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Intel's New Weapon: Pentium 4 Prescott

Processor Timeline: From Athlon 1000 To Prescott

Let's take a look at what happened over the last three years before we deal with the pros and cons of Intel's new silicon.

DateIntelDaysAMDDays
02.02.2004Pentium 4 3.4 GHz, Pentium 4 3.4E GHz & Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4 GHz131
06.01.2004Athlon 64 3400+104
24.09.2003Pentium 4 EE 3.2 GHz93Athlon 64 FX-51 & Athlon 64 3200+104
23.06.2003Pentium 4 3.2 GHz70
13.05.2003Athlon XP 3200+92
14.04.2003Pentium 4 3.0 GHz (800 MHz)151
10.02.2003Athlon XP 3000+133
14.11.2002Pentium 4 HT 3.06 GHz80
30.09.2002Athlon XP 2800+40
26.08.2002Pentium 4 2.8 GHz112
21.08.2002Athlon XP 2600+72
10.06.2002Athlon XP 2200+ (0.13 µm)89
06.05.2002Pentium 4 2.53 GHz34
02.04.2002Pentium 4 2.4 GHz85
13.03.2002Athlon XP 2100+65
07.01.2002Pentium 4 2.2 GHz (0.13µm)133Athlon XP 2000+63
05.11.2001Athlon XP 1900+27
09.10.2001Athlon XP 1800+97
27.08.2001Pentium 4 2.0 GHz89
04.07.2001Athlon 1400104
30.05.2001Pentium 4 1.7 GHz190
22.03.2001Athlon 1333155
21.11.2000Pentium 4 1.5 GHz (0.18 µm)
18.10.2000Athlon 1200135
05.06.2000Athlon 1000 (0.18 µm)

It's striking to see that clock speeds have not distinctly climbed over the last 18 months. Both AMD and Intel had to find other ways to enhance performance of their products without necessarily cranking up clock speeds. AMD raised the system clock from 166 to 200 MHz and doubled the L2 cache, while Intel introduced HyperThreading and equally accelerated its quad-pumped system bus from 133 MHz to 200 MHz.

It is now becoming apparent that neither AMD nor Intel may be able to achieve faster processor speeds with the mature 130 nm production processes. That definitely applies to AMD's AthlonXP, while Intel seems to have more clock speed margin here. Our overclocking project showed that extreme cooling with liquid nitrogen can hoist the Northwood core to exceed 5 GHz. In addition, our 3.4 GHz Northwood sample was capable of easily running more than 4 GHz with an average copper cooler.

However, it is interesting so see Intel's Gigahertz race has not returned performance in a proportion that would equal the clock speed relation between AMD and Intel processors. Instead, AMD has managed to establish the Athlon family as a permanent intruder to Intel's global processor market - with a clock speed difference of nowadays 55% or 1.2 GHz.