Pentium 4 v Athlon XP: conclusion

Intel’s new 2,533MHz Pentium 4 with a 533MHz frontside bus is, barring a few exceptions, the fastest available processor for PC systems. However, the chip’s full performance potential is delivered only in combination with Rambus memory -- and you won’t find many such systems on the market, due to their relatively high price.

Intel’s new 2,533MHz Pentium 4 with a 533MHz frontside bus is, barring a few exceptions, the fastest available processor for PC systems. However, the chip’s full performance potential is delivered only in combination with Rambus memory -- and you won’t find many such systems on the market, due to their relatively high price. A test using a chipset that supports both DDR memory and the 533MHz FSB, expected later this month, will make an interesting comparison with the Athlon XP.

Software manufacturers are likely to create ever more optimisations for the Pentium 4. The performance tests using Lightwave 7b and the DivX compression with Xmpeg certainly demonstrate the optimised P4’s potential performance advantage over the Athlon XP. However, if the majority of your workload is using simple office applications or surfing the Internet, then AMD’s Athlon XP is the better choice.

With 3D games, the Pentium 4 is slightly faster than the Athlon XP -- but this is hardly surprising as the fastest Athlon XP, the 2100+ model, is actually clocked at 1,733MHz, while the fastest Pentium 4 runs at 2,533MHz.

The Pentium 4 also offers a clear advantage over the Athlon XP in that the flagship 2,533MHz model uses 14 Watts less power than the Athlon XP/2100+ -- which, remember, is clocked at just 1,733MHz. This helps PC manufacturers, because the PC is easier to cool and requires a less hefty power supply, which should result in a quieter PC than an Athlon XP-based system. In many companies, a PC’s noise level is often more important than its CPU performance. In the retail market, where noise levels are perhaps less important, AMD’s Athlon XP should be the better choice –- especially given the much more favourable prices for AMD processors.