NetBurst: Architecture for the future?

A constant theme in the marketing surrounding Intel’s Pentium 4 is that its architecture is paving the way for the next generation of computing.  This is true in more ways than one. 

From the Intel marketing side this is telling you not to pay attention to the Pentium 4’s performance today, but pay attention to its performance down the road. 

From our perspective this brings up the first advantage of the Pentium 4 over its predecessor, the ability to ramp up in clock speed.  In fact, this is quite possibly one of the only ways the Pentium 4 will succeed, not at the “low” clock speeds it is being launched at, but down the road at higher frequencies which it should be able to attain reasonably well, at least when compared to the Pentium III it is replacing. 

From the perspective of you, the consumer, this should raise a flag.  If the NetBurst architecture is supposed to provide a path to the future of computing, does it make sense to adopt the architecture today?  You don’t buy a CPU based on what its performance will be 6 – 9 months from now, you buy it for its useable performance today and with the hope that it will last you beyond that 6 - 9 month period. 

Keep that in mind as we take a look at the Pentium 4 since we will be taking two stances on the CPU.  One analyzing its forward looking performance and one as the position of the consumer, with money to spend now on a system.  The former will help to give us a clue as to whether or not the Pentium 4 stands a chance as time goes on, and the latter gives us the recommendation you all are here for in the first place. 

The pieces of the NetBurst Pie

As we diagramed in our August 2000 article on Intel’s NetBurst Architecture, the micro-architecture is composed of a handful of buzzwords that represent more complex features of the technology. 

The NetBurst micro-architecture is comprised of, according to Intel, the four following new features: Hyper Pipelined Technology, Rapid Execution Engine, Execution Trace Cache and a 400MHz system bus.

In addition to those four new features Intel is boasting four new improvements over the P6 micro-architecture that NetBurst is replacing, these improvements, once again according to Intel, are as follows: Advanced Dynamic Execution, Advanced Transfer Cache, Enhanced Floating Point & Multimedia Unit, and Streaming SIMD Extensions 2.  We’re going to tackle each one individually, and give you the heads up as to what these terms really mean and their impact on the performance, both positive and negative, on the Pentium 4. 

Index Hyper Pipelined Technology


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