Sustaining Moore's Law - 10 Years of the CPU

Timeline: 2004


Early 2004 saw Intel upping the stakes with a new 90nm core, Prescott. A new addition of the Pentium 4 family, this core doubled the transistor count of the previous 130nm Northwood core while actually having a smaller die, thanks chiefly to the die shrink. Compared to the older core, the newcomer featured more L1 and L2 cache, the longest stage instruction pipeline ever on the Pentium 4 with 31 stages, an updated SSE3 and particularly in the manufacturing process, some new nifty silicon enhancements. On the other hand, the Prescott also significantly increased the power consumption of the Pentium 4 and despite the enhancements, the cost and performance of the new core did not impress us initially, as they were "more or less within the same performance range" as the Northwood Pentium 4s.

Intel's first 90nm chip, the Prescott got quite bad press at launch and acquired an impression of being too warm and power hungry.

The impression that the Prescott Pentium 4 was not an upgrade over the Northwood core was cemented by our CPU shootout in 2004, which saw the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition outshine the newer, albeit lower clocked Prescott Pentium 4. AMD also had a more aggressively clocked Athlon 64 FX-53 to counter Intel and the result found that "the Athlon 64 FX-53 and Intel Pentium 4 3.4GHz Extreme Edition processors are probably the fastest desktop processors that money can buy today."

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