Today, in the dead of early Sunday morning, Intel is meekly unveiling another new Pentium 4 processor core, and it may be just as consequential. The Pentium 4 600 series is a new tier of performance-oriented Pentium 4 processors that will be sold alongside the existing P4 500 series. Based on the Prescott design, the 600-series core adds key features intended to pep up Prescott's performance and curb its power consumption. Not only that, but these are 64-bit CPUs. With the introduction of a 64-bit version of Windows approaching, Intel has finally turned on Prescott's dormant support for the 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set pioneered by AMD.
Recent lottery winners will also be pleased to learn of the emergence of a new Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor. Based on the same new CPU core as the 600 series, this puppy runs at 3.73GHz on a 1066MHz front-side bus, and it has 64-bit support, as well.
Can this new variation of the Prescott core help Intel recapture its supremacy in desktop processor performance? We've had Intel's new CPUs on the test bench for over a week now, and we have some answers.
The addition of another meg of L2 cache raises the new core's transistor count to roughly 169 million, well above the 125 million transistors in the original Prescott core. Thanks to Intel's 90-nanometer manufacturing process, the chip isn't incredibly large by today's standards. Die size is up from 122mm2 to 135mm2. Larger chips generally tend to consume more power and generate more heat, all other things being equal. In this case, though, other things are not entirely equal.
Speaking of which, the Pentium 4 3.73GHz Extreme Edition is quite a change from the 3.46GHz model. This new Extreme Edition is based on the same Prescott-derived CPU core as the 600 series, while previous Extremes were based on the pre-Prescott "Gallatin" core. That means the new Extreme Edition now has a longer, 31-stage main pipeline and lower clock-for-clock performance. The old EE's L3 cache is gone by the wayside, replaced by the beefy 2MB of L2 cache in this new core. The new EE can also do the 64-bit dance, but it doesn't have the fancy power management or enhanced halt state that the 600 series does. The EE 3.73GHz ought to outperform the 600 series thanks to its 1066MHz bus and higher clock speed, but whether it can outperform the EE 3.46GHz is another question.
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