The Pentium 4 (also known also "Willamette") is, you guessed it, the follow-up to Intel's Pentium 3 processor. It's generally faster than its predecesors, and employs different technology in ways that are meaningless to your average consumer. All they need to know is "It's better than a P3!"

More than just a faster processor, the Pentium 4 clearly demonstrates the current lack of imagination in brand names. Remember a few years ago before everything was simply a functional description of the product followed by a version number or the current year?

Apple had Quadras and Centris's, We had the Alien, Aliens and Alien 'cubed' movies. Creative version naming! Now we have G3s and G4s and Fantasia 2000. Where's the fun in that?

On August 22, 2000, at a developer conference in San Jose, Intel ran a technology demonstration of its Pentium 4 processor. It runs at 1.4 GHz initially and is touted as being designed from the ground up for "computing on the Internet", plus other improvements to benefit speech recognition, 3-D graphics, imaging, and multitasking. The major improvements are being rolled together under the moniker "NetBurst"TM, and include:

Intel's latest 32Bit Pentium class processor. It uses a deep-pipeline design and Intel's latest processing technology to produce clock speeds starting at 1.4GHz. The Front Side Bus has a data rate of 400 Million Transfers / Sec. This is 3 times faster than the previous bus speed of 133MHz FSB of the Pentium(r)III.

It also implements even more SSE instructions.

The code name for Pentium(r)4 was Willamette, named after the River or Valley in Northwest Oregon.

Northwood versus Willamette

The new pentium 4 core codenamed Northwood which came out in january 2002, is pretty much identical (from the architectural point of view) to its predecessor : the Pentium 4 Willamette.

There are only three differences :

  • The use of 0.13µ manufacturing technology for the Pentium core (against the previous 0.18µ for the Willamette)
  • The L2 cache increase (512KB instead of 256KB)
  • The size : 145mm2 against 214. This should make the Northwood cheaper because Intel can fit more dice on a wafer

As the chip frequency grew higher according to Moore's Law, the urge to find a new cooling system grew proportionnaly. The fact that the Willamette core isn't very hot can be confusing at first because the heat dissipation isn't distributed evenly on the surface of the chip. In any case, Intel had to change the technology in order to reduce the heat. Hence the new 0.13µ, which allows a lower voltage for the core (1.475V instead of 1.75V). For a 2GHz clocked P4, the Power decreased from 69W to 41W, greatly lowering heat dissipation.

Besides the L2 cache increase, there weren't any architectural improvement, so comparing a Northwood with a Willamette on the same clock speed (2GHz) using pure CPU processing algorithms (no memory use) gives out the same results.

The new Northwood comes in two flavours : 2.0AGHz and 2.2GHz. The Front Side Bus is still 100MHz (Quad Pumped 400MHz) on a 478 socket exclusively
In april Intel will be introducing two new chips : 2.26GHz and 2.4GHz featuring the new 133MHz FSB (Quad Pumped 533MHz)

Now the question is : When am I going to change that old PII 300 I'm using since 98?

The latest, and the best gaming chip in the Pentium range yet. If you're running graphics intensive games and you want high framerates for a reasonable price, the Pentium 4 range is for you. The Pentium 4 range is also, to date, the only processors to support the cutting edge technology of RDRAM. Although the Pentium 4 chipset still advertises its clockspeed, unlike Athlon, don't be fooled, for the pure clockspeed doesn't tell the truth any longer. For the Pentium 4 range, you will find it to run slower most of the time, however the new Pentium 4-A and Pentium 4-B chipsets may match or supersede this speed. This is for the fact that the newer Pentium 4-As and 4-Bs come with an increase in on-board memory cache as well as a faster Front Side Bus (FSB). Recently, the 4-C range has been released, maintaining the same cache but upping the FSB, as well as introducting Hyperthreading Technology. Below is the new cache sizes and FSB speeds:

Speed         Chipset       L2 Cache       FSB            HT*
1.40 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          333 MHz        No
1.50 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          333 MHz        No
1.60 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          400 MHz        No
1.70 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          400 MHz        No
1.80 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          400 MHz        No
1.90 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          400 MHz        No
2.00 GHz      Pentium 4     256 K          400 MHz        No
2.00 GHz      Pentium 4-A   512 K          400 MHz        No
2.20 GHz      Pentium 4-A   512 K          400 MHz        No
2.26 GHz      Pentium 4-B   512 K          533 MHz        No
2.40 GHz      Pentium 4-A   512 K          400 MHz        No
2.40 GHz      Pentium 4-B   512 K          533 MHz        No
2.40 GHz      Pentium 4-C   512 K          800 MHz        Yes
2.53 GHz      Pentium 4-B   512 K          533 MHz        No
2.60 GHz      Pentium 4-C   512 K          800 MHz        Yes
2.66 GHz      Pentium 4-B   512 K          533 MHz        No
2.80 GHz      Pentium 4-B   512 K          533 MHz        No
2.80 GHz      Pentium 4-C   512 K          800 MHz        Yes
3.00 GHz      Pentium 4-C   512 K          800 MHz        Yes
3.06 GHz      Pentium 4-B   512 K          533 MHz        Yes
3.20 GHz      Pentium 4-C   512 K          800 MHz        Yes

* Hyperthreading Technology
Note: Processors are arranged in ascending order of speed, not in order they were developed.

Other Intel processors:
Itanium 2
IXP1200 Network
IXP220/225 Service-Specific Network
Pentium 4-M
Pentium III
Pentium III-M
Pentium III - Xeon
Pentium II
Pentium Pro
Pentium MMX
StrongARM II
Xeon with 512K Level 2 Cache
Xeon MP

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