Upgrade Report [Tested: 64-Bit P4 - 03/29/2005]



March 29th, 2005

Tested: 64-Bit P4

PC World Contributor Jon L. Jacobi

Intel's 64-bit Pentium 4 and Pentium 4 Extreme Edition desktop
processors launched in February, giving the 64-bit computing future
that started with Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon 64 chips even more

What does 64-bit computing offer you beyond today's 32-bit platform?
We compared two of the new chips, the 3.73-GHz P4 EE and the 3.6-GHz
P4 660, with a 32-bit 3.8-GHz P4 (the fastest 32-bit P4), a 2.6-GHz
Athlon 64 FX-55, and a 2.4-GHz Athlon 64 3800+. Results are mixed:
You'll get a slight boost over a 32-bit P4, but you will pay about
$100 to $200 more for an Intel PC than for an AMD one with similar or
slightly better performance.

Intel also has implemented its 64-bit extensions on P4 chips at 3 GHz
to 3.4 GHz, and will do so on forthcoming P4 and Celeron CPUs. The new
P4s also get a boost in their on-board L2 memory cache from 1MB to
2MB. You won't need a new motherboard for the new chips, but to get
the most out of their 64-bit capabilities, you will need to upgrade
your BIOS and, of course, run a 64-bit operating system. Microsoft's
64-bit Windows XP Professional X64 should be generally available in
late April; it will run on PCs using both Intel's and AMD's 64-bit
chips. Systems with 64-bit P4 and P4 EE CPUs are already on sale.

For a preview of 64-bit Windows, see "XP Goes to 64 Bits":

One other chip is entering the desktop fray: Intel's Pentium M,
originally designed for mobile PCs. We take a look at one of the first
desktops to use this CPU in "New Desktops: Pentium M Inside," at the
end of this newsletter.

Close Race

We tested the 64-bit processors with both 32-bit Windows XP
Professional and Release Candidate 2 of Windows XP Pro X64; the 32-bit
P4 was tested only with standard Windows XP Pro. We used different
motherboards for the AMD and Intel platforms in our test PCs but used
the same 160GB Seagate hard disk and NVidia GeForce 6800 graphics card
with 256MB of RAM. The Intel test systems used 1GB of 533-MHz DDR2
memory, while the AMD ones had 1GB of DDR400 RAM.

The Athlon 64 3800+ and the 3.6-GHz Pentium 4 scored so close to one
another on WorldBench 5 under 32-bit Windows that users wouldn't
notice a difference; see the chart:

The gap was slightly more noticeable between the Athlon 64 FX-55 and
the P4 EE, but still under 10 percent. Note, though, that only about
two-thirds of WorldBench 5 apps run on XP X64--and in many cases (not
shown in the chart), both AMD's and Intel's CPUs lost ground with the
64-bit OS--so it's difficult to predict what the final total would
have been. The 32-bit and 64-bit P4 CPUs performed essentially the
same on WorldBench 5.

However, the 64-bit P4 did show a slight performance increase over the
32-bit P4 in Unreal Tournament with a 32-bit operating system at the
lowest resolution we tested (1024 by 768). Test scores using AMD's and
Intel's 64-bit processors showed mild drops with Unreal Tournament
going from a 32-bit OS to a 64-bit one. Still, everything else being
equal, we're convinced that you'll lose little or nothing with Intel's
64-bit extensions.

Pros and Cons of Running at 64

Until XP Pro X64 ships, most users--save those running Linux, which
can already take advantage of 64-bit CPUs--won't derive any benefits
from 64-bit computing. Even when the operating system ships, only
applications optimized and recompiled to take advantage of the new
capabilities will deliver any performance increase. Note also that the
main boon of 64 bits is the ability to handle larger amounts of data
and at higher resolutions, not speed. That means a 64-bit PC will be
able to juggle far larger databases and spreadsheets, a lot more
on-board memory (up to 64GB with Intel's 64-bit solution and 1
terabyte with AMD's version), and higher resolution in games, audio,
and video, but it will not give huge performance boosts.

A couple of other caveats before you jump the 32-bit ship: 32-bit
drivers don't work with Windows XP Pro X64, and vendor support for
older hardware will probably be skimpy. Companies are reluctant to
spend money updating drivers for products they no longer sell. If you
want to hold on to older hardware, you might have better luck with
64-bit Linux since there's often someone, somewhere who will take the
time to write drivers for legacy equipment.

And productivity software vendors won't be stampeding to port their
apps to 64-bit Windows for quite some time. A number of 64-bit games
are on the way, along with several audio and video apps. Cakewalk's
Sonar X64, a 64-bit high-end audio recording app, is already available
as a trial version from the company's Web site, but few other 64-bit
programs have yet appeared.

