Intel Pentium 4 2.53GHz CPUBosco -
: GF City Computers
In case you are wondering, yes this is my CPU that is on the spotlight today. If you look back to the list of reviews that we have done, you'll notice that my earliest review was performed on September 5, 2002. At that time I was already using this CPU, but even more noteworthy is the price of the CPU back then. The Pentium 4 2.53GHz microprocessor was listed at $1107CAD back when I checked it in September. Unless you are somewhat insane (computer-wise) and have devoted your soul to Intel, the rest of you would certainly wonder why I would spend such a large sum of money when I could get it later at a much lower price, or perhaps get something just a little less-powerful and save alot of lunch money in the process? The thing is, I didn't, and no one in my family or circle of friends had to pay for it either. =)
I should defend myself now by saying that no illegal event has happened in the procurement of this CPU. Back in July, I was one of the four lucky son-of-a-biscuits who managed to win a P4 2.53GHz CPU in a hardware-related computer contest during Western Canada's largest annual LAN party known as Fragapalooza. Upon receiving my CPU, my entire entertainment path has changed. I was supposed to get a PlayStation2 during the summer, some good games, and then be over with it. But now, as of today I still don't have a PS2, but somehow landed on the task of reviewer and newsletter person for a hardware site that I wasn't even searching for in the first place (note: this is NOT a bad thing), but I am getting off topic here.
The price of this CPU has lowered considerably, but it's still a bit on the high side, but now those who are looking for an Intel upgrade solution that does not require the powerful new technologies of the upcoming new year can give this product some consideration. For me, this was certainly a desirable upgrade over my 1GHz Celeron ("Coppermine").
Heatsink and Fan Features
Needless to say I was completely speechless when I was given the box with the signatures of two Intel representatives on site (they have been digitally removed from the photo above for privacy).
This sticker should be considered a rarity. Even system integrators are given ONE sticker per boxed CPU. No more, no less, and you won't find them anywhere else.
The large bulk on the left is relatively cheap (price wise), and can be easily replaced by many third-party variants. However the smaller object sitting on a piece of paper, makes up the remainder of the price and is a totally different story. We'll start with the Heatsink and Fan (HSF) unit.
This 70mm fan spins at approximately 3000RPM and is quite quiet compared to many other third-party HSF products out there. The only one which I have found that is quieter than this so far is the Zalman CNPS5700D-Cu Quiet Heatsink and Fan, and that's only if the speed is set to the lowest.
On a new package, the bottom of the heatsink should have a thermal interface material (TIM) pad present on it. If you're just a regular user, and have no plans to overclock or supercool your CPU, then that is fine. If you are planning to do more, then you should consider removing it and apply some higher quality thermal compound instead. You can also see that the fan uses the 3-pin connector that plugs into your motherboard, and allows fan RPM monitoring.
Now we head over to the CPU. The core is hidden underneath the integrated heat spreader (IHS), so there's no way to tell what the core actually looks like without removing it (which I won't). Etched on the IHS itself, is some information pertaining to this particular CPU, such as the processor speed, cache size, voltage rating, as well as other miscellaneous information.
One of the interesting features on the CPU is the Thermal Monitor. Although it has to be enabled in the BIOS (provided that the motherboard supports that feature), once the CPU reaches a level of around 80°C, the CPU will start cycling its power, lowering its operating frequency, meaning less heat will be generated. Even more special is once the silicon reaches a temperature of 125°C or higher, the CPU will shut off, regardless of any motherboard setting; a feature that the Athlon XP does not have. This pretty much prevents the CPU from dying a thermal death, but keep in mind it doesn't stop electron migration - a CPU death due to prolonged overvoltage.
On the bottom of the CPU are 478 pins, as well as some other microchips in the center. The "missing pins" in one corner designate Pin-1, and allows proper orientation of the CPU when inserting it into the motherboard socket. Before we do that, let's get some thermal compound on to the IHS, since I removed the pre-existing TIM.
The store that I went to sold out of Arctic Silver 3, so I bought some Arctic Alumina instead, which is more than sufficient for this task.
Just a thin layer of thermal compound is enough. We're not making creme cookies here, so make a small dab on to the IHS, spread it with a wedge, such as a plastic card, and you should end up with something like the photo below.
This looks good. Now we can toss this on to the motherboard socket.
Thanks to the Zero-Insertion-Force (ZIF) socket, installation couldn't be any easier. All you have to do is raise the socket arm, align the processor's Pin-1 to the motherboard's, and then drop it in. No force should be required to get the CPU in place. If it doesn't drop all the way in, then chances are the alignment is incorrect. Be sure to lower the arm back into the closed position afterwards (otherwise the next step will prove difficult to perform).
Next comes the heatsink. With the locking arms open, place the unit into the bracket space surrounding the CPU, press all 4 side clips into place, and then turn the arms into the "closed" position, to keep it in place. If this is your first time installing a Socket 478 fan, be careful when pressing the side clips into place. Too much force will cause the the clips to "miss" their slots and then the wedges can potentially land on the motherboard, possibly cutting some traces in the process. This is considered physical damage by improper installation and will void your motherboard warranty. Be sure to take your time here if you're not familiar with this process.
All done! Let's see how this thing works!
Unfortunately this is the only Intel CPU that I have, aside from my Celeron 1GHz, so my result comparisons will not truly reflect on the "more modern" machines.
Test System 1
Test System 2
I will run through the tests using SiSoftware Sandra 2003 Standard, PCMark2002, and Jedi Knight II. I will also record the time required to encode a 168mb *.wav (CD-Quality) file using LAME MP3, as well as the time required to encode a 504mb video (512×384, 23.976fps) into DivX format using VirtualDub. I chose these tests because apart from JK2, the rest of them are not affected by the video card, and JK2 is a CPU-intensive test that is also "resistant" to different video cards (but obviously a GeForce 256 will hinder results quite a bit).
Interestingly enough, both processors were equal in the FPU tests, but I guess Intel made up for that by porting it over to the iSSE2 technology instead.
2533 divided by 1000 is approximately 2.5, right? Here the results were at most only 2 times the difference. Where's my remaining 0.5's worth?? This result alone can already reveal the inefficient nature of the Pentium 4, a fact that really goes against Intel's claim that clock speed can make all the difference.
Not a very fair comparison, but this time the 2.5× difference is really evident, so no complaints here.
This was obviously a joke, but these results will be useful when compared to our Athlon XP in the near future. My Celeron machine started rendering at speeds less than 1 frame per second after it got heavy, so I decided to drop it entirely.
Here my complaint about the 0.5GHz difference doesn't stand out as much. Evidently, the more powerful machine can encode audio or video alot faster than the slower machine. Again, these results will be better used to compared against Dave's Athlon XP.
It's too bad Intel had to do this in order to make up for AMD's Thunderbird and Throughbred cores, purposely misleading the majority of the public into thinking that clock speed alone can make all the difference. Even though they are trying to hide that claim now with the advent of Hyper-Threading Technology, they have lost alot of loyal Intel fans in the process, when they have been shown the optimized power of the Athlon XP, for a price that is much more affordable than any equivalent Intel processor.
So knowing this, why would an individual continue with using an Intel processor? Aside from the name, Intel-based systems are known to be quite stable, and although the Athlon XP is quite optimized and efficient, the Intel CPU's raw processing power is useful in games that are more CPU dependent, such as Jedi Knight II, and possibly in hardcore Direct3D games like Comanche4 and Unreal Tournament 2003. However, for alot of people, it's still very difficult to justify buying an Intel processor when the same average power can be found on the Athlon XP for a lower price.
So the only real setback now would be the price...