Intel has taken everyone by surprise by announcing a new processor aimed fairly and squarely at the gaming market. Or rather, with this price tag, at the elite, high-end gaming market. Unlike Intel’s other processor launches, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition arrived without too much fanfare or fuss and also stole some of AMD’s thunder for the Athlon FX-51.
What sets the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition apart from the rest of the Northwood P4 line is the addition of 2MB of on-die Level 3 cache, added to the Pentium 4′s normal 512KB of Level 2 cache, giving the Extreme Edition a total cache size of 2.5MB, which is huge. As with all the latest Intel Pentium 4 processors, this one has an 800MHz FSB and comes with HT (Hyper Threading).
Although the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition can be fitted into existing dual-channel i865/i875-based motherboards, the actual core isn’t based on the Pentium 4 Northwood core but rather the Gallatin core (or, as its known to you and me, the Xeon MP processor). This means that the transistor count has gone up from the Northwood’s 55 million to a whopping 167 million, but despite this the heat emission from the chip has fallen. There is also a new design of standard cooler which is copper-based.
The only external difference between the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and a normal Northwood Pentium 4 is on the underside of the chip, where the Extreme Edition uses more filtering capacitors. But it’s certainly quicker. Our tests made it between 10 and 45 percent faster than a standard Pentium 4 running at the same clock speed (3.2GHz), depending on the type of operation being carried out. It’s probably realistic to expect around a 15 percent gain in average processing speed.
By using a large amount of on-die cache, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition takes advantage of the fact that on-die cache runs at the same frequency as the CPU and also allows larger segments of instruction code to be held by the CPU, meaning less time spent returning to system memory. Any reduction in the number of times that the CPU accesses the system memory means a boost in performance.
This is why Intel has aimed the chip at the gaming market; games, perhaps more than any other form of software, constantly use large segments of instructional code. The downside of all this is the price. The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is expensive compared with a standard Pentium 4 and only true hardcore gamers will beat a path to the shops to get one.
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