Intel's Pentium 4 2.2GHz. and 2.0AGHz. Northwood Processors

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Intel's Pentium 4 2.2GHz. and 2.0AGHz. Processors
"Northwood" Enters The Arena

By, Dave Altavilla
January 7, 2002

Intel and AMD's perpetual GHz. race continues in the new year, at a fevered pace that is almost more than the sluggish PC Industry can absorb.  Soon new machines from the major OEMs, will line the shelves of various retailers, hoping to lure potential customers with the promise of earth shattering performance and features that no one should live without.  Frankly, with the myriad of choices, flavors and clock speeds available to the consumer, it's no surprise that the average prospective PC customer now looks at only a few data points on which to base their decision making process. 

Let's face it, all things being equal, big fast drives, powerful graphics, and crisp displays, there really isn't much to consider when evaluating a new system or upgrade, with perhaps only two exceptions, "Clock Speed" and "Price Tag".  More GHz. for the dollar, is most likely the strongest selling point for any PC OEM's marketing strategy.  Now, before you begin to fill up my inbox with flame mail, please realize that I know (you are obviously an intelligent crowd since you are reading the pages of HotHardware) that you understand that this is a complete over-simplification of what really makes a PC perform.  On the other hand, at a certain point, the brute force laws of nature (and physics) tend to take over and one has to admit, that 2.2GHz. just sounds damn fast, no matter how you slice it.  With this in mind, it is easy to see why AMD had to shift gears back to their old "performance rating" strategy. 

At a full 600MHz. behind this new Intel flagship product, a 1.6GHz. Athlon (otherwise know as Athlon XP1900+) may seem a bit meager against the backdrop of Intel's marketing machine, clocked at 2.2GHz.  Not to mention the fact that an additional 256K (total of 512K) of on die cache has been added to the Pentium 4, to improve latency.  However, as you intelligent (and might we add very good-looking) people know, there's a lot more to the story of high performance computing than just raw clock cycles.  That's why you're here, and we'll try and provide some insight.  This is a HotHardware test and showcase of the performance of Intel's new Pentium 4 Northwood Processor at 2 and 2.2GHz.  Let's see what bleeding edge semiconductor process technology and blistering clock speeds, have done for the Pentium 4 Processor.


Specifications of the Pentium 4 2.2GHz. and 2.0AGHz. Pentium 4 Processors
Smaller die size, more on chip cache and a few more clock cycles to boot

  • Available at speeds ranging from 1.4GHz. to 2.2 GHz.
  • Based upon Intel?s 0.13 micron manufacturing process
  • 512K on chip, Full Speed L2 Cache
  • Rapid Execution Engine - ALU clocked at 2X frequency of core
  • 128bit Floating Point/Multimedia unit
  • "Hyper Pipelined" Technology for extremely high clock speeds
  • Featuring the Intel "NetBurst" micro-architecture
  • Supported by the Intel® 850 and i845 chipsets
  • Fully compatible with existing Intel Architecture-based software
  • Internet Streaming SIMD Extensions 2
  • Intel® MMX? media enhancement technology
  • Memory cacheability up to 4 GB of addressable memory space and system memory scalability up to 64 GB of physical memory
  • Support for uni-processor designs
  • 1.5V operating voltage range


The all new Northwood Pentium 4 core now runs at a significantly lower power 1.5V core voltage.  If there is one thing we would like you to take away from this article, it would be the concept of die geometry and how it affects processor power consumption, heat and speed.  Intel's new .13 micron wafer fab technology allows for significantly smaller die size versus the older .18 process they are using on P4 "classic" Willamette core based devices.  The smaller the die, the less power it consumes in addition to the inherently higher clock speeds that are able to be produced.  Yields for this new P4 core have reached new heights in clock speed, now at 2.2GHz. for the top end processor.  From a power consumption perspective, a 2GHz. "Willy" consumes about 72 watts of power.  The new Northwood core at 2.2GHz. consumes 55 watts.  That's an impressive 24% power consumption improvement and a perky 10% jump in clock speed, at the same time.  That's the beauty of die shrinks, you can have your cake and eat it too.  Intel is the only major processor vendor in high volume production with a .13 micron process.  In addition, the Northwood's transistor gate length (actual size of a transistor's switch path, which affects delay through it) is 60 nanometers versus the P3 Tualatin core's 70 nanometer gate length.  This translates to transistors that switch on and off significantly faster.  The P4's transistor technology is some of the fastest in the processor industry, at this point in time. 

Say hello Wendy Wafer... Wendy, this is... well, everybody.  While we aren't exactly sure this nice lady's name is actually Wendy, we are sure that she is holding several thousand dollars worth of Intel dice.  Since Wendy is probably a highly trained wafer fab process technician, perhaps this is not such an impressive feat for someone like her.  However, what is very impressive is the actual size of the wafer she is holding.  You're looking at a 12" Intel test wafer.  This is huge for a semiconductor wafer even for modern technology.  Intel is one of very few chip suppliers that actually has a 12 inch CMOS process moving into production in 2002.  Mainstream .18 and .15 micron processes these days, are typically built on 8" wafers.

Obviously, this extremely large wafer process allows Intel economies of scale, when it comes to producing P4 chips.  They will be able to produce exponentially more dice per wafer when they move to these new 12" slabs.  In late Q4 2001, rumors circulated about Intel's capacity issues with respect to the Pentium 4, with Intel spokesmen stating it was due to better than forecasted demand.  Consider Intel's new 12" wafers a formal response to the question of capacity.  With these new wafers on line, our Intel contacts have informed us that they'll have plenty of capacity moving forward.  Smaller die, and more wafer area are also the keys to profitable chip fabrication and lower costs.  We'll have to see how this all shakes out on Intel's balance sheet, as well as price points in the retail sector.

Now that we've covered some preliminary architecture and background on Intel's new flagship CPU, we'll cover some initial findings of how the all new Northwood behaved in our test-beds of i850 and i845 DDR motherboards.


Voltage, Heat, Processor ID, Over-Clocking and Preliminary Tests

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