New P4 outstrips Athlon - just

The 2.4GHz chip from Intel released this week shows that AMD's product numbers do not lie, as the P4 only just beats the Athlon XP 2100+

The performance of Intel's new 2.4GHz Pentium 4 desktop processor merely edges ahead of AMD's latest Athlon XP 2100+, running at 1733MHz, despite the Intel processor's 667MHz lead over the Athlon, according to new ZDNet benchmark tests.

The 2.4GHz Pentium 4, with a .13-micron Northwood core, was released on Tuesday to displace the 2.2GHz Pentium 4 at the top of Intel's flagship processor line. The chip's release has been accompanied by a barrage of publicity seeking to discredit AMD's marketing strategy for Athlon XP, which involves the use of product numbers to emphasise the chip's "true performance" over its clock speed.

AMD introduced the "True Performance Initiative" last autumn with the Athlon XP, arguing that since the chip delivers more performance per clock than older Athlons, it needs a different way of conveying that performance. An Athlon XP 2100+, for example, runs as fast as an older Athlon at 2,100MHz (2.1GHz), according to AMD.

ZDNet's benchmarks show that in some processor-intensive tests, the Athon XP 2100+ with DDR (double data-rate) memory actually outperforms a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 equipped with top-of-the-line Rambus memory. When both processors are running DDR memory, the Athlon is generally ahead of the Pentium 4.

The catch is that Intel's processor is significantly more expensive than AMD's, and Rambus memory is another added expense, meaning that the Athlon performance is delivered at a far lower price than the top-of-the-line Rambus-equipped Pentium 4.

For example, the Athlon XP 2100+ handily beat the Rambus-equipped Pentium 4 2.4GHz on a Business Winstone 2001 test, which measures general performance on mainstream applications, scoring 71.1 to the Pentium's 65.1. In fact, even the Athlon XP 1800+ scored higher than the 2.4GHz Pentium 4 on this test, reaching 66.1.

Athlon XP continued to outperform a Rambus-equipped Pentium 4 on other tests as well, such as 3D Studio Max 4.2, where the Athlon rendered in 19 seconds compared with the Pentium 4's 21 seconds. The Athlon beat the Pentium 4 on two other rendering tests, mainly because the applications have not yet been optimised for Intel's platform. The Athlon system beat Pentium 4 on both encoding tests ZDNet performed.

However, on many other tests the Rambus-equipped Pentium 4 system shines. It beats the Athlon XP 2100+ on about half of the Internet performance tests, and on high-end application performance. It scores higher on all gaming tests. The chip will gain a further advantage as more applications arrive optimised for Pentium 4.

AMD fans have noted that Rambus systems are few and far in-between, with system manufacturers -- already seeing their profit margins squeezed by the tough economy -- opting for slower, less pricey DDR or SDRAM memories.

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