VapoChill Puts a Pentium 4 with 800 MHz FSB within Reach

Conclusion: Another Clock-Speed Trump For Intel, Clear Lines From AseTek

Intel has revisited its approach to the processor clock speed of the Pentium 4, applying it to the system clock speed. By jacking up the clock speed, the Pentium 4 has managed to put a distance between it and the Athlon XP little by little. Intel could try a repeat performance of that when it launches the Canterwood chipset at CeBIT - it certainly has room to grow.

Nonetheless, an analysis of our results leaves some things to be considered:

  • It's not clear whether the Asus P4G8X test motherboard truly operates at full performance when so heavily overclocked (read: memory timings), or whether the BIOS uses slower timings to ensure reliability.
  • It's also not clear whether and to what extent Intel will be able to enhance the memory interface. There is certainly some room for enhancement.
  • HyperThreading was not possible during our tests since it is not supported by the test CPU.

One thing is clear, though: our results are definitely at the low end of Intel's new platform. When the Canterwood chipset with 800 MHz FSB is finally launched, an extensive test (when this becomes possible) will be able to show how much extra power it can rev up.

Until such a test can be done, though, we hope that AMD will ship enough Athlon XP "Barton" units to bridge the time until the Hammer (Athlon 64/ Opteron) is launched.

Let's take another look at the VapoChill, which made the tests for this article possible. This is the paragon of a premium product for a minority of users. The price alone narrows the target group - but the results are more than respectable.

For example, we managed to overclock our Pentium 4 at 2.26 GHz to almost 3.2 GHz - a 40% increase. We were also able to run the fan at half-speed and set the compressor to -18°C, thereby keeping the noise level down to that found in computers with air-cooled CPUs. The case is sturdy and offers sufficient expansion options.

The advantages of the VapoChill over the competition are financial on the one hand, since it is some $150 cheaper than the Prometeia system, and in the company's greater market experience on the other. Over the long term, AseTek's support will be better, which helps justify the investment. And while we were unable to break the 4 GHz barrier with our VapoChill, the problem lies mostly with the unsuitability of our processor. The Prometeia offers greater reserves in that regard. Of course, you should carefully consider whether that is worth the much heftier price, the greater power consumption and the hulking weight (60 instead of 40 lbs).