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Performance Sneak Preview: Intel Dual Core Pentium

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We recently returned from a road trip to discover a very large box waiting for us. In the package was an Intel reference white box system. The system included a motherboard built around the Intel 955X chipset and a 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition model 840. This particular version of the Pentium 4 contains two full processor cores, built around the Prescott architecture. So we rolled up our sleeves, cleared the lab bench off, and began installing benchmarks.

There's been a lot of buzz around dual core x86 processors. AMD has been working on their dual core AMD64 processors for quite some time now, having taped out nearly a year ago. Intel was later to the party, but the company has focused its considerable resources and announced a top-to-bottom line of dual core x86 processors, although shipments will be phased in over the next year.

We need to make clear, though, that this is not the official product launch of the new processor. In this hyper-competitive business, Intel is giving people a sneak peek, which should give us some general ideas as to how a dual core Pentium 4 might perform. So there are no announcements about ship dates, although everything we've heard indicates that volume shipments are likely to occur late spring or early summer. Pricing isn't finalized, either. Given that AMD is feverishly working on their dual core plans, it's likely that the race will heat up as summer arrives.

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