||Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz Review
November 14, 2002 Brandon Bell
Summary: Today Intel unveils its fastest processor to date, now running at 3.06GHz. But that's not the only new feature of this chip. It also supports the company's Hyper-Threading technology, which is designed to offer more performance, especially when multi-tasking. See how this chip performs at 3GHz and when overclocked in our latest review!
| Introduction||Page:: ( 1 / 11 )|
Intel kicked off 2002 with the introduction of the 2GHz Pentium 4, therefore itís only fitting that theyíve ended the year with another bang in the form of the 3.06GHz Pentium 4. And say what you will about the hyper-pipelined Netburst architectureís efficiency per clock cycle, it canít be said that its implementation hasnít allowed the chip manufacturer to achieve incredible clock speeds. While previous processor releases moved in steps of 66MHz, with Pentium 4 Intel has been moving in leaps of up to 200MHz!
And if our experience overclocking the 3.06GHz Pentium 4 is any indication, Intel has plenty of headroom to kick up the clock frequencies well into 2003. Not only will clock frequencies be cranked up, Intel will also introduce a faster 667MHz bus for the Pentium 4. By moving from 400MHz to 533MHz the Pentium 4 gained roughly in 5% in performance at 2.4GHz. With any luck we should see similar gains when 667MHz chips debut next year.
But thatís not the only innovation coming from Intel. From todayís 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor and on, all of Intelís Pentium 4 chips will support the companyís Hyper-Threading technology.
With Hyper-Threading, multiple threads of a software application can be run simultaneously on one processor. Previously, multiple CPUs would have been required to perform this task. Hyper-Threaded processors essentially trick the OS into thinking that two physical processors are present. This is accomplished by using CPU resources that are otherwise left sitting idle. For example, when memory accesses are taking place, or when a branch instruction is miss-predicted. Intel has also added new registers and other circuitry within the processor as well.
In an ideal Hyper-Threaded scenario, one thread could be utilizing the integer resources of the processor, while a second thread is busy cranking math in the floating-point unit of the processor. But obviously such an evenly divided division of work never occurs in the real world, Intel claims performance gains in the twenty-percentile range for many applications.
Obviously this isnít enough to outperform a system equipped with multiple processors, but when you consider the added cost of a multi-processor motherboard and the CPUs themselves, a Hyper-Threaded processor like the 3.06GHz Pentium 4 offers an extremely tempting alternative. And for everyday consumers, Hyper-Threading brings a small taste of a dual-processor system at a considerably lower cost (although weíll discuss that in more depth on the next page). The $600+ price tag of the 3.06GHz Pentium 4 prevents us from declaring simultaneous multi-threading (the basis of which Hyper-Threading technology is based on) mainstream, but as Intel releases faster Pentium 4 processors the price of this technology will slowly drop. Lets take a look at the real world performance benefits Hyper-Threading brought us.
SIDEBAR: An Intel engineer first proposed the idea of Hyper-Threading in 1993.
| Hyper-Threading Impressions||Page:: ( 2 / 11 )|
As far as we know, Intel has no plans to add Hyper-Threading technology to its older stable of processors. But Intel has been known to heed the demands of its OEM customers. Just as the market wanted Pentium 4 variants in 100MHz increments and Northwood processors at clock speeds below 2GHz (contrary to Intelís initial plans), itís possible that Intelís current plans may change. When you consider the slump that the PC market is currently in, we wouldnít be surprised if a buzzword like ďHyper-ThreadingĒ is just too tempting for Intel and its partners to pass up. After all, everyone still remembers the MMX craze. Motherboard manufacturers in particular would love to get the early Pentium 4 adopters to move on up to a motherboard that supports the world of Hyper-Threading. Inexpensive processors that support Hyper-Threading can make this happen.
For now though the official company line is that youíll need a processor at 3.06GHz or higher.
Besides the proper processor, your motherboard will have to be based on a chipset that supports Hyper-Threading technology. Fortunately, all existing 533MHz chipsets from Intel (with the exclusion of 845G chipsets that utilize Intelís A-stepping) support Hyper-Threading. 845PE in particular supports this technology right out of the box. If your motherboard is based on the 845E or 850E chipset, youíll need to download the latest BIOS for your motherboard in order to obtain the technology.
As far as third-party chipsets are concerned, the VIA P4X400 also supports Hyper-Threading, although some of the earlier motherboards that hit the market may require a BIOS update. VIAís P4PB Ultra we reviewed last week supported Hyper-Threading out of the box. In contrast, none of the SiS 648 motherboards weíve tested supported the technology and SiS has been mum on words to date. Weíve heard rumors that a new stepping of the chipset will be required, if thatís true current owners of SiS 648 motherboards are out of luck.
