Introduction:

Intel launched the 2.8GHz, 3.0GHz, 3.2GHz, and 3.4GHz Prescotts back on February 1st, 2004 but due to allocation issues the 3.4GHz Prescott didn't make it to store shelves as quickly as Intel had planned. It seems that Intel has enough on hand now to safely market the chips and has thrown the latest and greatest Prescott to the mercy of the media. While the Prescott is something very recent that Intel has come out with it should be fairly common to our readers. We have already written four articles looking at the Prescott ranging from performance to cooling issues so if you have not looked at them it is highly recommended that you take a look at them. We will not go into great detail on the Prescott today as the 3.4GHz Prescott is just a 200MHz clock speed increase for the processor.

Recommended Reading:

3.2C, 3.2E, 3.4E, 3.2EE from left to right:

With the processors flipped over we can notice some changes in design over time, but the 3.2E and 3.4E have identical undersides.

CPU-Z shots of the 3.4GHz Prescott in action:

Everything looks good when viewing the processor under CPU-Z version 1.21! Looks like a standard Prescott with a little speed boost. It's also nice to point out that the BIOS on our ABIT board noted the CPU Voltage as 1.375V, which is the same as the 3.2GHz Prescott. This is a good thing as temperatures shouldn't be impacted in a large way with the increase in core speed alone.

Now that you know what processor we are looking at and how this is just a basic speed increase let's take a look at some real numbers!

The Test Processors:

Individual Test Systems:

Testing Procedure :

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows XP Professional build 2600 with Service Pack 1A and DirectX 9.0b. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. No overclocking was done on the video card durning any of this review. We did disable the Firewire, and lan features if found in the BIOS menu for all the testing completed during this review.

Now for the results!

Memory Bandwidth Testing:

AIDA32 Version 3.93:

AIDA32 is a professional system information, diagnostics and benchmarking program for Win32 platforms. It extracts details of all components of the PC. It also tests the actual read and write speeds of your memory to give a fairly accurate look of true memory performance.

ScienceMark 2.0 Beta:

ScienceMark 2.0 is different from other benchmarks, in a sense the benchmark tests a series of different memory bandwidth algorithms. To top it all off the assembly source for these copy routines is available online to help assure the benchmark is not biased towards any one platform in particular.

Results:It's fairly obvious that the 2.4GHz FX-53 with its integrated memory controller has the best overall memory throughput. The 3.4E leads the Intel Processors with the best overall performance in terms of memory bandwidth. Recent Intel and AMD processors have not been "starved" when it comes to memory bandwidth, but more can't hurt!

Synthetic Testing:

FutureMark; 3dmark2001 SE, Build 330:

Results:The 3.4E actually passes up the 3.4C by a hair in this benchmark. Since the difference is so small it is not significant, but still worth pointing out.

Massive Development; AquaMark3:

The AquaMark3 executes a complete state-of-the-art game engine and generates 3D scenes designed to make the same demands on hardware as a modern game. The utilized game engine, the krass™ Engine, has been used in Aquanox and AquaNox 2: Revelation as well as in the upcoming RTS Spellforce by Phenomic Game Development. AquaMark3 utilizes recent hardware features of the new DirectX 9 API, such as PixelShader 2.0, while staying fully backward compatible to DirectX 8 and 7 graphics hardware.

SuperPi 1.1e :

SuperPi calculates the number Pi in this raw number crunching benchmark. The benchmark is fairly diverse and allows the user to change the number of digits of Pi that can be calculated. In this benchmark we ran SuperPi to 4 million places.

Results:The AMD A64 FX-53 passes up all of the other processors during Super Pi testing and finishes the benchmark with a 18 second lead over the next fastest processor -- Intel 3.4E. This is one of the few benchmarks that shows the Prescott taking a demanding lead over the Northwood.

Let's move on to some more benchmarks.

Professional Testing:

MAXON; CINEBENCH 2003:

CINEBENCH 2003 is the free benchmarking tool for Windows and Mac OS based on the powerful 3D software CINEMA 4D R8. The tool is set to deliver accurate benchmarks by testing not only a computer's raw processing speed but also all other areas that affect system performance such as OpenGL, multithreading, multiprocessors and Intel's new HT Technology. Again, higher Frames/Second and lower rendering time in seconds equal better performance.

Results:On OpenGL and Cinema 4D the Intel C and E processors battle it out neck to neck, but when it came to the single rendering test the Northwood ("C") took a demanding lead over the equally clocked Prescotts.

Case Lab CFD Solver:

The benchmark testcase is the AGARD 445.6 aeroelastic test wing. The wing uses a NACA 65A004 airfoil section and has a panel aspect ratio of 1.65, taper ratio of 0.66, and a quarter-chord sweep angle of 45º. This AGARD wing was tested at the NASA Langley Research Center in the 16-foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel and is a standard aeroelastic test case used for validation of unsteady, compressible CFD codes. The CFD grid used to model this problem consists of 67,435 nodes and 366,407 tetrahedral elements.

