There are a few points that need to be touched on to put everything into perspective. Intel has a great chip here that performs relatively well. At higher frequencies, the Pentium 4's performance is able to distinguish itself from Intel's previous archtecture, and can easily outperform the lower end Athlons. AMD's 1.4GHz processor performs close as well, sometimes performing better than a 1.7ghz Pentium 4, sometimes slower, as other sites have shown. Note that AMD will release faster clock speeds by the end of 2001 which may close any gap that we see right now. On the other hand, Intel should be moving to 2GHz with the Pentium 4, so we'll have to see what kind of numbers each of those higher-end this generation chip boasts.
The main concern with the Pentium 4 is its price comparison to an almost as fast Athlon. Is it worth twice as much money? At this time, we can honestly say no, but there are a few paths. First of all, even though the Athlon may cost cheaper and perform better, there will a huge percentage of people, whether they are home users or corporate users, that will stick to Intel because of the name. For corporate users, even if you personally believe that the Athlon route is the way to go, your boss may want solely Intel products. In that case, in terms of performance the Pentium 4 is a great buy over an older Pentium III. Looking at it this way, the Pentium 4 is very much exceeding the performance of their highest performing .18 micron Pentium III's. If you must stick with an Intel chip for performance, there's no reason to choose a .18 micron Pentium III over a Pentium 4.
For the rest of you, our best recommendation is to wait until Northwood and Palamino come out. With the Northwood Pentium 4 there are a few things that will make a big difference from the current Pentium 4. The main thing is that, like all new architectures, the comparatively large Pentium 4 is itching for a smaller process. This means that it should scale in frequency much better in .13 compared to the Pentium III than it did on .18, and thus, scale better in terms of absolute performance. This means that the Northwood should perform a lot better. Not only this but there will be no needed for a new enclosure (although you still need a new power supply). Also, it will be socket-478 rather than the current socket-423, which is planned to die out. The Northwood should also be cheaper to make, so the price savings go directly to the users, so prices should be lower.
For the final words, the chip is great, although right now the costs are just too high compared to the Athlon, and it makes sense to wait a little while longer for either Northwood or Palamino.
Rating: 7.5/10 SystemLogistics