Looking ahead to Intel's 925XE chipset and FSB1066

Intel's 925XE And FSB1066 Platform Route

Officially, the 775 platform has been around for roughly a month now. Still, the number of corresponding motherboards that have hit the retail shelves has remained small. The problem this time is not the processors, since most of them, with the exception of the 3.6 GHz version, are widely available. This time, the problem lies with the motherboards - they still need time to mature because Intel had to recall a batch of ICH6 chips due to a manufacturing error. In addition, Intel was rebuked this week for its semiannual report, which did not help to put the industry a good mood either.

Later this summer, however, Intel will turn up the heat by upgrading its processor line and introducing a new chipset. The clock of the Pentium 4 will be increased by 5.5% to 3.8 GHz - but that is hardly interesting. Instead, all eyes will be turned to the Prescott as it transitions to E0 stepping, which will finally give it added value compared to the P4 Northwood. This includes the Execute Disable Bit, or XD-Bit, is something that AMD is very familiar with already (remember NX). Teamed up with Windows XP Service Pack 2 it prevents malicious program code from being executed, which many viruses do by provoking buffer overflows, which in turn causes stored information in the RAM to exceed the memory space to which it was assigned. Also included is Thermal Monitoring 2, which contains the Enhanced Halt State function. This feature enables the CPU to make a full stop whenever it is idle in order to reduce thermal loss.

At high CPU loads, though, this will not decrease thermal loss at all. There is, however, another aspect of Thermal Monitoring 2 that is perhaps more interesting: it can adjust the core clock and voltage on the fly, similar to Speedstep or AMD's PowerNow. For one thing, this means that Intel may finally introduce energy saving features to more desktop processors, which would be welcome. Also, the CPU needs to access several (basically unlocked) multipliers in order to change the clock speed on the fly, such as AMD's Athlon 64 does with Cool & Quiet. Hence it is quite possible that the E0 stepping will feature some unlocked multipliers. Overclockers, keep your fingers crossed.

The lingering question remains as to what will happen with Intel's 64 Bit extension, called Extended Memory 64 Technology or EM64T. As far as we can see, this has been included in the Prescott core already, but it lies idle. Now that Intel will introduce NX in Q4 anyway, it would be logical to introduce EM64T with the Pentium 4 720 at around the same time.