Cranking up the clock
While 2001 was dedicated to bringing the Pentium 4 to the mainstream market (and thus phasing out Pentium III), Intel has spent much of 2002 boosting clock speed while improving performance at the same time. This was largely accomplished with the launch of Intel's "Northwood" variant of the Pentium 4 core. Unlike the original Pentium 4 core, Willamette, Northwood chips are built on an enhanced 0.13-micron core. Because of this smaller core, Northwood CPU's require less voltage and generate less heat.
As a result, Intel has had an even easier time bumping up clock speeds. While Willamette chips topped out at 2GHz, Northwood will hit clock speeds of over 3GHz. In fact, Intel plans to release its 3GHz Pentium 4 before the end of this year.
Besides enabling higher clock frequencies, Northwood also boasts one significant performance-enhancing feature: 512KB of integrated L2 cache: twice that of any other processor in the desktop segment. Because of this feature we witnessed a performance boost of roughly 7-10% in games such as Quake 3 and Serious Sam, while performance in business applications and desktop publishing increased by 5%. To top it off, the Pentium 4 was recently given a faster, 533MHz system bus for even more performance. As a result of the infrastructure changes that have been made in 2001 as well as 2002 and the performance enhancements brought by Northwood, it's no surprise that the Pentium 4 platform has really taken off with hardware enthusiasts and gamers this year.
With today's 2.8GHz Pentium 4 release Intel has one goal in mind: securing the performance crown once and for all in the desktop CPU segment. But will they accomplish this goal? You'll have to stay tuned to find out!
Fundamentally, today's 2.8GHz chip is the same as its predecessors. It's still built on Intel's 0.13-micron process and contains 512K L2 cache. The only significant difference lies in its core voltage. The Pentium 4 2.8GHz requires 1.525V versus 1.5V in previous Northwood processors. If you're familiar with overclocking, you're probably pretty used to this practice. Successful overclocks of 100MHz or more frequently require increasing core voltage.
In Intel's case, by increasing the core voltage they are able to increase their yields at 2.8GHz, but as a result, the processor consumes more power, therefore generating more heat.