Ballistics Report: 3.2GHz Prescott
90nm: Although it’s hard to argue in favor of the 3.2GHz Prescott, Intel certainly spent time infusing the processor with new technology. Without the 90nm process in full effect, Intel wouldn’t be able to manufacture a core with 125 million transistors. Although Prescott may not seem like a significant improvement over Northwood, its purpose will become much clearer in the next year as Intel is able to approach the 4GHz mark
SSE3: When Intel launched the Pentium 4, SSE2 was a silent feature. It didn’t really offer anything in the way of extra performance, but it held the promise of enhanced performance in several popular types of software. Over the past three years, developers have embraced SSE2, giving weight to the promise Intel made in November of 2000. Now we’re seeing a new set of instructions that Intel claims will enhance graphics, video encoding, complex arithmetic, and even Hyper-Threading. Though it may take some time, Prescott’s performance can only improve as developers start taking advantage of SSE3.
Performance: Not that Prescott’s performance is bad – rather, considering the number of enhancements Intel is touting, we’d hope that it would do better in our benchmark suite. In most gaming scenarios, Prescott is outperformed by the Northwood core, and of course, the Gallatin-based Extreme Edition. Even AMD’s Athlon 64 3200+ bests it in a majority of real-world benchmarks.
Compatibility: Intel claims that a majority of motherboards can be made Prescott-compatible with a simple BIOS update. However, of the boards we tested, a majority wouldn’t even boot up with Prescott installed. Most of the motherboards manufactured in the past few months are very likely ready to go, but there is a massive install base with older platforms that don’t conform to the necessary voltage regulator specification. If you’re in doubt about your motherboard, check with its manufacturer before buying a new processor.
The Future: What does the future hold for the Prescott on Intel’s Socket 478 interface? Well, Intel will be the one to decide how long the aging socket lasts, but there’s no getting around the LGA-775 interface set to emerge within the next couple of months. When that happens, we’ll also be introduced to DDR2 memory and PCI Express graphics. So, if you’re going for high-end, you won’t want to get stuck buying a new motherboard and processor now, as several fledgling technologies get set to launch. If, on the other hand, value is a primary objective, you may want to look into a 2.8GHz Prescott, which may very well prove to be an able platform for overclocking.