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Hammer here, Hammer there and Hammer everywhere. Since the launch of AMD's Athlon 64 & Athlon 64 FX one and a half months ago, the hardware community has been hit by the Hammer fever. Despite being delayed for many months, these revolutionary K8 chips are finally here! Long touted by AMD as fully capable of executing current 32-bit and future 64-bit applications, can they meet our expectations?


Well, numerous initial benchmarks have shown that they are capable of producing respectable and competitive performance on the current 32-bit applications. They also show much promise in 64-bit operations.

Back in Chipzilla's camp, Intel certainly was not going to step back and let AMD claim the performance throne without putting up a hard fight. With its Prescott launch still a couple of months to go, Intel needed something to "ruin" AMD's Hammer party. Thus, the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition was born. It was actually announced by Intel prior to the launch of AMD's Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 FX!

The Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is a Xeon-labeled chip which has over 169 million transistors and incorporates a whopping 2MB of Level 3 cache. Performance wise, it is comparable to the Athlon 64 FX, with the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition leading some of the benchmarks and the Athlon 64 FX winning the rest.

However, this greatly improved performance comes with an extremely expensive price. Tagged with a sky-high price of over RM 3000 (USD 790) for a single chip, they are simply not affordable. In any case, it is believed that they are just "temporary" solutions offered by both manufacturers to fill the gap until their respective upcoming cores - the San Diego and Prescott are ready. Thus, these processors are available in only limited quantities.

The wisest thing you can do now is to sit back and watch how both cores progress before you make the switch. This wait-and-see situation turns our sights back to the more realistically-priced class of processors - the Northwood-based Pentium 4C and Barton-cored Athlon XP. These are the processors that we will be pitting in today's review.

With Christmas less than a month away, I am sure many of you will be getting yourself a new kick-ass machine, or at least upgrading your current system soon. So, we hope that this review will help you select the most appropriate processor for your system.

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