Final Words

There are two things you can take away from this review; the first is that the Northwood core has been long overdue and now that it is here, the Pentium 4 is a much more competitive processor. We were able to reach speeds of 2.64GHz, air cooled, with our 2.2GHz processor using a 120MHz FSB and bumping up the voltage to 1.625V. The 512KB L2 cache improves performance by 5 - 9% across the board which isn't bad. Combined with additional frequency headroom and the promise of future applications having much larger footprints than the ones we've benchmarked today, the Northwood core is exactly what the Pentium 4 needed. While the processor may still not be the most affordable, it is finally competitive enough where a user wouldn't be able to tell the difference in speed between one and the fastest Athlon XP. Next up for the desktop Pentium 4 will be its 533MHz FSB which we've already shown to offer a more than decent performance improvement.

The second point we attempted to make is that the Athlon XP is indeed a very impressive offering from AMD. We've all known this for a while but seeing how well it is able to stand up to the 2.2GHz Pentium 4 is like one day rediscovering the beauty of a wife or girlfriend of many years. In virtually all of the tests we conducted the Athlon XP 2000+ was within a negligible amount of percentage points of the 2.2GHz Pentium 4. AMD has done a very good job with the Athlon XP and the upcoming 0.13-micron Thoroughbred should be even more exciting, although AMD has not had any sort of public trials on their 0.13-micron process while Intel has been shipping 0.13-micron CPUs for months.

In the end, the choice is no longer simple. Both the Athlon XP 2000+ and the Pentium 4 2.2GHz processors are very close performers in most respects, the final decision truly comes down to what your preferences are. The Pentium 4 2.2 will cost a bit more although it runs significantly cooler and has much more overclocking headroom, if combined with an 845 DDR platform you'll have one of the most stable setups we've ever tested. On the other hand, the Athlon XP 2000+ and a solid KT266A board will leave you with enough cash left over to consider upgrading other parts of your system.

How far things have come to have to decide between two high performing processors, unlike the "old" days when the choice would be between something that performed well and the best low-end thing you could afford.

3D Gaming Performance
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