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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [01.05.04]
Manufactured by: AMD


System Tests

PCMark 04 is Futuremark's latest version of this system-wide test suite, and it is vastly improved from the original - if you have the Pro version. It is directed to home users, relying on a lot of tests expected to be used every day by average users, and putting less importance on things like spreadsheet and database processing.

We do, so we have a wide range of results to report. PCMark 04 can directly test various parts of a PC - overall system performance, CPU performance, memory performance, hdd performance, and graphics performance. We are going to focus on the first three. Here are the results!

In every suite of tests, the P4 3.2 spanked the 3400+ quite badly. If you are curious how these results are formed, and which programs are used, feel free to read the whitepaper. All the same applications we would normally use ourselves are applied in this test suite.

The "System" score is derived from the performance results in the following applications:

  • File compression
  • File decompression
  • File encryption
  • File decryption
  • Virus scanning
  • Grammar check
  • Audio conversion
  • Image processing
  • Web page rendering
  • WMV video compression
  • DivX video compression
  • Physics calculation and 3D

The Memory score is derived from these tests:

  • Reading data blocks from memory
  • Writing data blocks to memory
  • Performing copy operations on data blocks
  • Random access to data items
  • Latency

The CPU test score is derived from the results in the system tests.

Before you freak out and dismiss this test as being bias in some way (Futuremark has been accused of going both ways during the last few years), please know that both AMD and Intel are top tier "Strategic" members of the Futuremark BETA program.

Looking at the results of the Athlon64 3400+, I can't help but to feel somewhat let down. We put it against Intel's 3.2 GHz CPU which is now 6 months old, and while it performed well in many important applications - most notably gaming - it didn't dominate like I had hoped. It is still way behind in video and audio encoding, and rendering wasn't as good as I expected.

However, looking at the pure CPU performance scores, we can assume that the performance of the 3400+ will improve over the months, as programs are updated to enable SSE2 support on the A64 series, etc.

And when 64 bit computing finally comes to fruition, look out! All hell should break loose.

So if you're in the market for a $400+ CPU, should you get an Athlon64 3400+, or a P4 3.2? It's really hard to say, because while the A64 3400+ is certainly 'future proof' and 'future ready' when 64 bit programs start to come out, by then we might even be at the 4 GHz level.

I would wait and see how things turn out with the upcoming "Prescott" P4; if it is released at the 3.4 GHz level, things could be very interesting... This should occur later this month.

Note that the platform we used for this review, the NForce3 150, is known to be the lower performing of the two available for the Athlon64 at this time. The VIA K8T800 should perform slightly better. We'll have more as we start to review more A64 motherboards.

Also, keep an eye on us for a full review of BAPCo's latest testing suites, SYSMark 2004 and WebMark 2004. We didn't have the time to do these tests for this review (odd timing of a CPU launch, right after the xmas holidays...)