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Sharky Extreme : CPU Reviews & Articles November 19, 2006

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    Intel Pentium 4-3.06 GHz Review
    By Vince Freeman :  November 14, 2002

    Hyper-Threading Technology

    Since we're hip-deep in high-speed Pentium 4 processors already, the first question to answer will naturally be: what is Hyper-Threading Technology. As we stated above this technology allows a single physical processor recognized as two logical processors, and be able to process two distinct threads. Current desktop processors handle instructions sequentially, and as a result, CPU utilization on average, remains under 40%. Hyper-Threading Technology looks to change this, and allows a second thread to almost "piggy back" on the remaining CPU resources and therefore processes more instructions in the same amount of time.

    The main HT benefits are actually broken down into two distinct parts: multithreading and multitasking. The multithreading portion relates to the software itself being designed to support multiple threads. A standard application is written so that instructions are performed sequentially, and although current processors do feature data prefetch and out-of-order execution capabilities, the software itself does not have enhancements for multiple threads. A multithreaded operating system, application or game allows different parts to run concurrently, given the resources and compatible system design, with each running on its own thread.

    This is very common in multi-processor systems using multithreaded applications, such as some high-end graphics and video packages. Even some of the more standard applications support this, and it is very common for programmers to be compiling in one section of a multithreaded program, while continuing to write code in another. This is the strength of a multithreaded application, as it allows processing to be segmented out, and multiple instructions performed simultaneously. The end result is increased performance, as instructions may be performed faster with a multithreaded application on a platform supporting Hyper-Threading Technology.

    The multitasking aspect of Hyper-Threading Technology is far more important to everyday computer usage, as it takes a larger view of enhancing the performance and stability while running more than one program at a time. This is something we all do, whether it's printing a document while checking your email, or just listening to some tunes while surfing the web. Hyper-threading Technology allows the operating system to assign logical processor resources much as would occur on a standard multi-processor system. Instead of downloading email and having your system stall because of a virus scan, Hyper-Threading Technology can potentially minimize the system hit and multi-task to allow a higher level of system responsiveness.

    To help illustrate the differences, here are a couple of screenshots from Windows Task Manager, showing the display in both HT and standard modes. We loaded a set of concurrent applications using both HT On and HT Off settings, and then investigated to see what differences we could find.

    The first shot is of the Pentium 4-3.06 GHz with HT enabled, and you can see two distinct CPU Usage windows and that one seems to be taking the offloaded system tasks. Please note that the actual CPU Usage percentage is not a factor, as this fluctuates wildly and the stated figures are more a function of screenshot timing that anything else.

    The second image is of a standard scenario with HT disabled. It has higher spikes (and of a longer duration) than with HT enabled and we can say without question that Intel's HT allowed for more stable operation when running multiple applications concurrently. Application performance was still close, but overall responsiveness was higher with HT enabled.

    Requirements for Hyper-Threading Technology

    Like any new technology, there are certain requirements that to enable Hyper-Threading Technology. Naturally, a Pentium 4-3.06 GHz or higher is the primary concern, as the processor itself features the necessary HT hardware. A Hyper-Threading compatible operating system is the second piece of the puzzle, but here it gets a bit strange. Both Windows XP Pro and Home support HT, but older operating systems do not.

    The key is in differentiating multi-processor and multiple logical processor support, and while Windows XP Pro can handle both, the others are more restricted. Windows XP is compatible with the multiple logical processors design of HT, while Windows 2000 (and NT) only feature multi-processor support. So basically, in order to activate the Hyper-Threading Technology of the Pentium 4-3.06 GHz processor, you need an operating system with XP in the title, or move over to Linux.

    The last two HT ingredients are the chipset and System BIOS. The chipset must be HT-compatible, which at the present time seems to translate into an Intel model, and the System BIOS must be updated to recognize a HT processor and communicate this to the operating system. In terms of Intel chipset support, you'll be pretty safe with a new i850E, i845PE and i845GE motherboard, though some of the older i845 variants do feature HT support and it will be a matter of whether motherboard vendors released updated HT-compatible BIOS files. Although we're not 100% clear on 3rd-party chipsets, it does seem that the SiS and VIA offerings do not expressly support Hyper-Threading Technology and many vendors are updating their listings to reflect this.


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    Page 1 Introduction
  • Page 2 Hyper-Threading Technology
    Page 3 Performance and Test Systems
    Page 4 PCMark 2002 and SANDRA 2002 SP1 Performance
    Page 5 3DMark 2001SE, Quake 3 & Serious Sam 2 Performance
    Page 6 Castle Wolfenstein, Comanche 4 & UT 2003 Performance
    Page 7 Analysis, Value and Conclusion

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