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AMD desktop chips edge ahead of Intel

Figures from ZDNet Germany labs show AMD's fastest chips outpacing its rival's for mainstream applications.

Advanced Micro Devices' top-end desktop processors are faster than Intel's for most applications, according to benchmarks from ZDNet Germany's labs.

In a test, Intel's Pentium 4 560 running at 3.6GHz and the 3.4GHz Pentium 4 550 failed to outperform alternatives from AMD. The Pentiums, both with the new Prescott core and 1MB of onboard Level 2 cache, were pitted against the Athlon 64 3800+ running at 2.4GHz and the 2.2GHz 3500+.

The benchmarks indicated that the Athlon 64 has an advantage in office and Internet applications, and with 3D games, said Kai Schmerer, the senior editor who conducted the tests for ZDNet Germany, which is part of CNET Networks.

But AMD's processors did not come out on top in all tests. "The Pentium 4 scored with optimized software--particularly 3D and video rendering," Schmerer said. "The multitasking tests also show an advantage for Intel's Pentium 4."

In Winstone benchmark tests, which measure performance in business and content creation tasks such as converting video files or delivering a PowerPoint presentation, the AMD chips were 10 percent to 16 percent faster than the Intel ones. But with multitasking switched on to take advantage of Intel's hyperthreading technology, the Intel chips took up the lead by 9 percent.

Read the full benchmark review here.

Overall, the test results tended to favor AMD's chips for mainstream applications. That's a potential challenge for Intel, given that the AMD parts are cheaper and cooler. The 3800+ chip consumes 91 watts of power at idle, rising to 172 watts under a full load. That compares with 155 watts at idle and 258 watts under a full load for the Pentium 4 560.

The lower power consumption of the AMD parts arises from their lower clock frequency, as well as from AMD's use of silicon-on-insulator technology.

AMD's 64-bit chips also support the NX (No Execute) feature, which safeguards them from certain virus attacks. Intel has announced that the Pentium 4 is to support the NX feature later this year.

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.