Overclocking Of course my favorite part of the review where I can pull my sleeves up and get down and dirty with this CPU to see what kind of overclocking it can handle. Initially I was somewhat worried about the potential overclocking of the "C" batch CPU's. Lets face it, moving from a 133MHz FSB to 200MHz is nothing to take lightly so I wondered how much breathing room these new P4's would have. Well my suspicions were quickly put to rest when I shot for a 233MHz FSB which would give us right at 3.5GHz. I booted into windows with no trouble whatsoever with only a .10 increase in voltage. Even though Intel has made the jump to the 200Mhz FSB Quad Pumped to 800Mhz, I see no indication that anything is holding back this CPU. I have to give credit where credit is due and Intel has pulled off some great engineering here with the "C" version CPU's. I believe the real bang for the buck will come with the lower clocked 800MHz FSB, HT capable chips. Not only will they be competitively priced (only a small % over their non-HT 533FSB cousins) but we are starting to hear of some great overclocks already out of these chips.
As I mentioned previously in the ABIT IC7-G review. 3.6GHz is extremely impressive with the stock Intel CPU Cooler. 3.6GHz was not quite stable however even with major voltage increases up to 1.75v. We simply reached our limit with the CPU. The system was very stable at 238MHz FSB or 3570 CPU Speed at a vcore of 1.675v. I prefer to run the system at a more comfortable system bus at 233Mhz. Even though we can lock our AGP/PCI to 66/33Mhz I still feel more comfortable at 233MHz FSB. This also gives us a nice 933MHz System Bus. You can't really complain about a 500MHz overclock and I am really pleased with the performance of this CPU at both default and overclocked states.
Another item of interest I discovered while running some benchmarks was the ability to assign one or both HT logical CPU's to any given application. I can certainly see where this would be a useful tool in certain situations. Simply pull up the Task Manager.
Obviously you'll only get this option if your running HT enabled. Again, nothing ground breaking, but a nice little option should you ever need to use it.
Conclusion What can I say? The Intel P4 3.0C Processor impressed me at every corner. Not only do we have a 200MHz FSB (quad pumped to 800MHz) but we also get the added bonus of Hyper-Threading. While some of Intel's previous marketing gimmicks such as SSE and NetBurst Architecture only showed slight gains and only on certain applications, you can almost guarantee that you will see performance gains on nearly every application you use with HT enabled. Gaming, graphic design, word processing, video and video processing, MP3 and any environment where several apps or multi-tasking comes into play.
What I really enjoy seeing here is that Intel is giving us a much greater bang for our buck. While we are still at 3GHz in raw CPU speed, we have added bandwidth and Hyper-Threading that gives us better performance with a similarly clocked CPU that does not have HT and/or the added bus speed. Our only small drawback with HT is that it can only be utilized on a machine running WindowsXP. Fortunately both XP Professional and XP Home support HT Technology. To me, this is not necessarily a drawback however since MS WindowsXP is easily the best windows based OS yet. Win98 SE was great, but simply does not have the stability and flexibility that WinXP has. Win2000 is also an excellent operating system but is certainly showing it's age and has never really been a straight "performance" OS out of the box.
AMD CPU's have been getting faster and faster and I'm sure many Intel fans out there were feeling the heat and getting discouraged. But rest assured, Intel has not been idle with their time and with the introduction of their latest Canterwood chipset coupled with the new 800MHz P4's they really have a stellar performer on their hands. In fact, at this point in time you simply are not going to find a faster solution available than the 3.0C and 875P combination, Intel OR AMD based. I guarantee it!
Finally, would I recommend this product to our readers? That's a tough one. While yes, there is no doubt in this particular CPU's performance, my question is, is it actually worth 500$? IMHO, I would have to say no. Intel has always commanded a premium price for their flagship processors, and while the price of the 3.0C/800 is much lower than what the 3.06/533 debuted at, I still believe that 500$ is simply too much for anyone to pay for a single CPU. Now what I am really excited about is the lower rated CPU's that Intel has introduced and should start showing up on store shelves here very soon, such as the 2.4C and 2.6C CPU's. Even the 2.8C should give us a bit better bang for the buck as they will all be priced considerably lower than the 3.0C but most likely give us similar performance in the end. Even better really. If we can get the 2.4C to run a 250MHz FSB we'll be right there at 3GHz. If you can make it up to 270MHz FSB than you'll be over 3200MHz, and with the added system bandwidth, you'll have a system with some serious peformance. Here is our only problem. Right now, the fastest memory you can get your hands on off the shelf is PC3700 or DDR 466. While a few weeks ago, this seemed extremely fast, the Canterwood has already made it obsolete. How so? Well, if you take that 2.4C and try to hit 250MHz (500MHz DDR) you will be running well over the PC3700 spec, so getting your hands on premium memory will be on everyone's mind that owns one of the new Intel CPU's and Canterwood or Springdale setup. What we need now from the major memory manufacturers is much faster memory. In fact, we need DDR 500 and DDR 533 ASAP. Of course it is going to be expensive. But for this performance trend to continue, it will simply be a requirement here very soon. So while the 3.0C is a truly awesome processor in it's own right, I would most likely suggest holding off and picking up a lower clocked "C" processor with HT and 800MHz FSB at a much better price. That said, if your simply looking for the best possible performance at stock processor speed, the 3.0C is an easy choice.
Final Thoughts For the past week or so I have been working behind the scenes with a major memory company who actually have DDR 533 on hand, but yields are not as high as they would like and keeping memory timings down low is also a problem that is coming into play. I'd like to go into more detail for our readers but I am simply bound not to. But do keep your eyes open, super fast memory is coming, and for no other reason than the introduction of Intel's new 875P Canterwood and 865 Springdale chipsets. And for this reason alone, I think it may be time to forgive Intel for the well known RAMBUS fiasco. In my eyes, they have done a 180 degree turn, listened to what enthusiasts like us have had to say and they have made it a reality. And equally impressive is the short time in which Intel has done this. Normally monumental hardware such as this is relegated to a paper launch with several delays only to keep potential customers from purchasing competitors hardware. Listen to me now folks, this is the real deal and Intel is completely back in the game and ready to head into overtime if necessary to reclaim their title as the industry performance leader.
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