While the rest of us muddle through with regular Pentium 4 CPUs in our PCs, high-end users (typical gamers) can make another choice: the Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (P4EE). Intel has just increased the speed on the P4EE from 3.4 GHz to 3.466 GHz. That small speed bump is just part of the story, though. The chips front-side bus (FSB) speed has jumped from 800 MHz to 1,066 MHz. The new P4EE is still based on the older Northwood core (as opposed to the Prescott core of the "regular" Pentium 4 5xx series), and carries over the 2MB of on-board L3 cache.
The P4EE announcement is paired with the introduction of the new 925XE Express chipset, which is similar to the 925X chipset but adds an auto-switching 800/1,066-MHz FSB. With Intels announcement that R&D efforts at the company will switch from working on the 4-GHz P4 to dual-core processors, the companys move to a 1,066-MHz FSB is a way to continue to incrementally increase performance while keeping the chip and chipset architecture relatively unchanged. It also lays the groundwork for future versions of the Pentium 4 processor before the inevitable switch to dual-core technology.
We took a look at a couple of new 3.466-GHz P4EE-powered systems, from Falcon Northwest and Velocity Micro, to see how the new chip compares. The verdict: Although the upgraded P4EE is a very good performer, the machines built around it were edged out in almost all our tests by the Polywell Poly 939N-FX55 with its AMD Athlon FX-55 processor. Given that the Intel part costs system-makers $999 each, compared with $827 for the AMD high-end offering, were not sure how well the new Extreme Edition will ultimately fare in the market.
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