A New Core Stepping

It seems to be all the rage to tweak CPU cores these days; AMD just revamped their Thoroughbred core by adding an additional metal layer and with the latest Pentium 4, Intel has modified the Northwood core a bit as well.

(Left to Right) New Northwood stepping, Original Northwood, AMD's Thoroughbred-B

(Left to Right) AMD's Thoroughbred-B, Original Northwood, New Northwood stepping (note the larger power delivery capacitors on the new Northwood)

Update:Intel has informed us that there has been no increase in TLB size on the new core. The new core does have some changes that offer increased performance but they are not related to the L1 TLB size as we originally reported. WCPUID incorrectly reports an increase in TLB size on the new stepping of the core. The performance improvement yielded by the new core will be relatively unnoticeable to most desktop users; we ran benchmarks comparing the two cores at 2.0GHz and only saw a 2% performance improvement on average.

The new stepping isn't nearly as compelling as AMD's Thoroughbred Revision B, so don't be too upset if you don't end up with the new core. Obviously if you purchase any of the four new CPUs then you'll be running the new stepping in any case.

The rest of the characteristics of the CPUs remain unchanged; we've already discussed the Pentium 4's architecture in great detail in previous reviews, so be sure to read them first if you're not familiar with the CPU.

The new 2.80GHz processor does run at a slightly higher core voltage than its predecessor (1.525V vs. 1.500V), which was necessary to hit the higher clock speed while passing Intel's validation requirements. Nothing more than a BIOS update should be required to support the new CPUs on current Socket-478 motherboards.

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