Intel P4 Extreme Boosts Performance off the Clock

Intel unveiled its latest ultra-high-end processor platform, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, with a higher-speed frontside bus and more cache and memory.

The move marks a departure from the company’s traditional advancement through clock speed, more closely resembling the strategy of rival AMD.

Intel said the new P4 Extreme was its latest 925XE chipset processor and — with Hyper-Threading, boosted system bus and better memory — represented its “platform approach.”

The company — which has recently backed off plans to build processors with higher clock speed — said that by bringing chipset, processor and other components together, it would deliverimproved performance to gamers and multimedia users.

Speed by Other Means

“A new 1066 MHz system bus — the main path between the [centralprocessing unit] and system memory — will bring enhanced levels ofperformance to the latest cutting-edge games and media tools that requireextra horsepower,” Intel said in a statement, adding the technology willdeliver smoother, more realistic 3D gaming and glitch-free video.

The Extreme Edition’s architecture and clock speed of 3.46 GHz bear out Intel’s announcement last month that itwould be looking beyond increased clock speed to drive the performance ofits processors.

“Coming after Intel acknowledged that it will not ship a 4 GHz Pentium 4processor, this processor illustrates the emphasis on means other than clockspeed, like the faster frontside bus, to boost performance,” IDC programmanager Shane Rau told TechNewsWorld.

Rau said the chip industry has recognized the need to de-emphasizeprocessor clock speed in favor of other ways to improve overall PC performance.

“We’ve been seeing bigger cache and faster frontside buses foryears and, more recently, the moves to 64-bit and dual-core processors,” Rausaid.

Back on the Clock

Gartner research vice president Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld thatalthough Intel had little choice but to look beyond clock speed to pick upperformance — mostly because of heat and power issues — the company andindustry will revisit its past again in the future.

“The problem is, if they keep the clock speed and increase the bus speed,they’ll run into the law of diminished returns,” Reynolds said. “Ultimately,they’ll have to return to increased clock speed.”

Reynolds said that, in addition to gaming enthusiasts, multi-media editors willbenefit from the increased performance afforded by the Pentium 4 Extreme. Those are also the users likely to pay its hefty price, which at $999 per processor inquantities of 1,000 is about double the price of the next P4 down thelineup.

IDC’s Rau said the target for the Pentium 4 Extreme is the high end of thedesktop PC market, where performance is more important than price.

“Owners of these systems are typically consumers who are willing to pay apremium for the components inside the systems,” Rau said. “These consumerstypically use their PCs for applications like gaming and digital contentcreation, which demand greater than average performance.”

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