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Intel Pentium 4 2.53 GHz 9/10. Date Posted 14/09/2002. by Saeed Amen.

This is Intel's latest processor (2.8 GHz Pentium 4 is being launched as we speak, which should result in a significant price cut for the 2.53 GHz). The early Pentium 4's were criticised for not being powerful enough. However, with clock speeds exceeding 2 GHz, the Pentium 4 has surely confounded those critics. In the pictures above you can see the Intel D845GBV motherboard, with the tiny Pentium 4 2.53 GHz at the top, which fits into the microPGA478 socket. It is made using the 0.13 micron process (so the transistors are packed more closely). This is signifcantly smaller than the first generation of Pentium 4s. The D845GBV board is an integrated one, featuring graphics, sound and also 4 USB 2 ports (which can be expanded to 6). It supports bus speeds of 400 or 533 MHz. If you prefer to bypass the integrated graphics you can just insert an AGP card (upto 4X). However, for most purposes the on-board graphics seemed fine. Also this motherboard supports cheaper DDR266 SDRAM memory. It is nice to see that you can get genuine Intel motherboards that do not need very expensive RAMBUS memory! I tested the motherboard with 512 MB DDR266 memory and a WD 100GB 7200rpm IDE drive. There are of course the usual standard features on the motherboard, like support for Ultra ATA 100 drives and PS/2 connectors. However, I could not get my Adaptec 2940U2W's bios to boot on the motherboard (although once booted up SCSI devices were recognised).

Installation of the processor was quite easy. On top of it, I fitted a Zalman Flower Cooler. After carefully arranging the cables in the system, I managed to cool the processor to a constant 45C, in a full tower case. This is a far cry from my dual Athlon MP 1.2 GHz system which requires extra fans to cool it to this temperature. Intel have obviously worked on reducing the heat output from their newer processors! As such it makes a good choice if you wish to make a quiet machine with as few fans as possible. It also makes this processor an ideal choice for overclocking (however, I did not attempt to try it!)

In testing the processor seemed very quick. I mostly tested it on music and graphics applications, which were all very processor intensive. I did not really want to test it on office applications, because let's face it, if you are just using Word, you can probably get away with a 500 MHz Pentium 3! However, many people are now using their computers for heavy graphics work and audio editting, which benefit from extra processing power. Also nearly everybody listens to MP3s, whose encoding is very processor intensive. Speech recognition is just catching on, and I suspect this will be the killer app, that will sell the faster processors of the future (as will video editing).

You can see some of the times recorded below. I compared it with a first generation Pentium 4 1.5 GHz (with 512 MB RAMBUS and SCSI RAID array) and my dual Athlon MP 1.2 GHz (with 512 MB DDR RAM and WD IDE drive). Two slower Athlon MP 1.2 GHz are cheaper than a Pentium 4 2.53 GHz, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the two. However, dual motherboards are generally more expensive, and you also need more cooling devices.

The results were quite a surprise. Although all the programs I used were said to be "optimised" for dual processor, the Pentium 4 2.53 GHz still managed to trounce the dual Athlon 1.2 GHz on nearly every test, except for some for some very complex filters like Radial Blur on Photoshop and the times were similar using TimeFactory. My tests suggest that most users would be better off with a fast single processor machine, rather than one featuring two slower dual processors. Also many office programs are not optimised for dual processor machines. In addition, it seemed to make little difference that the Pentium 4 1.5 GHz was equipped with such a fast memory and disk subsystem. As such, I believe the 2.53 GHz is fast enough to warrant upgrading from slower and older Pentium 4 models.

All times in seconds P4 1.5 GHz P4 2.53 GHz 2xAthlon 1.2 GHz

Wavelab 4 (68 MB WAV)

Normalise 1.44 1.69 2.67
Reverse 11.15 9.15 10.97
3D Freq Analysis 2.25 1.53 2.13
Dynamics (tube compressor gate) 12.22 5.85 9.39
Time Stretch (from 131 to 145 BPM, under highest quality) 27.48 13.99 20.98
Encode as MP3 at 128 kBit (under highest quality setting) 79.0 37.35 60.5
Prosoniq Timefactory 1.6 (68 MB WAV)      
Time stretch (from 131 to 145 BPM, under best polyphonic setting) 799 420 467
Photoshop (24 MB file)      
Gaussian Blur (3 pixels) 1.85 1.26 1.42
Bas Relief (13 details, 3 smoothness) 7.14 4.80 6.11
Radial Blur (100%, best, spin) 728 348 264

The Intel Pentium 2.53 GHz certainly seems like an impressive processor. Intel have put behind them the early Pentium 4s, when the Athlon was beating them in most tests. Now it seems Intel is king of the hill, but can AMD's Athlon 2600+ fight back? One point to note, though, is that Intel's Pentium 4 range is more expensive than AMD Athlon if you want to buy a prcoessor separately and build your own machine. As such I would recommend taking a look at ready-made Intel based systems, as they are often far cheaper, and then modifying them to your requirements.