Intel P4 Prescott and 3.40GHz “Extreme Edition”

by Bubba “MasterFung” Wolford

 

Intel Pentium 4Introduction: Intel Pentium 4 3.20GHz Prescott with 1MB L2 cache w/ 800MHz FSB

Intel is on the move today by launching their newest series of CPUs. Prescott has been in the news for sometime now as Intel was hoping the move toward 1MB L2 could continue to dethrone the Athlon series from AMD. There are a number of improvements on Prescott over Northwood so let’s review the most important features:

Die Size Reduction

I have talked about die size reduction on many occasions. It is critical to many components in CPU operation:

Heat

Reducing the distance between gates and interconnects reduces the amount of heat generated by the CPU. I think we can all agree that heat reduction is perhaps the main challenge end users face when operating a PC. Heat causes lockups and instability if not managed property. Reducing the heat also allows the CPU to scale higher in speed. Intel uses longer pipelines to allow for increased MHz headroom. However, there is no way to increase headroom if heat cannot be properly cooled.

Overhead

We all want processors to be faster and without reducing the die size this is impossible. This issue goes right along with heat because heat reduction is what allows an increase in MHz. Intel has increased the pipleline stages to allow for more headroom. Deeper pipelines means information travels further and is slower but it allows for faster speeds down the road.

Cost

Reduced die size means reduced cost. This means that Intel can drop prices on the chips and pass those savings on the consumer. It’s clear that lower die size is a good thing all together for both the semi-conductor and the consumer.

Bragging rights

Understand that a move to a lower die shrink is excellent and those that do it first do hold a big advantage due to the reasons set forth above. The last advantage is bragging rights. A die drop to .09-micron right now is a big deal and Intel will reap the profits for this reason alone.

Branch prediction

This allows the CPU to determine both dynamically and statically where and what needs to be processed. Better branch prediction allows the CPU to avoid using the long pipelines thus increasing the speed at which data is calculated. Essentially, branch prediction is where we find out exactly how efficient the CPU can be. This one feature will be a big determinate to how successful Prescott is down the road. If Intel was able to make branch prediction much better than Northwood, Prescott will really be taking off.

1MB of L2 cache

We all know that increased cache can mean much better performance. In this case, Intel is actually playing catch-up to AMD. AMD moved all their Athlon 64 parts to 1MB of cache when it launched last year. Intel has launched “Extreme Edition” CPU to counter the FX-51 and it came out last year and was successful with 2MB of L3 cache on the chip. However, this is the first time Intel has included 1MB of L2 in a mainstream desktop processor to match the Athlon 64 3XXX+ series.

Introduction: Intel Pentium 4 3.40GHz “Extreme Edition” Northwood with 2MB L3 cache w/ 800MHz FSB

Extending their “gamers” CPU line, Intel also announced the second iteration of the “Extreme Edition” CPU by launching a 3.40GHz Northwood that continues to carry 2MB of L3 cache in addition to the 512K of L2 cache. The original EE was very fast and a real brute CPU. Prescott is a more efficient than Northwood and might be a more elegant CPU but these EE’s are very similar to Xeons. They are very powerful but expensive.

We were surprised to see a new Extreme Edition CPU as we believed Intel was really planning to let Prescott have all the spotlight but it is clear they really want to get back the high-end performance crown. Increasing the speed to 3.40GHz is certainly a good way to start. This CPU is reserved for only those wanting the most powerful desktop Intel solution possible.

System Setup

Our Intel test system had the following components installed:

  • Intel Pentium 4 “Prescott” 3.20EGHz and Pentium 4 “Extreme Edition” at 3.40GHz
  • 1GB of Kingston PC3200 DDR (2 x 512MB)
  • Intel D875PBZ “Canterwood” Motherboard (Prescott Ready)
  • ASUS Radeon 9800 XT 256MB
  • Catalyst 3.4 drivers
  • Sound Blaster 128 PCI
  • Intel 100/1000 NIC
  • Raid 0 Seagate Barracuda 120GB 7200 RPM SATA-150
  • MSI 52X CDROM
  • Newly installed Windows XP PRO with Service Pack 1
  • Microsoft Mouse PS2
  • Microsoft Force Feedback 2 Joystick

Our AMD test systems had the following components installed:

  • AMD Athlon 3400+
  • 1GB of Kingston PC3200 DDR (2 x 512MB)
  • Abit KV8-MAX3 Motherboard
  • ASUS Radeon 9800 XT 256MB
  • Catalyst 3.4 drivers
  • Sound Blaster 128 PCI
  • 3Com 10/100 NIC
  • Raid 0 Seagate Barracuda 120GB 7200 RPM SATA-150
  • Sony 16X DVD
  • Newly installed Windows XP PRO with Service Pack 1
  • Microsoft Mouse PS2
  • Microsoft Force Feedback 2 Joystick
  • AMD Athlon FX-51
  • 1GB of Kingston PC3200 DDR (2 x 512MB)
  • ASUS SK8N NForce-3 Motherboard
  • ASUS Radeon 9800 XT 256MB
  • Catalyst 3.4 drivers
  • Sound Blaster 128 PCI
  • 3Com 10/100 NIC
  • Raid 0 Western Digital “Raptor” 36GB 10000 RPM SATA-150
  • Sony 16X DVD
  • Newly installed Windows XP PRO with Service Pack 1
  • Microsoft Mouse PS2
  • Microsoft Force Feedback 2 Joystick

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