You spoke, we listened
After publishing our Pentium 4 1.8GHz review, we received an overwhelming number of requests for overclocked Athlon scores - you guys really wanted to see both processors duke it out! If you haven't noticed, we usually provide overclocked scores for the CPU currently under the microscope so you can see how well it scales to higher clock speeds. Overclocking also gives us an indication of what kind of performance to expect out of upcoming products.
In any case, we rarely comment on the overclocked scores because the final results can vary from CPU to CPU: just because we hit 2GHz with our Pentium 4 1.8GHz doesn't mean you will, in fact, we've received many emails from users who have reached even higher clock speeds with their 1.7GHz parts. Complicating the situation are newer processor steppings, future Pentium 4 and Athlon steppings will allow both chips to hit higher clock speeds. Remember the 1GHz Thunderbirds from one year ago that peaked just under 1.2GHz? Today's 1GHz chips can frequently be seen operating at speeds greater than 1.4GHz!
Basically, what we're trying to say is that overclocking isn't a science, the results can vary from CPU to CPU, and even then they can become outdated with newer processor steppings. Use the numbers you see in our reviews as a general guide of how well the processor scales to higher clock speeds as well as an indication of the performance levels to expect in the future. Don't consider them the final word on the feasibility of overclocking a potential CPU, as the results from one sample alone isn't nearly enough to come to that kind of a conclusion.
Also keep in mind that the CPUs we receive from Intel are unlocked engineering samples. This means that we can dial in practically any setting we wish (up to a point) for the clock multiplier and adjust the bus speed accordingly. This feature isn't present on Intel CPU's you purchase at retail. With those CPUs, your only method to overclock is via the front side bus of your motherboard, so purchasing a P4 board with multiple bus speeds is crucial for overclocking.
Now that that's out of the way…
Every once in awhile however we throw all that out the door and actually comment on the overclocked scores in an official capacity. Our last overclocking shootout occurred nearly a year ago and involved the Pentium III 1.0GHz against AMD's Athlon 1.1GHz. It goes without saying that things have changed quite a bit since then, so we figured another overclocking showdown article was long overdue. The recent addition of AMD's Palomino core made the results of even more interesting as everyone's curious to see how well AMD's latest and greatest stacks up against Pentium 4. So what are you waiting for, head on over to the results!