Battling Brothers: Celeron vs. Pentium 4

Is Overclocking Still The Domain Of The Celeron?

Intel has consistently avoided raising the clock speed on the Celeron models too much, as that would undermine its own Pentium products. Since both processor types are based on the same technology, there was always plenty of leeway for overclocking them. For example, by raising the system clock from 66 to 100 MHz, it was possible to run the Celeron Mendocino at an astounding 450 MHz instead of the official 300 MHz - a speed that was reserved for the fastest Pentium II at that time.

The 566 MHz version of the next Celeron model, based on the Coppermine core, was also extremely popular, asit could be overclocked to 100 from 66 MHz, jacking up the processor clock by 50% (850 MHz). Since then, the overclocking features on motherboards have mushroomed in response to the fact that manipulating processor clock speeds has virtually become a national pastime.

The performance of the Celeron Tualatin could be ratcheted up as well. While it was no longer possible to overclock the 1200 MHz model as much, it was generally not a problem to hit 1500 MHz.

It is hardly possible to overclock the current Celeron by more than 25%. The processor core gets hot enough at its normal clock speed, and so it needs a powerful cooling system. In addition, you should be careful when increasing the FSB clock, since it works "quad-pumped." Many people probably associate "double pumped," also called "double data rate," with main memory or graphics memory - this method transmits data twice per clock cycle. "Quad" means that four times as much data is transferred per clock cycle. In order to handle this technology, the hardware needs to be equally sophisticated - thus, many an attempt to overclock motherboards without high-end hardware are doomed to failure.

To put it simply, the Willamette core can't be overclocked past 2.1 GHz with conventional cooling. The only way to push the envelope even more would be to resort to expensive equipment such as liquid cooling systems, but the performance boost would not justify the extra costs of keeping the processor cool. In this case, your money would be better spent on a fast Pentium 4.

But don't expect it to get better any time soon, since Intel is planning to use all its available capacity in 0.18-µm manufacturing to produce Celerons. So, look for new models based on the Willamette core to run as fast as 2.0 GHz or more.