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The upcoming release of the Pentium 4 is reported to occur towards the end of this year, though as shown by Intel in the past, this date could slip forward to Q1 of 2001. There are a couple of items that bother us about the Pentium 4, all of which revolve around price. The performance of the Pentium 4 cannot be accurately gauged at this point in time, and we won't speculate other than to say that the overall system performance of a Pentium 4 system should be significantly higher than a comparable Coppermine Pentium 3 setup. How the Pentium 4 will compare to a comparably clocked Thunderbird with DDR memory remains to be seen, though we'd expect the comparison to be close in applications that don't utilize SSE2 optimization.
There have been some fairly widespread claims that the Pentium 4 lags in performance behind the Pentium 3 in certain areas, though Intel claims the contrary. Intel contends that the ALU and FPU are so strong that they overshadow any pipeline problems that could hinder performance. When we have a P4 test bed system in our labs for full analysis you can bet we'll be looking to gauge its performance level across a large set of applications.
The Pentium 4's die size is a fairly hefty 217mm^2 when compared to the Athlon's 120mm^2. Combine this with the amount of expensive on-die cache that Intel is using, and it has the makings of a rather expensive part. Drop this part into a dual-channel RDRAM setup and you might have to take out that third mortgage on your home just to afford one of these machines.