Intel's Pentium 4 E: Prescott Arrives with Luggageby Anand Lal Shimpi & Derek Wilson on February 1, 2004 3:06 PM EST
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If you’re looking for nothing more than a purchasing decision let’s put it simply: if you’re not an overclocker, do not buy any Prescott where there is an equivalently clocked Northwood available. This means that the 2.80E, 3.00E, 3.20E are all off-limits, you will end up with a CPU that is no faster than a Northwood and in most cases slower. If you are buying a Pentium 4 today, take advantage of the fact that vendors will want to get rid of their Northwood based parts and grab one of them.
Overclockers may want to pick up a Prescott to experiment with ~4GHz overclocks – it will be easier on Prescott than it is on Northwood. And once you get beyond currently available Northwood speeds you will have a CPU that is just as fast if not faster, depending on how high you go.
When you include AMD in the picture, the recommendation hasn’t changed since the Athlon 64 was introduced. If you find yourself using Microsoft Office for most of your tasks and if you’re a gamer the decision is clear: the Athlon 64 is for you. The Pentium 4 continues to hold advantages in content creation applications, 3D rendering and media encoding; if we just described how you use your computer then the Pentium 4 is for you, but the stipulation about Northwood vs. Prescott from above still applies.
The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition at 3.4GHz does provide an impressive show, but at a street price of over $1100 it is tough recommending it to anyone other than Gates himself.
With the recommendations out of the way, now let’s look at Prescott from a purely microarchitectural perspective.
Given that we’re at the very beginning of the 90nm ramp and we are already within reach of 4GHz, it isn’t too far fetched that Prescott will reach 5GHz if necessary next year. From an architecture perspective, it is impressive that Prescott remains in the same performance league as Northwood despite the fact that it has a 55% longer pipeline.
What we have seen here today does not bode well for the forthcoming Prescott based Celerons. With a 31 stage pipeline and 1/4 the cache size of the P4 Prescott, it doesn’t look like Intel will be able to improve Celeron performance anytime soon. We will keep a close eye on the value segment as it is an area where AMD could stand to take serious control of the market.
The performance of Prescott today is nothing to write home about, and given the extensive lengthening of the pipeline it’s honestly a surprise that we’re not castrating Intel for performance at this point. Prescott is however a promise of performance to come; much like the Willamette and even Northwood cores were relatively unimpressive at first, they blossomed into much sought-after CPUs like the Pentium 4 2.4C. The move to 90nm and a longer pipeline will undoubtedly mean more fun for the overclocking community, especially once production ramps up on Prescott.
Just as was the case with the very first Pentium 4s, Prescott needs higher clock speeds to spread its wings - our data on the previous page begins to confirm this. To put it bluntly: Prescott becomes interesting after 3.6GHz; in other words, after it has completely left Northwood’s clock speeds behind.