First tests: Mobile P4 slower than PIII?

Intel's mobile Pentium 4 processor has little to offer users of mainstream applications, according to first tests conducted by ZDNet UK
Written by Matt Loney, Contributor

Intel's Pentium 4 processor, which launched on Monday, is unlikely to give much of a performance boost over the mobile Pentium III for general office applications, according to first tests conducted by ZDNet UK labs, but it should be significantly faster for demanding jobs such as multimedia content creation.

The MP4-M is the first 'official' Pentium 4 processor for notebooks, although several manufacturers, including Hi-Grade, have recently released portable systems using the desktop version of the Pentium 4.

Despite Intel's assertion that the desktop version of the Pentium 4 processor would quickly drain battery life and could overheat, some manufacturers decided not to wait for the mobile part. ZDNet UK tests showed that the Pentium 4 desktop chip had no problem powering a desktop-replacement laptop with decent battery life. Using the desktop chip could also allow manufacturers to shave hundreds of pounds off laptop retail prices: for example, the mobile P4 running at 1.7GHz costs £355, compared with £114 for a desktop processor at the same clock speed.

Intel's argument against the use of desktop Pentium 4s in laptops rests largely on the fact that additional design work is needed to ensure they work properly with the laptop infrastructure. "There is a benefit and a risk to it, and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have to deal with those issues," said an Intel spokesman at the time. "Intel did not design the processor for those requirements, so the manufacturers have to do that work for us."

Now, ZDNet UK's tests, conducted on a Dell Inspiron 8200, have found there to be no compelling performance advantage with mainstream applications. Business Winstone 2001, a testing suite for computers running common office applications, found the 1.7GHz Inspiron 8200's score of 38.4 to actually be behind that of its 1.13GHz MPIII-M-based predecessor, the Inspiron 8100, as well as lagging behind Hi-Grade's desktop P4-based Ultinote M6400 -- although this did have the benefit of 512MB rather than 256MB of RAM.

Read the full review of the Dell Inspiron 8200 with Intel's mobile P4 here.

The new MP4-M notebook fared better with demanding applications, such as those that underpin Content Creation Winstone 2002 (Adobe's Photoshop and Premiere, Macromedia's Director and Dreamweaver, Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge). Here the Inspiron 8200's score of 24.5 did beat the 8100's 21.5 -- but only by 14 per cent. Hi-Grade's aforementioned desktop P4-based system, which scored 26.8, was still faster.

However, there is little or no Pentium 4 optimisation in the applications within the Winstone tests: as more applications and operating systems exploit the P4's SSE2 instructions, bigger performance gaps over previous processors are expected to open up. Furthermore, graphics performance was found to be exceptional, thanks in large part to the GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor, included in this latest Dell notebook.

Battery life was not outstanding at around 2.5 hours, but this was likely to be due to the power-saving features of the MP4-M processor, 845MP chipset and GeForce 440 Go graphics processor being offset on this particular notebook by a large 15in TFT screen.

Charles McLellan contributed to this report

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