Conclusion: A Milestone To Be Set
In the past, noticeable performance gains have been achieved through the introduction of incrementally faster processors, but never before has the potential performance gain been as large as it is with dual core CPUs. Yet the potential can only be exploited with thread-optimized software - older, non-optimized programs will be executed only as fast as we are used to with current processors.
Intel is well aware of this fact, and wants to facilitate the introduction of dual core technology through a variety of pricing points. At an expected $241, the Pentium D 820 is a bit more expensive than a Pentium 4 at 3.2 GHz. One should be able to cope with the performance impact caused by the slower clock speed since the improvement in multitasking and when using thread-optimized software is tremendous.
We do feel the expected price for the fastest Pentium D, the 840, is too high. At 3.2 GHz, you get a clock speed increment of just 400 MHz while paying more than double the price of the 820, which we find hard to justify.
Similarly, the new Extreme Edition will come with a considerably lower price/performance ratio, since its price is doubled again, while offering only the advantages of Hyper Threading and open multipliers for overclocking.
Users that work regularly with demanding applications such as graphics and video rendering or audio/video encoding will likely not hesitate to move to a dual core system in the medium term, as the performance advantages are extremely appealing. Others should check carefully which applications they want to use in the next few months. If it's largely thread-optimized code, the Pentium D will be the best choice. If not, a cheap Pentium 4 on a dual-core-enabled system will do for the time being. In particular, the current generation of games does not benefit from dual core processors right now, so replacing a current gaming machine with a dual core would not make much sense right now.
Large parts of the IT industry have high hopes for Intel's dual core strategy, since the 915/925 platforms failed to reach sales targets. For the first time in many months, there will be a processor that is both affordable and technically attractive enough to induce the unconvinced to finally buy a new computer. However, it will still take several weeks until the dual core products and the new platform are finally launched.