NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
What Has 42 Million Transistors and As Many Pins As An Acupuncturist?
By Mike Regimenti, May 2001
Humboldt IBM PCUG

If you answered the new Intel Pentium 4 (P-4) CPU chip, you must subscribe to at least one computer magazine. Intel's newest offerings in the CPU speed race against AMD are the P-4 1.5, 1.4 and the 1.3 GHz chips.

These new chips are being built using the current .18-micron process technology; a 256k on die Advanced Transfer Cache and sport a 400 MHz front side bus. The P-4 is the first completely new 32-bit desktop processor design since the Pentium Pro in 1995. The foundation of these new CPUs is what Intel calls NetBurst micro-architecture. The P-4 uses the longest (10 stage) processing pipeline (tagged Hyper Pipelined Technology by Intel) of any mass-produced CPU. This compares to the P-III's 12-stage and AMD Athlon's 10-stage pipeline. This longer pipeline is more suited to faster chip speeds. The P-4 also uses what is called a trace cache instead of the more conventional L1 cache. The trace cache allows the processor to store instructions and data in a decoded format and eliminating the time necessary to decode the instructions. As if all this wasn't enough, the P- 4 utilized Arithmetic Logic Units (ALUs) - the part of the CPU that performs the integer math functions - run at twice the clock speed of the CPU. Even though the P-4 has only two ALUs as compared to the three ALUs of the P-III, they run twice as fast. To add the finishing touch, INTEL added 144 new SSE2 instructions and will use the Internet streaming SIMD extensions. SSE2 is the latest and greatest in multimedia technology and the successor to Intel's MMX first seen in the Pentium 166 and 200 MHz CPUs. INTEL is banking on NetBurst to carry future P-4 chips to 2 GHz and beyond. The 1.7 GHz chip is expected sometime in the first quarter of 2001 with the 2 GHz toward the middle of this year. Intel thinks they can keep the P-4 line alive for at least the next 3 years.

What does all this new technology really mean to the average computer user?

In everyday business type applications, the P-4 is actually a little bit slower than currently available P-IIIs and AMD Athlon powered boxes. Over the last 2-3 years, processor speed seems to have ruled the roost in determining performance, this may seem strange to most people. Most business apps aren't designed for and don't currently require the P-4s blazing speed.

The P-4 is a superior performer of floating-point operations, the very thing that 3-D graphics require. That means that games designed to utilize the SSE2 instruction set really show outstanding gains in performance and high frame rates in graphic intensive games like Quake 3. Any P-4 powered system will be guaranteed to keep your kids or grandchildren close at hand.

Before you rush out to buy a couple of these beauties, be prepared to fork over a large wad of cash. The 1.4 GHz chip goes for about $730 plus $20 for a new fan, add another $240 for a new motherboard (850 chip set only), and of course you'll need at least 256MB of PC800 RDRAM, at a mere $440. Don't forget to add $65 for a new P-4 certified power supply (330 watts minimum) with the additional power connections for the 423 Socket motherboard. For a mere $1500 you can have the fastest CPU setup on the block.

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