Previously, the latest Pentium 4 processors were able to outperform AMD's CPUs when it came to encoding tasks, which was practically the only benchmark for which the Pentium bested the Athlon64 according to our previous tests.
Now, we see that the new FX-55 at 2.6 GHz is able to close most of the remaining gaps in the Pentium 4's performance lead for MPEG-2, MPEG-4 or MP3 encoding as well as the video editing software Studio 9 and is almost head to head with the Pentium 4 Processor 560 or the Extreme Edition at 3.4 GHz.
When it comes to games and multimedia, the FX-55 gains even more lead over the P4 processor family, beating the Extreme Edition in 3DMark, Doom 3, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2004 and Wolfenstein ET. These are also precisely the applications for which the P4 EE and the Athlon FX are designed. Only some synthetic benchmarks, 3DStudio Max and encoding applications like Windows Media Encoder 9 are still dominated by Intel's processors.
However, if we compare the substantial price difference between mid-range and high-end processors and take into consideration the narrow performance delta, there is only very little reason why one should one spend over $800 for an Athlon64 FX-55 or $999 for the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition.
Both companies offer exclusive devices for a tiny audience and are in the midst of a prestige war that does not bring much benefit to the customer. Back in 1996, there was still a huge performance gap between a Pentium 133 MHz and the top model Pentium MMX 233 in terms of price and performance. Today, the performance gap between the fastest and the slowest processors in our benchmark charts is rather small.
Meanwhile, despite the marginal differences in performances between the high-end and low-end lines from both AMD and Intel, the bright winner of today's race is AMD's Athlon64 FX-55, as Intel's Extreme Edition loses more ground.