Intel Pentium D review

Price when reviewed

The Pentium D is something of a stepping stone in the world of CPUs: both a throwback to the days of gigahertz races and high TDPs, as well as the trailblazer that brought a new era of dual-core computing to the desktop PC.

The first Smithfield models – the 800 series – have 1MB of Level 2 cache for each core and operate with a front side bus speed of 800MHz. They support XD-bit security and EM64T extensions, while the 830 and 840 models also offer EIST for power saving. Released later, the bottom-end 805 processor sports a lower 533MHz front side bus and is the budget model.

Gradually introduced throughout 2006, the Presler 900 series improved the Pentium D. These sport 2MB of Level 2 cache for each core and are produced using the more efficient 65nm process rather than the 90nm of the 800 series.

There are two distinctions in this range: the 9×0 models support VT (virtualisation technology), while the cheaper 9×5 models lack this feature (so the 920 becomes the 915 and doesn’t have virtualisation). With significant savings on offer, you should choose a 9×5 CPU if you don’t need VT.

Value for money

The Pentium D family is stuck between a rock and a hard place, due in part to the introduction of the Core 2 Duo and also due to the odd pricing: you’ll pay anything from £35 to £46 for the privilege of virtualisation. If you want a CPU with VT, you should look to the Core 2 Duo range but, for reference, we’ve included prices in the table below as a guide.

The Pentium D largely continues along the price/performance line of the Celerons. At £55, the 805 represents a tremendous deal and is undoubtedly the cheapest way to give your PC dual-core power. It will also tempt anyone considering buying a top-end Celeron D: the 805 was 20% faster than the Celeron D 356 in our multitasking test.

The 820 and 915 models are almost identically priced. With its extra Level 2 cache, only the latter should be considered, and the case is even more concrete further up. The 925 is more than £50 cheaper than the similarly performing 830, and the 940 (which includes VT – there’s no 935 model) is around £150 cheaper than the ludicrously priced 840.

But if there’s one model that bucks the pricing trend, it’s the Pentium D 945. It comes in cheaper than the 940, and so becomes the bargain of the higher-end Pentium Ds. At £97, it’s the most you should be considering spending on a Pentium D, as past this point you’re into Core 2 Duo territory.

Ultimately, the 805 and 915 are affordable ways to upgrade to dual core and are better choices than the dearest single-core Celerons. Further up, the 925 and 945 are worth considering, but any higher than that and the Core 2 Duo is the only sensible choice.

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