The Pentium D: Intel's Dual Core Silver Bullet Previewed

Performance Evaluation

Our comprehensive benchmark suite includes a total of 22 programs, to cover the requirements of different applications and users. We tried to use the latest software versions whenever possible, to increase our chances of using thread-optimized programs. This is required in order to achieve the potential performance gains of a dual core system.

An important message is that a Pentium D works as fast as a single core Pentium 4 at equal clock speeds. However, our synthetic benchmarks unmask the slower memory bandwidth of the Pentium D, which is caused by the concurrent FSB and memory access of both cores. As you can see in the benchmark section, this is of minor importance only, since real world benchmarks are not affected. Due to the lower clock speeds of the Pentium D, however, a fast Pentium 4 will remain the faster chip under classic, non-thread-optimized software.

There is a lot of software out there that simply won't be able to benefit from Intel's dual core products any time soon. Many of them are, I'm sorry to say, popular games such as Doom 3, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2004, Quake III Arena or Return To Castle Wolfenstein. All these titles will run at the speed of a single core processor except for the fact that background tasks will be running unnoticed. Fortunately, a 3.2 GHz processor should usually be fast enough for this today.

In this context, the Extreme Edition's Hyper Threading feature does not make any difference. Software such as the MPEG2 encoder Main Concept, our Divx and Xvid compression tests and the CPU test of PC Mark 2004 actually run slower with HT enabled.

Let's get back to dual core technology now, since this is what our review is all about. There are many programs that actually are considerably faster on a Pentium D 840 than on a Pentium 4 at higher clock speed. In Pinnacle Studio 9, a 15% time saving in video rendering can be achieved. Divx and Xvid encoding is 20% faster on a slower running dual core machine. 3D Studio Max 7 benefits by as much as 55%, and Cinema 4D 9.1 and Lightwave 8.2.1 both benefit in a similar manner. Encoding MP3 audio with a multi threaded version of Lame is as fast as on the Pentium 4 top models, while MP3 Maker Titanium shows some performance gains.

Another advantage of the Pentium D is its unrestricted multitasking ability. Typically, a modern computer at full load will be busy enough to cause noticeable delays as soon as additional tasks are demanded. With the Pentium D you can still execute your everyday applications while a huge workload is being processed in the background. Everyone who has already had the pleasure of working with a dual processor computer will know what I'm talking about.

  • DaveF1953
    How much can the Extreme Edition be had for now? $40? Sounds like a deal to me. Although, older, hotter, and slower in the long run. Best bet now. No?
  • wild9
    I'd just go AMD or Core 2, the former having a much lower power draw and great overclocking potential than what you have here. My relative used to run Intel Extreme Editions like this, and the power draw was immense, he had to use water cooling. In the end he ditched it and got AMD. Not trying to say one is better than the other all the time (ie for media encoding the Intel was great), just some ideas to consider. Cheap dual-core AMD's based on AM2 are hard to beat at the moment.