I'm never happy when a key piece of my technology is about to become obsolete, but at least this time, I'm already on the cutting edge of the future.
The King is Dead, by which I mean the single core or single processor unit Pentium 4 in all of its A, B, C, Northwood, Prescott and 500 series chips.
In its place, sometime this year, Intel will bring out the new Pentium D and the Pentium Extreme Edition, both of which will have two computer processing units per core. With hyper-threading enabled, your operating system will recognize them as four processing units, two actual and two virtual.
Unless you are a total non geek or have been locked in a cave somewhere for the past ten years, you know that the Pentium 4 with hyper-threading split its processing power into two virtual units. Problem was, the Pentium 4 virtual dual processor even in its fastest iterations was never as fast as a true dual processor. Basically, you had one seriously cranked chip that was powerful enough to devote 50% of its power to two tasks. But, like I said, the gains this produced were minimal.
With hyper-threading turned off, my 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 'C' Northwood chip would process a typical SETI Classic work unit in well under three hours. But my dual processor Opteron computers were just as fast. Turn the hyper-threading on and the P4 behaved like a dual processor and was able to process two SETI Classic units, unlike any computer chip that came before it. But with half of its power spread between two work units, it's processing times slowed considerably to between 3 hrs 30 min.'s and 3 hrs. 50 minutes.
My Advanced Micro Devices Opterons--which are actual or real dual processor machines (yes, there are two CPUs lurking under the hood) blew away the P4 virtual set up. Not only that, the Opterons are Macroshaft Windoze operable 64-bit processors, meaning that they will work with Windows XP and any other Windows-based operating system, something that Intel still does not have in its stable.
So, as my gaming rig becomes toast in the coming months, going up against advanced dual core technology, I'm at least ahead of the curve in some respects. My dual Opteron 246 and 244 computers are the rough equivalent of having two AMD 64 3200+ and two AMD 64 3000+ chips each inside two computers. Meaning they will be able to compete with any 64-bit dual core processor machine. Moreover, the Opterons are ready for the next Windows operating system, the 64-bit Longhorn edition.
Besides, it's not exactly clear how much better a dual core processor will perform in an online multiplayer game situation. If I'm running some other program that is eating up a serious amount of clock cycles while also trying to frag someone on Far Cry or Half Life 2, I'll get creamed. Theoretically, the true dual chip could devote one processing core to the game and the other core to whatever else the computer had to work on, while my gaming rig game couldn't. But frankly, no one plays that way. I turn off everything that is not absolutely essential while I'm gaming.
But it's like I said some months ago, the days of the single core processors are numbered. Now, we'll see who puts the first dual on the market, AMD or Intel. This time, I'm betting on Intel. They are due.