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February 2, the moment of truth has come: Intel is launching three new desktop processors. Pentium 4 at 3.4 GHz, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition at 3.4 GHz and the highly anticipated Prescott processor that has fueled rumors for months. The big surprise is that Prescott is not positioned to be the flagship product, but a mainstream processor. The 3.4 GHz version is thus not available yet.
When the name Prescott was first heard, people started to assume Pentium 5 was coming, as there are a number of changes differentiate Prescott from the Northwood core: 90 Nm process, 1 MB L2 cache rather than 512 kB, the L1 data cache that was doubled to 16 kB, 13 new instructions referred to as SSE3 and the new pipeline that was extended from 20 to 31 stages, officially part of Intel's NetBurst architecture. The concept sounds familiar, but has its downsides. More on that later.
Deciding against designating Prescott as the next Pentium generation may be because substantial architectural changes are within store in the near future that will be more becoming of a Pentium 5 handle. After CeBIT, socket 478 will be replaced by socket 775 as well as new chipsets that support DDR II memory and PCI Express. In addition, Intel CEO Paul Otinelli recently initiated a new discussion about possible 64 bit extensions for future Intel desktop processors.