Results:The 3.4GHz Prescott is roughly 20 seconds faster than the 3.4GHz Northwood when solving the Case Lab STARS CFD.

Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation; SPECviewperf 7.1.1:

SPECviewperf 7.1 is a professional OpenGL rendering benchmark that can evaluate the performance of OpenGL rendering in a professional workstation environment.

Results:No significant changes on SPECviewperf with the speed increase.

Professional Testing:

FutureMark; Bapco SYSmark2004:

SYSmark2004 provides an application-based benchmark that accurately reflects usage patterns for business users in the areas of Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity.

The overall combined rating of each CPU:

Results:Although the higher end CPU's (EE and FX-XX) have the lead the Prescott processors command a respectable finish.

ScienceMark 2.0 Beta:

Science Mark 2.0 is an attempt to put the truth behind benchmarking. In an attempt to model real world demands and performance, ScienceMark 2.0 is a suite of high-performance benchmarks that realistically stress system performance without architectural bias. For the Memory Testing, higher numbers represent better performance. On the remaining tests, lower seconds represent better performance.

Primordia "calculates the Quantum Mechanical Hartree-Fock Orbitals for each electron in any element of the periodic table." We ran the benchmark on default using Argon as our element.

Game Testing:

NovaLogic; Comanche 4:

The Comanche 4 benchmark demo is a unique benchmark as it represents a real-world gaming experience. It contains the single player Eagle's Talon mission from the game as well as a detailed cinematic. This DirectX 8.1 benchmark demo measures your system's performance in the standard frames per second format.

Results:The Intel Prescott processor is significantly slower than the Northwood when used for Comanche 4.

Epic Games; Unreal Tournament 2003:

Using the full installation of Unreal Tournament 2003 along with the newest patch gives us a very nice real world benchmark! We also used [H]ardOCP's UT2003 Benchmarking utility version 2.1. A resolution of 1024x768 was tested in Direct3D on the built-in CPU test.

Results:During the CPU test we notice some very slight differences in FPS, but when using the Asbestos demo we found that the Prescott (E) and Northwood (C) are neck to neck.

Game Testing:

Activision; Call Of Duty:

Using the full installation of Call of Duty along with the newest patch gives us a very nice real world benchmark! We also used a custom demo for our testing at 640x480.

We again tested the processors with a private multiplayer demo for actual game play results.

Results:This time around it is clear that the Intel processors take a significant lead over AMD.

Nathan Kirsch's Thoughts:

As you can tell from the charts the 3.4GHz Prescott is simply just a 200MHz speed increase in the Prescott line. Intel has indicated to us that the Prescott has been able to scale very well for them and has told us that we should see 4GHz in 2004. If Intel can get another 200MHz out of the Prescott every 90 days then 4GHz will be here by the end of the year with ease. It should be interesting to see how fast Intel will be ramping these up, but all of our in-house Prescotts overclock past 4GHz right now so we expect for Intel to fully pull this objective off by years end.

One thing I didn't mention in this review was temperatures. We did monitor the temps of 3.4GHz Prescott and found them to only be a couple degrees Celsius higher than the 3.2GHz Prescott. So if you are curious as to how hot these run please feel free to look at our prescott cooling article. After looking at the benchmarks it is clear the processor still has its advantages and disadvantages. Sure it's slower than Pentium 4 Northwood chips at the same clock speed in certain benchmarks, but it also performs better than the Northwood in certain areas! As we noted in our original Prescott review it is still too soon to judge the impact of the new SSE3 instructions. Since there are only 13 new instructions (SSE2 had 145) I wouldn't expect a huge increase, but only time will tell.

When you look into pricing on the Prescott versus Northwood at our DealTime shopping network the Prescott is roughly $50 more than the Northwood. However, Intel shows both list for $417 1Ku on their site. For the average user that plays current video games and uses basic applications it is hard to suggest for a person to spend more money on the Prescott as it is a tad slower than the Northwood at equal clock speeds, runs hotter, draws more power, and may not even be supported by your current motherboard.

If you are having a tough time choosing a new processor let me throw you one final curve ball! Both Intel and AMD are getting ready to launch new sockets for their processors, and PCI Express, DDR2 memory, and a ton of other hardware changes are going to be in the next generation chipsets. If you can wait till early summer for your next computer upgrade it might be worth it!

Legit Bottom Line:

The 3.4GHz Prescott beats out the 3.2GHz Prescott, but doesn't deliver the shock and awe that one would expect over the older cored and lower priced 3.4GHz Northwood!