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Reviewed By: Carl Nelson [04.04.02]
Manufactured By: Intel & AMD
Prices: P4 2.4 GHz: $560 (in volume quantities)
AthlonXP 2100: $210  (in volume quantities)

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The Contenders

So we've given you the full stories on both the Intel Pentium 4 2.4 GHz, and the AthlonXP 2100+.  In those reviews, we looked at how each processor performed in contrast to the previous model in each respective lineup.  Due to overwhelming demand for another "Shootout" style review (we originally did this with the P4 2.2 and AthlonXP 2000), we went back and redid all the charts to show how each of these top-end processors contrast against each other.

The Technology

Since the basic structure of each CPU hasn't changed much since the previous models, there's not a lot to talk about right now.  Both manufacturers are expected to make some pretty big changes with their respective next releases though.

AMD is going to switch to a 0.13 micron fab process, hoping for similar success to what Intel saw when they made the switch with the Northwood core.  We don't have a lot of details on this new processor, codenamed "Thoroughbred" or "Tbred" for short, but as soon as it is officially launched, you can be sure that we'll have a ton of benchmarks ready for you.

The Intel side is just as blurry when it comes to officially released info.  We expect them to release a CPU running on a 533 MHz (133 MHz quad pumped) Frontside bus, but that's about all we know.  One date being thrown around is May 6th, but again nothing is official.  We spoke about this expected release in more detail in our original P4 2.4 GHz review.

So with the P4 2.4 and AthlonXP 2100, we have two chips that are basically the last in their respective families.  Right now they are the top of the line for each model.

Other Details

I am going to take a moment to talk about some other things people must consider when purchasing a CPU.  We'll get to the performance aspect in a bit.

First off, of course, is price.  In terms of top end models, it's easy to see that AMD handily beats Intel in this aspect.  Intel charges more for their CPU's simply because they can.  It's pretty easy to see that Intel is still the major player in the high end CPU market, with AMD having to keep their prices a lot lower to be viable.  Lately though, with the AthlonXP line, we've been seeing AMD use higher and higher prices.  Usually with a new processor launch, the rest of the prices go down.  That was not the case when the 2100+ arrived however.  With the Tbred, I expect AMD's prices to be higher than ever before, but I still don't think they will touch Intel.  For the chips we're talking about though, AMD wins this battle hands down.

Another thing worthy of mention is the heat produced by each CPU.  AMD has always been known for their hot CPU's.  In fact, even in the non-enthusiast market, they are known for this.  Ask anyone who is just a casual PC user, and they will likely tell you that AMD CPUs are hot, hot hot!

The 2100+ is no exception, being the very last 0.18 micron CPU.  During our testing, normal operating temperature, with a pretty big sized heatsink and a loud fan, is around 50-55 degrees for this chip.  Compare that to the P4 2.4, which hardly got over 35 degrees with the stock Intel cooler!

You might say that heat isn't really an issue, as long as the CPU is working fine.  This is true, but with heat comes the need for higher fan speeds, and with higher fan speeds comes noise. Looking at AMD's recommended thermal solutions list, you can see that the 2100+ is only recommended on the heatsink units with higher speed fans, usually making at least 32-38 dB of noise.  Compare that to the P4 2.4, which can get away with using a passive heatsink, completely eliminating the need for a fan at all! If you care at all about having a quiet PC, you definitely want to keep this in mind.

One last thing to consider is the physical design of the CPU's.  One major thing to a lot of people is Intel's use of a heat plate on their CPU's.  This makes for extremely easy heatsink installation, and pretty much completely eliminates the worry of cracking the slug at all.  AMD is still using the 'open slug' design.  I am sure they get a lot of requests for a plate, but they just aren't going to use one, and in fact they don't plan on using them on future Tbred based CPU's.  This will be a major disappointment to many people I think.

Technical Details

Here's a small comparative matrix to contrast the technical details of each CPU, if you care to do so:

  Intel Pentium 4 (Northwood) AMD AthlonXP (Palomino)
Core Fab Size 0.13 Micron 0.18 Micron
Core Voltage 1.5v 1.75v
Thermal Power 57.8W 64.3W
Integer Pipelines 4 3
Floating Point Pipelines 2 3
Operations/Clock Cycle 6 9
FSB Speed 400 MHz (100 X 4) 266 MHz (133 X 2)
L1 Bus Width 256 bit 64-bit
L1 Cache Size 8KB 128K
L2 Cache Size 512K 256K
Total Cache Size 520K 384K
MMX Yes Yes
3DNow! Yes Yes
Enhanced 3DNow! No Yes
SSE Instructions Yes Yes
SSE2 Instructions Yes No
Data Prefetch Logic Yes Yes
On-die Thermal Diode Yes Yes

The numbers to pay particular attention to would be the Operations per Clock Cycle, which is what AMD uses to identify their CPU's by "Performance Rating", and the total cache size, which should give the P4 a nice benefit in performance.  Note that each CPU has their own enhanced instruction set.  The P4 has SSE2, and the AthlonXP has "Enhanced 3DNow!".  Whether or not either of these give any benefit is dependant on whether software uses them.  It might be worth noting that the original SSE seems to give a much greater benefit than the original 3DNow! when it comes to most applications.

Testing Platform

The test system for each CPU is utterly identical except for the motherboards used, and even then we are using direct cousin boards with chipsets with comparative revisions.

Intel Motherboard: Shuttle AV45GT/R (chipset: P4X266A) (reviewed here)
AMD Motherboard: Shuttle AK35GT/R (chipset: KT266A) (reviewed here)
Memory: 512MB Crucial PC2100 DDR
Hard Drive: 13GB Maxtor 7200 RPM ATA/66
Video Card: GeForce 3 Ti500
CDROM: Pioneer 16X DVDROM
Ethernet: D-Link 530TX

Drivers Used

VIA 4-in-1 4.37V
VIA AGP 4.10
NVIDIA 21.83

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