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Intel P4 3.2GHz - getting acquainted

Intel in the past few months has had it relatively easy. When the Pentium 4 had it's debut almost 3 years ago, AMD and its Athlon line of processors weren't just snapping at it's heals, but in some cases leaving it for dust. How the tables have turned, albeit the turning took the best part of 3 years. AMD's Athlon XP range of processors headed out of 2002 clearly behind the then top-of-the-line Pentium 4 part, the P4 3.06GHz with HyperThreading support.

Things started to go 'wrong' for AMD after what can only be described as a shambolic 2700+/2800+ paper launch, with the latter of the product never intended for the retail market. Next came the XP 3000+ and still no Barton core. When the much fabled Barton core with its 512Kb of Level 2 cache did arrive on the XP 3200+, people thought it was the last roll of the dice from AMD to peg back Intel before both companies introduce new products. It never happened. The XP 3200+ was a rather expensive turkey. Even with 200MHz FSB and the extra cache it was clearly slower in the vast majority of tests when compared against Intel's Pentium 4 'C' 3.0GHz.

Now what annoyed most journalists and a vast majority of readers is the XP 3200+'s performance rating. It's barely managed to keep up with Intel's Pentium 4 3.0GHz part let alone suggest that it could out run it. The other major selling point of AMD processors its price, had lost its edge too. The Pentium 4 3.0GHz, which is the relevant Intel, part in terms of performance was actually less than the XP 3200+, and still is to this day. So AMD had lost both the performance and price war. It's clear that the Sunnyvale chip maker has its thoughts firmly set on the Athlon64, however the product that really brought them so close and at times past Intel's product, the Athlon, bows out in such poor form. That said, AMD have said a final Athlon processor should be launched before the move to Athlon64. We believe it will be given the 3400+ performance rating.

So what has Intel done to go from clearly having the worse product 3 years ago to be so strong now? Intel's aggressive marketing and successive frequency ramping, with a move to the Northwood core resulted in where we are today. Without concentrating too much on how Intel did it, the end result was pretty impressive. They managed to drag a product that was initially thought of as vastly inferior and ended up at the end of it's life cycle with something that has started to change the hearts and minds of gamers and enthusiasts - some of the most loyal AMD supporters.

The Pentium 4 'C' 3.2GHz doesn't offer a great deal of change, other than clock speed over its 3.0GHz counterpart. The 3.0GHz 'C' was the first CPU to support 800MHz FSB and make full use of 875P and 865 based motherboards. Be under no false pretences, the extra 200MHz won't mean a sea change in performance, however it will try and cement Intel's place on the top of the desktop processor performance tree, which is no bad thing for the Santa Clara giant.

Since this is quite simply a speed bump we will refrain from looking too deep into this processor other than to provide you with all the relevant details and the performance figures we attained. In the coming weeks we will take a closer look at processor design.