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Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840 Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840: Two heads better than one? We test Intel's first dual core processor and subject it to a battery of real-world tests.
Date: July 1, 2005
Written By:

A couple months ago, Intel unleashed their Pentium Extreme Edition 840 as the first in a series of dual core processors. On the surface, the Dual Core Pentium looks like their current generation LGA775 processors, but underneath the heatspreader lies two CPU cores (codenamed Smithfield) that are connected to each other by an 800MHz Front Side Bus. For those of you unfamiliar with Smithfield, here's a quick recap:

Features for the Pentium 4 D and Extreme Edition

· Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology: introduced with the 6xx series, the new processors feature Intel's Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T), which is not much unlike AMD's solution. There are two potential benefits to EM64T, provided you have the OS and software in place; a faster computer and more addressable memory.

Computing instructions are done in binary format (zero and one), and for 32-bit environments, each bit is capable of one binary instruction each clock cycle. Therefore, for previous Intel desktop processors, for each clock cycle, they were capable of 32 binary instructions. A 64-bit processor doubles that, so provided the environment is optimized for 64-bit computing, PCs should be much faster.

One of the greatest limitations of 32-bit processors is that they are only capable of addressing up to 4 GB of memory. In theory, a 64-bit CPU can process up to 16 exabytes of ram.

· Execute Disable Bit: The Smithfield will be the third group of Intel desktop processors to support Execute Disable Bit (XD Bit). XD Bit isn't really new for Intel, as it was implemented for the Itanium processor in 2001 (for servers), the Intel Pentium 4 570J last year, followed by the 6xx series earlier this year.

How XD Bit works is certain memory pages are protected from buffer-overflow attacks. For most Intel desktop CPUs, the x86 architecture have no means of protection to malicious code writing themselves to these memory pages and executing. By enabling this in the BIOS and OS now, you can effectively shut the door on the code from taking over these memory pages.

· More Cache: Both series of processors have 2MB of L2 cache. Unlike the 6xx series which piles all that cache on one core, the Smithfield has 1MB of L2 cache on each core for a total of 2MB.

· Hyper-Threading Technology (Extreme Edition only) : While not new to the platform, this feature allows multithreaded software applications to execute threads in parallel. Here lies the only difference between the Pentium 4 D and Extreme Edition, as the "D" series will have HT turned off.

The last feature that Intel introduced was Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). How EIST works is it saves power by intelligently throttling clock frequencies. The end result is lower power consumption, and less heat. Note that the Extreme Edition 840 does not have EIST.

Here is a table that sums up how the CPUs fare against one another:

XD Bit
Pentium EE 840
Pentium 4 D 840
Pentium 4 D 830
Pentium 4 D 820

All the processors run at 800FSB, and are built on the 90nm process. As you can see, all the CPUs are more or less the same other than the Extreme Edition not supporting EIST and supporting HT. Another thing to keep in mind is the Extreme Edition requires an Intel 955X chipset, at least officially. Chipsets from VIA, ATI and NVIDIA should support the entire dual core product line, though that is up to the board makers to decide.

The Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 840

As introduced with the 5xx series, the Extreme Edition 840 is based on the Land Grid Array 775 (LGA775, AKA Socket-T), and has no pins as those are found on the motherboard now. Along with the processor, we received Intel's stock heatsink. It is a similar heatsink to those provided with their 5xx/6xx series of CPUs and features aluminum fins surrounding a copper core. The fan itself is rated for a maximum of 5000rpm, which can get quite noisy, but when the CPU is idle or under light load, it slows down to very acceptable noise levels.

As with the previous Pentium 4 Extreme Editions, motherboard support is somewhat restricted. For Intel chipsets, you're limited to just the 955X, and while chipset offerings from VIA, NVIDIA and ATI do support dual core processors, we do not have any retail boards presently to test this with. Best to check with your favorite board vendor since this is an option that they need to configure.

Test Setup

ASUS P5WD2 Premium (955X): Intel P4 Extreme Edition 840, 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC5400 Pro, ATI X850XT-PE, 160GB Seagate SATA 7200.7, Windows XP SP1, ATI Catalyst 5.7.

ASUS P5WD2 Premium (955X): Intel P4 XE 3.73GHz, 2 x 512MB Corsair TWINX PC5400 Pro, ATI X850XT-PE, 160GB Seagate SATA 7200.7, Windows XP SP1, ATI Catalyst 5.7.

Going up against the Extreme Edition 840 will be the Pentium 4 3.73GHz Extreme Edition. Outside of the CPUs, all the setups share similar peripheral components. Onboard audio was enabled in the BIOS for all the boards, but not used during game testing.

Test Software is as follows:

SiSoft Sandra 2005 - Our standard synthetic benchmark suite. While it doesn't provide real-world information, it does give us a base for the rest of the tests.

SYSMark 2004 Office and Content Creation - A scripted benchmark using real-world applications. Like the SiSoft tests, higher numbers are better.

PiFast - A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is version 4.2, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.

TMPGEnc 2.521 - We used an Animatrix file, titled , and a WAV created from VirtualDub. The movie was then converted it into a DVD compliant MPEG-2 file with a bitrate of 5000. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.

CDex Audio Conversion Wav to MP3 - CDex was used to convert a 414MB Wav file to a 320kbs MP3. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.

Doom 3, Far Cry, Unreal Tournament 2004 @ 640x480, LQ Settings - While higher resolutions tax the video card, lower resolutions rely on CPU and subsystem speed. These results are real-world, and higher scores are better. was used to collect numbers from Far Cry and UT2004.

Windows Media Encoder 9 - The first of our multithreaded tests, we will be converting a 380MB AVI clip to WMV. This is an Intel recommended test, but it should be effective for testing any dual core CPU.

ABBY - We used a retail OCR software suite to process an Adobe Acrobat document. The final time is the total length the application needed for the OCR process. ABBY is one of the first consumer level applications to take advantage of dual core processors.

We will also be demonstrating real-world performance in not so real scenarios. While it's rare for people to do a DVD rip while playing a video game, we did want to test the 840's prowness at handling multiple multitasking loads. We selected DVD Shrink since it's a very popular app, copied the contents of Matrix: Revolutions to our hard drive (to rule out optical drive influences) and shrunk the package to 67%. We were not timing the shrink, but used this test to load the CPU for the multitasking tests.


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