What are the lessons to be taken away from the launch of two new Intel CPUs? Taking the Pentium 4 670 first, its 3.8GHz clock speed, single-core design and high power requirements when under load make it the last of a dying breed. Performance-wise, it's around five per cent faster than the 660, and is either generally slower than AMD's Athlon 64 4000+ and FX-55 CPUs in applications that don't take full advantage of Intel's HyperThreading technology. The likes of Dell will dress it up to be the must-have CPU for an ultra-powerful machine, but unless professional applications or video editing are where you spend most of your time, it would be prudent to look towards AMD's top-end Socket 939 CPUs.
The Pentium D 820 is in a different league, both in terms of architecture and pricing. When viewed with respect to single-threaded applications, and gaming is counted amongst them, it's labouriously slow and ineffective against both its Pentium 4 single-core counterparts and, more importantly, AMD's Athlon 64s. Gamers and enthusiasts who value framerates above all else will need to look elsewhere for their thrills and spills. 2.8GHz of Prescott power isn't really enough to drive the subsystem-hungry likes of Far Cry and Half-Life 2 along at decent rates.
To state the obvious, where the Pentium D 820 thrives in is in multi-threaded applications that take full advantage of both its cores concurrently. When that happens, its performance beats out the fastest and most expensive single-core models with comparative ease. Above all else, what the £200 Pentium D 820 does is bring real dual-core goodness to the masses. Not withstanding its gaming performance, and with due knowledge that dual-core CPUs and multi-threaded applications are the way of the future, the Pentium D 820 is, I reckon, a better proposition than a low-end, single-core model. Now all we need to do is strap it into a retail motherboard that offers FSB adjustment, ramp up the voltage, and see what comes of it. Stay tuned.