64 FX-51 system managed a score of 19,812 placing it right next to the Extreme Edition once more.

It’s a similar story running 3DMark03. The Extreme Edition managed 5,945 compared to 5,854 on the standard 3.2GHz P4. In this test the FX-51 system clawed ahead slightly with a score of 5,992.

Aquamark showed almost no difference between the standard P4 and the Extreme Edition with average frame rates of 44.5 and 44.9 respectively.

Where the Extreme Edition really pulled ahead was in the memory test under PCMark and the SiSoft Sandra cache test, which isn’t too surprising.

So it looks like the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is faster than a standard 3.2GHz chip, and roughly on a par with the AMD Athlon 64 FX-51. Of course it has to be remembered that the FX-51 will actually perform faster in a 64bit environment. That said, you’ll have to upgrade to a 64bit operating system, with a full complement of 64bit drivers and 64bit applications to take advantage of the advanced technology inherent in the Athlon 64 range.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Extreme Edition is equipped with Intel’s Hyper Threading technology, which is useful for anyone who multitasks heavily. Where Hyper Threading really shines though is with multi-threaded applications, where you can see tangible performance gains over non Hyper Threaded processors. Obviously you’re not going to see the kind of performance increase that you get from a true multi-processor system, but an increase is definitely there.

In today’s environment Intel has produced a chip that can hold its ground with the latest technological marvel from rival AMD. Ok, throwing a load of cache at a current generation chip may seem a little ham fisted, but Intel has achieved what it set out to do by not getting left behind in the performance race.

However, large amounts of fast cache don’t come cheap, and the price of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is quite scary to say the least. I remember when AMD told me that the FX-51 was going to cost $733 at launch and thinking that there wouldn’t be many buyers at that price. But now that Intel has announced pricing for the Extreme Edition at $925 in quantities of 1,000, the cost of the FX-51 seems a lot more reasonable. I still haven’t had confirmation of UK pricing, but it’s safe to say that it will be the most expensive desktop processor you can buy.

I doubt very much that too many Extreme Edition chips will find homes here in the UK. There probably won’t be too many PCs built with them either, since system integrators will find it near impossible to create an affordable system based on such a platform. If you’re the type of person that just has to have the fastest possible components in your PC and you have a huge amount of money to burn, you might find the Extreme Edition an attractive proposition. Otherwise, there are far cheaper ways to build a fast PC.

Verdict

Whether or not you believe that this chip was announced purely to rain on AMD’s parade is irrelevant. What matters here is that Intel has created a very fast CPU and consequently hasn’t been left behind by its competitor. Unfortunately the price of the Extreme Edition is quite simply too prohibitive for the vast majority of PC users, no matter how obsessed with games they might be.

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