The final piece of the Hyper-Threading equation is operating system support. As of right now, operating systems based on Linux kernel 2.4.18 (or higher), Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional are the only ones supported. Since it supports multi-threaded applications, Windows 2000 will show some performance benefits, but for optimal performance the OS must support the technology natively.
First off, as it stands now Hyper-Threading will not increase your frame rate in games. At least it wonít when the only application youíre running is a game. In all of our tests the performance difference was barely over a percentage point, in most cases it was less than that. However, if youíre the type that may wish to encode a video or an MP3, while youíre playing your favorite game, Hyper-Threading can offer a substantial performance benefit. Using Main Conceptís MPEG encoder we converted a 19MB AVI into DiVX format in 54.7 seconds while Quake 3 benchmarks were running. With Hyper-Threading disabled, the same task took 106.4 seconds.
Even without Quake 3 running simultaneously this conversion was completed more quickly with Hyper-Threading enabled -- 46.5 seconds with Hyper-Threading versus 52.5 without Hyper-Threading. Of course, most of you probably wonít be encoding files while gaming but we could see this coming in handy for the audio/video enthusiast who would like to work on his family reunion video while getting a little bit of work done in Adobe Photoshop.
In another test, we ran SETI@home in the background while testing with Unreal Tournament 2003. In this environment, we actually found that the system ran over 30% slower when Hyper-Threading was enabled.
Finally, we conducted tests with Business Winstone 2002, to see if it would see some benefit from Hyper-Threading technology. But again the performance difference was negligible, 33.4 WinMarks with Hyper-Threading enabled versus 33.2 with the feature turned off.
SIDEBAR: We overclocked our 3.06GHz Pentium 4 to 3.56GHz at 1.75V.
| Test Systems||Page:: ( 3 / 11 )|
AMD Athlon XP 2700+
AMD Athlon XP 2600+ (266MHz FSB)
Intel Pentium 4 2.53GHz
Intel Pentium 4 2.8GHz
Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz
ASUS A7N8X Deluxe
512MB Corsair XMS3200 DDR333 SDRAM
ATI RADEON 9700 PRO
Driver version 22.214.171.12493
30GB IBM Deskstar DTLA 307030 ATA/100 Hard Drive
Windows XP Professional
3D Mark 2001 Second Edition Build 330 Ė 32-bit color
Quake III: Arena version 1.17
Serious Sam: The Second Encounter
Unreal Tournament 2003
Business Winstone 2002 ver 1.0.1
SIDEBAR: We used the retail ASUS A7N8X motherboard for testing. We received it just in time for this review.
| 3D Mark 2001||Page:: ( 4 / 11 )|
3DMark 2001 - DirectX 8
The Athlon XP 2700+ and Pentium 4 2.8GHz finish neck and neck in 3DMark 2001SE, but the Pentium 4 3.06GHz holds a 3% performance advantage over the second fastest processor at 800x600x32. With Hyper-Threading disabled, we witnessed a drop in performance of just under 1%, not even enough to make it worth mentioning.
SIDEBAR: According to Intelís research, nearly 50% of consumers who own a PC that is three years or older donít trust their computers to handle more than one application at a time.
| Serious Sam 2||Page:: ( 5 / 11 )|
Serious Sam 2 - OpenGL
The Serious Sam engine has always favored the Athlon platform, and even with its clock speed advantage the 3GHz Pentium 4 isnít able to outpace the Athlon XP 2700+/nForce2 combination. It finishes two percentage points behind the processor at 800x600, while the additional clock speed nets the 3GHz Pentium 4 an additional 5% over its predecessor at 2.8GHz.
SIDEBAR: Weíll be taking a look at all the available Pentium 4 chipsets shortly. It should be an interesting article!
| Quake III||Page:: ( 6 / 11 )|
Quake III - High Quality
The Pentium 4 platform continues to hold the crown in Quake 3, at 800x600 the 3GHz processor outperforms the 2.8GHz by four percentage points. The faster bus and addition of the nForce2 platform gives the Athlon XP 2700+ a nice performance boost, but it isnít able to catch up to Intelís 2.53GHz Pentium 4.
SIDEBAR: Comdex is next week, NVIDIA is rumored to be announcing NV30 at the event.
| Comanche 4||Page:: ( 7 / 11 )|
Comanche 4 demo
Comanche 4 is one of the most CPU-bound tests weíve come across this year, and seems to favor the Pentium 4 platform over the Athlon XP. The margin of victory for the 3GHz Pentium 4 is a little greater than it was in previous tests, with the chip running 6% faster than the 2.8GHz P4.
