Intel Pentium 4 review

Price when reviewed

The Pentium 4 saw the introduction of Intel’s NetBurst architecture, with its focus on high clock speeds and a deep pipeline that makes it ideal for linear tasks like encoding. But, arguably more importantly, it saw the birth of Hyper-Threading technology. This effectively gives you two virtual cores and as far as the operating system is concerned there are two physical CPUs.

Intel Pentium 4 review

The wide-ranging family starts at the 3GHz Pentium 4 630 and finishes with the 3.8GHz 670. Every model has a decent 2MB of Level 2 cache for its single core and communicates via an 800MHz FSB. It also supports EM64T instructions, XD-bit security and Intel’s power-saving SpeedStep technology.

There are also newer 6×1 versions of all models, which are made using a 65nm process and reduce the TDP noticeably in the higher-end models. Some are dearer than the originals, others are cheaper, as the table below shows. Finally, 662 and 672 models were the last models to be announced – adding virtualisation support – but aren’t widely available to buy.

Are there any bargains to be found, though? The truth is that the Pentium 4 simply doesn’t offer good value any more. In the past, it could be argued that its strength at encoding made it a good choice for video editing, but the arrival of first the Pentium D and then the even faster Core 2 Duo all but eliminated that argument.

Then there’s the efficiency issue. The Pentium 4 led the way in the marketing race for higher and higher numbers, but it inevitably ran hotter than any other mainstream CPU. The newer and cooler Core 2 Duo range shows just how power efficient an extremely fast CPU can be and leaves the poor Pentium 4 looking positively roasting by comparison.

The only way the Pentium 4 could continue to be a good choice would be if the prices dropped to compensate, and it’s clear from the graph on p94 that this hasn’t happened sufficiently.

The low-end 630 model scored 0.80 overall and costs £84, yet for an almost identical price you could pick up a far superior Pentium D 925 (scoring 0.94) or even an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ (scoring 1.05). And when you consider that the bottom-end Core 2 Duo E6300 scores 1.16 yet costs just £106, it’s clear that the Pentium 4 doesn’t make economic sense any more.

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