New P4 designs: Northwood and Prescott CPUs

Intel has shipped what will be the last upgrade to the Northwood line of the Pentium 4 CPU. Running at a speed of 3.4GHz, and with the same particulars that you’re used to (including 512KB Level 2 cache, 800MHz front side bus and Hyper-Threading), this chip brings to an end the 0.13-micron-manufactured North-wood line of chips.

Intel will continue the Pentium 4 pro-duct line with the 0.09-micron-manu-factured Prescott, which features a 1MB Level 2 cache as well as an 800MHz front side bus and Hyper-Threading (with enhancements), and additional SSE3 instructions. A 3.4GHz version has just been released.

In the not-too-distant future, Prescott will also become available in a new socket package. Currently, the Northwood and the Prescott CPUs both fit into the 478-pin socket on 865PE and 875P chipset-based motherboards using pin grid array (PGA) packaging.

A new motherboard socket and CPU package will come into effect with the release of the Grantsdale and Alder-wood motherboard chip-sets for the Prescott. The new packaging for the CPU will be called LGA; this stands for land grid array, and in this design the CPU will have only contacts rather than pins, as is the case in the current PGA.

The reason for the new socket and packaging may be to accommodate the extra density of the connectors on the CPU, which for the Prescott will be 775 connectors — many more that the 478 pins on the current PGA chips. The new package is also said to reduce production costs at this density because pins do not have to be manufactured.

We compared the new 3.4GHz releases using the SYSMark 2004 and 3DMark 2003 benchmarks. By and large, the Prescott has an advantage over the Northwood in all tests and a 5 per cent advantage over its 3.2GHz stablemate, but the Northwood 3.4GHz is no slouch and even wins in some less-intensive 2D applications. This performance will ensure a long life for the current 865PE and 875P chipsets and may become a popular upgrade for users with current P4 systems.

If you are a little baffled by the different types of chips and the CPU speeds that are available from Intel, note that a numbering system will be introduced to indicate overall performance differences between CPUs. Instead of relying solely on the CPU speed to identify the chip, the product number will also take into account features such as the cache memory, Hyper-Threading support, and front side bus speed.

In brief:Intel Northwood and Prescott Pentium 4 CPUs

The 3.4GHz Northwood and Prescott CPUs are separated by less than 5 per cent in overall application performance, and are similar in price. Early adopters and performance junkies should wait until the new motherboard platforms are released in conjunction with the new CPU packaging.

Price: Approx $600-$650

Vendor: Intel

URL:www.intel.com.au

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