The Pentium 4 transition continues
Just over a year after its launch, the Pentium 4 is certainly living up to its goal of enabling breakthrough clock speeds in the personal computer. Only a year ago the Pentium 4 topped out at 1.5GHz. Today, Intel has unveiled its fastest desktop processor yet, the Pentium 4 at 2.4GHz.
Initially, Pentium 4 systems were costly; motherboards were only available from a limited number of manufacturers and the prices were often in excess of $200! Today, practically every motherboard manufacturer has at least one product based on the Pentium 4 platform, and motherboards based on the SiS 645 chipset can frequently be found under $100. Likewise, the addition of SDRAM and DDR SDRAM has filled the channel with more alternatives, giving consumers considerably more flexibility in outfitting their system.
RDRAM memory prices have also fallen substantially, itís not uncommon to find 128MB modules for roughly the same price as DDR SDRAM (although keep in mind that youíll have to install RDRAM modules in pairs for it to work properly). Although it got off to a slow start, clearly the Pentium 4 is now a mainstream product.
Of course, having an inexpensive processor means nothing in the high end and mainstream segments if your product canít perform. The performance war between Intel and AMD has been heated for quite some time now with the Athlon generally coming out on top, although Intel has gained lots of lost ground as of late Ė Intelís Northwood launch at the beginning of this year brought a roughly 10% performance improvement over previous Pentium 4 processors based on the Willamette core. As the clock speed of the Pentium 4 continues to scale higher, its bandwidth advantages over Athlon XP will really begin to show. (Intel has a few more tricks up its sleeve at improving bandwidth even further, but weíll discuss those on the next page.)
Itís because of this that many believe AMD will have to incorporate new improvements in its upcoming Thoroughbred core for the Athlon family to remain competitive from a performance standpoint, but weíll have to save those discussions for the message boards and news comments sections.