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P4: Tom's Hardware has another rethink

Intel burns midnight oil in Munich

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A week ago, renowned hardware site Tom's Hardware Guide reported that they really quite liked Intel's new flagchip Pentium 4. But after trying some MPEG 4 encoding, took the view that P4 was pretty horrible compared with the opposition, being outperformed by both Athlon and PIII.

A number of Tom's readers pointed out that it was unfair to judge the P4's performance using software not optimised to use the processor to its full potential and towards the end of last week, some dedicated folks at Intel Munich worked through the night to recompile the FlasK MPEG encoder to incorporate SSE2 code and mailed it to THG.

The results were illuminating. The P4's performance jumped from a pathetic 3.83fps to 14.03. Interestingly the 1.2GHz Athlon also improved thanks to Intel's tweaks, moving from 6.43 to 11.14fps.

As Tom states: "... the original compilation of FlasK was either done with an ancient compiler or with very strange optimizations. Intel's version doesn't only improve performance for Pentium 4 owners, but for Pentium III and Athlon owners as well."

What this goes to show is that judging a processor on benchmarks alone can be misleading, especially if the test program turns out to have some "strange optimisations". The good news for Intel is that, with AMD adopting SSE2 for its own products, the software industry will accelerate the introduction of SSE2 optimised code.

Dr Tom adds: "Once that's done Pentium 4 has a good chance to become a success even at its current clock speeds."

And like THG, The Reg applauds the swift and effective response from Intel's folks in Munich - give 'em a raise, or at least a day off to catch up on their sleep. ®

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