SIDEBAR: Intel actually wonít be attending Comdex this year. It makes sense though, considering they host their own developer forum every few months.
| Unreal Tournament 2003||Page:: ( 8 / 11 )|
Unreal Tournament 2003 - flyby
The 3.06GHz Pentium 4 continues to hold the crown in performance, finishing four percentage points ahead of the Athlon XP 2700+ at 800x600x32. The chip is able to put up an impressive fight however, as it is able to outgun Intelís 2.8GHz Pentium 4.
SIDEBAR: Weíre using the final copy of UT 2003 for this test, not the demo.
| Business Winstone 2002||Page:: ( 9 / 11 )|
Business Winstone 2002
We tried to run tests with Content Creation Winstone 2003 in addition to Winstone 2002 testing, but unfortunately we couldnít complete that test with any of the systems used in this review. Business Winstone 2002 worked just fine however, and as you can see the Athlon XP 2700+ finished ahead of Pentium 4 3.06GHz. This has always been a weakness of the Pentium 4, rather than focus on the business applications that populate this test, the Pentium 4 was optimized for the bandwidth-hungry applications that are used in the Content Creation Winstone suite.
SIDEBAR: Look for the ďHTĒ in the upper right corner of the Pentium 4 label for products that support Hyper-Threading.
| Ballistics Report||Page:: ( 10 / 11 )|
Hyper-Threading technology: While we experienced mixed results with Intelís Hyper-Threading technology, weíre very enthusiastic about its potential. As it stands right now, the technology doesnít really bring any benefits to gaming: Quake 3 is the only game out there that supports multi-threading and this feature is actually broken in the latest build of the game. As a result youíll see a nice performance boost at low resolutions, but once you crank up the screen res it actually performs lower. Hopefully Carmack and other game developers will embrace multi-threading now that all of Intelís upcoming processors will support it. While the user base is low today a year from now things have the potential to be dramatically different.
Until then, audio/video enthusiasts will love Hyper-Threading technology as it can offer some pretty nice performance boosts depending on how it is used. The desktop publishing market is another segment that may see some performance benefits today, although some of these guys may prefer to just go the dual CPU route.
The real beauty of Hyper-Threading though is that itís essentially ďfreeĒ. Even if you donít like it, all you have to do is turn it off.
Performance: At 3,066MHz, this Pentium 4 chip is by no means a slouch when it comes to performance. And while the Athlon XP/nForce2 combo is pretty formidable, weíd have to give the nod in performance to the Pentium 4. Right now this is the fastest desktop processor money can buy. Itís as simple as that.
Overclocking: Normally we donít go out on a limb to hype up the overclocking potential of a processor, after all results can vary from chip to chip. But when you see the results we obtained with the 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor, itís hard not to get excited about the overclocking potential of this chip -- we overclocked the CPU over 300MHz at stock voltage!
We were actually able to play Unreal Tournament 2003 and other games at clock speeds in excess of 3.6GHz, but in order to complete our full suite of tests we had to settle for 3.56GHz (23x155).
Price: At an official price of $637 when purchased in quantities of 1,000 processors, the 3.06GHz Pentium 4 is by no means an inexpensive upgrade. Hopefully Intel will release 2.66GHz and 2.8GHz processors with Hyper-Threading technology later this year. If not, consumers will likely have to wait until 2003 before price cuts make this CPU more affordable.
Infrastructure change: Those of you who purchased SiS 645 or 845D motherboards at the beginning of this year are probably pretty upset to see that your motherboard doesnít support the Pentium 4 3.06GHz. We didnít have much luck getting it to work with the ASUS P4B266 although we may dabble with it a bit more before we give up.
It took years for a solid alternative to the BX chipset to come out for the Pentium III, and while motherboard manufacturers hyped i845 up to be the next BX chipset, this obviously hasnít been the case.
The 3.06GHz Pentium 4 also runs considerably warmer than previous chips, thus Intel has released a beefier cooling unit to keep heat at bay. If you decide to purchase an OEM Pentium 4 3.06GHz chip, you may want to keep this in mind before buying a skimpy cooler.
SIDEBAR: The 3GHz Pentium 4 hasnít hit PriceWatch yet, but Intel has commenced shipments to OEM and retail channels, so chips should be available in the coming weeks.
| Final Verdict||Page:: ( 11 / 11 )|