Intel has certainly been laying out the performance lumber over the last few months, with the release of the powerful i875P and i865PE chipsets, a 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 supporting the 800 MHz front-side, and lower-speed Pentium 4-2.8C, 2.6C and 2.4C 800 MHz versions. AMD countered with the Athlon XP 3200+, but of the two companies, Intel has been the more active. Given the current processor landscape, the only direction Intel can head is up, and crash through the 3 GHz ceiling.
The Pentium 4-3.2 GHz is their latest performance offering, and Intel has finally moved their 800 MHz top dog above the 3.06 GHz limit of the 533 MHz line. The performance of both the Pentium 4-3.0C and 3.06 GHz processors has given AMD fits in the benchmark arena, and now with one processor combining the highest FSB with the fastest clock speed, Intel is looking to hit on all performance cylinders.
This is especially true when considering their dual-DDR400, 800 MHz platforms, including the powerful i875P and mainstream i865PE, both of which can easily handle the extra speed of the Pentium 4-3.2 GHz. This spells some interesting benchmark comparisons, both on the Intel and AMD sides.
The architecture of the Pentium 4-3.2 GHz processor is similar to current Northwood models, and it is still based on a 0.13-micron core, incorporating 512K of L2 cache, and supports HyperThreading Technology. This new processor also runs on the 800 MHz front-side bus, along with supporting standard Pentium 4 features such as NetBurst, SSE2 and the other high-end goodies. In terms of visible differences, the increased clock speed is the beginning and end of the discussion, and the Pentium 4-3.2 GHz checks in at 200 MHz faster than the 3.0C model, and 133 MHz higher than the Pentium 4-3.06 GHz.
The Pentium 4-3.2 GHz shares the same D1 core stepping of the 800 MHz models, which is a newer revision than the C1 found on the fastest 533 MHz Pentium 4 CPUs. The faster clock speed also makes the Pentium 4-3.2 GHz the hottest-running Intel desktop processor, with an 82W thermal guideline and thermal spec. of 70 degrees C. These numbers aren't noticeably higher than either the Pentium 4-3.0C or 3.06 GHz, but in practice the new 3.2 GHz does need an upgraded cooling solution.
The Intel retail cooler included with the review kit is a copper-core, square heatsink-fan, which is a vast aesthetic and performance improvement over the rounded models found on the newer retail processors. This new HSF design handled the cooling job quite well, but in post-benchmark testing, our old aluminum reference HSF heated up quickly and is certainly not up to the task. Those looking to upgrade might want to buy the retail version, and get the upgraded HSF along with the deal.
The main attraction to the Pentium 4-3.2 GHz is naturally its faster core speed and higher-end performance. So we'll cut to the chase and offer up our extensive selection of system and gaming benchmarks, using a wide range of Intel and AMD processors, and utilizing both the i875P and i865P platforms for the Intel scores.