History has shown us that every 3 – 4 years Intel releases a new microprocessor architecture.  The longest Intel has gone between micro-architecture generations was the four years between the release of the 8086 in 1978 and the 286 in 1982.  If you look at the fact that the last micro-architecture Intel released was back in 1995 with the Pentium Pro (P6 micro-architecture) we are slightly overdue for a new micro-architecture from Intel. 

We’ve been hearing about this new micro-architecture and the first processor to use it for quite some time now.  We were first introduced to what was then called the Willamette core 9 months ago at the Spring 2000 Intel Developer Forum.  Already running at 1.5GHz back then, this new architecture and the accompanying processor could be just what Intel needed to get back on track.

It’s amazing at how quickly the industry can turn from being dominated almost completely by a single CPU manufacturer over to a point where the underdog is now in a position to lead the market into the 21st century.  Over the past 12 – 18 months we have seen this very situation occur right in front of our own eyes.  Intel, a manufacturer never associated with delays or processor shortages and AMD, a manufacturer that was associated with sub-par performance and an inability to deliver on time, essentially switched roles in the past year alone. 

Now AMD is at a point where they are being taken very seriously by the industry and Intel is in a position where they have to fight to regain a lot of lost ground.  AMD’s weapon to get to the top has been their Athlon and focusing on the mainstream and performance market segments (the Duron has still yet to break into the retail value market segment).  Intel’s Pentium III used to be its flagship, unfortunately it is stuck at the 1GHz mark until the end of the first half of 2001.  This paves the way for Intel’s new micro-architecture, what they like to call the NetBurst Architecture, and the first IA-32 processor to make use of it, the Pentium 4. 

Today Intel is introducing the first two members of the Pentium 4 family, the 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz parts, which not only mark the first two x86 CPUs that make use of the NetBurst Architecture but they are currently the two highest clocked x86 CPUs available.  And today, our job is to explain the performance of the Pentium 4 and give you the thumbs up or the thumbs down you’re here for. 

Let’s get started.

NetBurst: Architecture for the future?
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