Pentium D 820 vs. Athlon64 X2 4400+ Overclocking


For the past few months I have been considering the idea of building a dual-core system, primarily for gaming. Although dual-core processors have not shown any real benefits over single-core processors in gaming applications, this should change in the near future. As drivers and games become better optimized to use multiple cores, the huge improvements we are all waiting for should follow.

All of my previous gaming computers have been overclocked for maximum performance, not to mention high anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering settings become addictive after a while, however using these in the latest most demanding games can be quite the frame rate killer. Therefore when migrating to a dual-core configuration I wanted a processor that would give me the best bang for my buck. Current Intel dual-core processors are very affordable with the Pentium 4 D 820 costing ~$230. In the other hand we have the Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor, starting at $300 for the 3800+.

Although the AMD dual-core processors are faster on a level playing field I wanted maximum overclocking power. Unfortunately, unlike Intel who only changes the processors clock frequency from one model to another AMD also alters the L2 Cache. The Athlon64 X2 3800+, 4200+ and 4600+ all feature a total L2 Cache of 1MB. While the 4400+ and 4800+ both feature a total L2 Cache of 2MB.

The entire range of Pentium D processors also uses a 2MB L2 Cache (1MB+1MB)*. Meaning that if I wanted to achieve maximum performance from an overclocked Athlon64 X2 processor, I would need at least a 4400+ as it is AMDís slowest dual-core processor to feature the full 2MB Cache. This also means I would end up spending twice as much on the processor if I went with the AMD X2 4400+. At the end of the day, I decided to give the 4400+ a chance, making this an Intel Pentium D 820 vs. AMD Athlon64 X2 4400+ overclocking article.

At their stock frequencies the AMD Athlon64 X2 4400+ is naturally going to be much faster than the Intel Pentium D 820. Despite the Pentium D 820 being clocked 600MHz faster, the Athlon64 X2 4400+ utilizes a more efficient design.

On the other hand overclocking these two processors may give the Pentium D 820 processor a natural advantage. The Pentium D 820 is easily capable of achieving a clock frequency in excess of 3.5GHz and with some more extreme measures capable of surpassing the 4GHz mark, very impressive indeed. The AMD Athlon64 X2 4400+ managed to reach 2.7GHz, this 500MHz overclock went a long way in aiding the X2 4400+ís performance.

The question is which Dual-Core 2MB L2 Cache processor gives you the best bang for your buck? Is it the 2.7 GHz AMD Athlon64 X2 4400+ or is it the 4.2GHz Intel Pentium D 820? Initially there was just 600MHz favoring the Intel processor and it was still slower. Now there is a staggering 1.5GHz favoring the Intel processor, surely this kind of gain has to help Intel get over the line before AMD. Well letís move on and find out...

*Edit: Earlier this year Intel released the Pentium D 9xx series which are based on the Presler 65nm core. These come with a total of 4MB (2x2MB) L2 cache.

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