One Chip, Two Cores

Desktops will get another boost from dual-core CPUs, which are
expected to arrive in the second half of this year. Many vendors
already offer Pentium or Athlon systems that can use two or more
processors, but dual-core CPUs will share the same piece of silicon
instead of just the same motherboard. This neatly improves
multitasking performance without increasing clock speed--something
Intel's been having problems with on the Pentium 4. Better
multitasking helps in a number of scenarios. For instance, one of the
cores could focus on burning a DVD while the other recalculated a
spreadsheet or performed a database search. Just don't expect huge
speed gains while working in today's single applications unless they
perform simultaneous tasks, as the multithreaded Adobe Photoshop does.

Intel announced its new dual-core Pentium Extreme Edition 840 and
Pentium D processors in March, and demonstrated working dual-core
machines from Dell and others (none are yet available for testing).
Unlike with the new 64-bit chips, you can't plug the dual-core CPUs
into current systems because, while they use Intel's current LGA775
socket, they require motherboards using yet-to-be-released 955X or 945
chip sets. AMD showed a dual-core Opteron server at LinuxWorld in late
February, and plans to ship its desktop dual-core Toledo Athlon 64
CPUs later this year. The Toledo will require only minor tweaks to
your BIOS, not a new motherboard, and it plugs in to current Athlon 64

Dual-core CPUs hold a lot of promise for users who juggle multiple
tasks, but AMD, for one, has indicated that high-speed single-core
chips will remain the top performers at least until year's end.

If you're in the market for a fast system today with some hooks into
tomorrow's 64-bit world, either an AMD-based or Intel-based 64-bit
model will serve. Intel PCs are a bit slower and pricier than
comparable AMD ones, but the performance gap is slim, so Intel fans
won't lose much.

* New Desktops: Pentium M Inside *

Though it was developed primarily to minimize power consumption, the
Pentium M mobile chip has always been an excellent performer. Clock
cycle for clock cycle, it's on a par with the Athlon 64 and is much
faster than a Pentium 4, and PCs using it run quieter because it needs
fewer fans. For computers that stay on all day or even most of the
day, the power-saving potential is substantial, and such quieter
systems might persuade some users to place them in their living rooms.
Given those facts, it might seem odd that before AOpen and DFI, no one
thought to bring out a Pentium M desktop motherboard.

We tested the $965 AOpen EY855-II XC Cube system with the 1.7-GHz
Pentium M, AOpen's i855GMEm-LFS board, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard
disk, and integrated graphics. It earned a score of 75 on WorldBench
5, which is on the lower side of average for laptops in this CPU
class, but about on a par with 2.8-GHz Pentium 4 desktops. Note, too,
that, like DFI's 855GME-MGF board, AOpen's model currently uses the
older Pentium M chip set, which lacks some recent improvements to the
Pentium M platform, including support for dual-channel DDR2 memory and
the PCI Express bus.

Though good performers, Pentium M desktops are a bit of a hard sell
because of their cost. For about the same price as the AOpen Cube, you
can get a PC with a 3-GHz P4, faster discrete PCI Express graphics, a
similar or slightly bigger hard drive, and a monitor or LCD flat panel
thrown in, plus speakers. Even if you build your own system, you'll
still be paying $100 to $250 more for a Pentium M chip than for a
high-end Pentium 4 or Athlon 64 chip, and over $100 more for a
motherboard to go with it.

There is another alternative: You can now get Asus's CT-479 upgrade
adapter for your older, 400-MHz or 533-MHz Pentium 4 motherboard and
drop in Pentium M chips from 1.3-GHz to 2.26-GHz. You're still not
getting PCI Express, but it may be a more appealing option since
you're reusing components.

For more Pentium 4 news and reviews, browse the PC World Web site:

"We did it every way you could. She was an animal in bed. But it wasn't cheap."
-- Britney Spears's ex-husband Jason Alexander on their night together before exchanging vows

George Macdonald

March 29th, 2005

I don't think so - this article was published a coupla weeks ago... and is
utterly clueless about 64-bit AMD64 or EM64T and what should be expected
from it.


March 29th, 2005

Tested: 64-Bit P4

PC World Contributor Jon L. Jacobi

You don't need to copy and paste the whole article, a link and comment
will do fine.

Tested: 64-Bit P4
Jon L. Jacobi
From the May 2005 issue of PC World magazine
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2005

Intel hops on the 64-bit desktop bandwagon with new Pentium 4 CPUs.
These chips are fast, but AMD's Athlon 64 FX retains the speed crown.


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