PENTIUM 4 3.2GHz EXTREME EDITION
I'm sure that the vast majority of tech-savvy web users have been impressed with AMD's new line of CPUs. A number of core enhancements brought about meaningful gains in performance and efficiency, so much so that one had to call the AMD Athlon 64 FX-51 the fastest consumer-level CPU going. Computing, in a way, is all about future-proofing. The informed user always looks to extend the longevity of any purchase by evaluating current technologies and choosing the one that a) offers the best price-to-performance ratio and b) the product that offers future compatibility. Whilst the Athlon 64 FX-51 is hideously, shockingly expensive, it does have the ace of 64bit computing up its heatspreader-clad sleeve. Our range of benchmarks showed that it superlative performance in today's 32bit OS' and applications; enough to displace the Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz from the top of the tree.
When large CPU manufacturers' press departments define the role of these high-end CPUs, a reference, be it explicit or implied, is always made to 'hardcore gamers' and 'enthusiasts'. These niche markets crave the power afforded by the FX-51 and 3.2GHz P4, and let's remember that either firm isn't going to sell a whole bunch of processors that are priced at £500+. Niche, targeted marketing is where it's at.
As is often the case with one company heralding a new era in computing, the other tries to crash the party with some new-fangled product of its own. ATi and NVIDIA have been doing it for long enough. A new, slight refresh here, a new driver there helps to deflect the main attention from what either hopes will be a showstopper.
Intel plans to spoil AMD's party, but the name of the gatecrasher isn't Prescott. Rather, Intel feels content on releasing a faster Pentium 4 Northwood, and it ticks over at exactly the same speed as the incumbent 3.2GHz Northwood. What gives ?. Let's find out.