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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [07.20.05]
Manufactured by: Intel


Four no More

After using the "Pentium 4" name for almost 5 years, Intel has finally introduced a new "Pentium". And no, it's not the Pentium 5. It's the Pentium D, supporting Dual processor cores on a single CPU die. Try not to be confused by the "Celeron D" which most certainly does not have two cores.


When Intel launched the Dual Core lineup, they announced four individual CPU's supporting three clock speeds. Prices work out as follows:

CPU Clock Speed Lowest Price
Pentium D 820 2.8 GHz $96.90 at ZipZoomFly
Pentium D 830 3.0 GHz $122.34 at CompuVest
Pentium D 840 3.2 GHz $499 at Amazon
Pentium Extreme Edition 840 3.2 GHz No longer sold

It's obvious that Intel is looking to really push the dual core platform all the way to the entry level market with these prices. To contrast, AMD's lowest end dual core CPU is the X2 4200+. The lowest price we found for that CPU was $525 at ZipZoomFly. Granted, there are rumours circulating that AMD will be releasing dual cores as low as "3800+" and will sell for around $345, only $100 more than the P-D 820.

So it's obvious at this point, if you're looking to get into dual core on the cheap, the Pentium D 820 or even 830 is the way to go.

You might be wondering about that Extreme Edition Pentium, which is the exact same speed as the P-D 840, but costs almost twice as much. As always, Intel has an "Extreme" version of their CPU. But unlike prior versions, which had higher clock speeds than any other Pentium 4, higher frontside bus rates, or more cache, this one simply has one difference over the 840; Hyperthreading. That will give you four logical processors, and should help with highly multithreaded tasks. But is it a $500 difference? We'll find out in a later review. For now, I want to focus on the $245 Pentium D.

All of the new CPUs support EM64T, and the other features added in the 6xx revision. Note however that the P-D 820 does not support SpeedStep, since it is already at the lowest clock speed mutliplier supported by this core.

The New Chipset

Along with the dual core CPUs, Intel launched a few new chipsets. 945P, 945G, and 955X. If you want to use an Intel chipset with a dual core Pentium, you'll need to use one of these. NVIDIA's NFORCE4 Ultra supports dual core though, so if you're already on that platform with a Pentium 4, upgrading to Pentium D is as easy as a BIOS update.

The new chipsets are mostly revamped versions of the 925X and 915P chipsets. A few new features have been added though.

The memory controller now supports up to DDR667. This is absolutely nothing to get too worked up about though, as the latencies required to run memory this high will negate any performance benefit from more bandwidth. However, this might be a sign that Intel is planning on increasing their FSB rates (at least for the Extreme Edition perhaps).

ECC is supported by 955X, allowing it to support up to 8GB of memory.

That's about it for the new Northbridge, but to be honest, the ICH7 Southbridge is where most of the action is at. ICH7 supports two new RAID modes: RAID5 and RAID10, introducing even better redundancy features, and more potential performance than RAID1 and RAID0.

SATA 300 Mb/s transfer rate is now supported. To get an idea of how that can affect performance, including RAID 0 tests, check out our 300 Mb/s Hitachi T7K250 review.

ICH7 also adds 2 more PCI-E lanes, bringing the total to six on the Southbridge.

945G has an updated integrated graphics core, GMA350. But to be honest with you, not enough has been done to make it even remotely viable as a gaming option. For more info on integrated graphics, check out our integrated graphics review from a while back, featuring GMA900 and ATI IGP 9100 Pro.

For more info on the new chipsets, and how they compare to the previous 925X, we have a review coming up featuring three new motherboards from Foxconn using them. Keep an eye open for that one next week.

For now, let's see how this new CPU performs!

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