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Pentium 4 NetBurst


Intel continues to battles its declining image and the rising success of competitor clip maker AMD.

Many were sceptical that the Pentium 4 with its funky 'NetBurst-Architecture', 'Rapid Execution Engine', and 'Hyper Pipeline, would save it from losing its number one spot as the world best PC Chip Maker.

Intel calls the new architecture of Pentium 4 'NetBurst' yet nothing in the data released to date shows any indication that upload and download speeds will be any faster. So taking a non-Internet approach, does 'NetBurst' refer to other performance characteristics such as its 'Internet-accelerating' processor.

It really doesn’t matter what they call it, all the PC user wants is to work as fast as possible and reliably as possible.

From the overview we have done to date, it appears that P4 NetBurst is aimed to improve performance of Internet Gamers, rather than professional users. Other hints at this include Intels focus to deliver highest clock rates. But clock rate does NOT automatically translate in performance.

The key here as a buyer is not to be fooled by hip marketing names and high Giga-Hertz numbers – they don’t necessarily translate into faster processing. Between the lines we can expect that P4 NetBurst includes:

Rapid Execution Engine

Faster System Bus - Cache - improving transfer rate from 1,066 MB/s (Pentium 3) to 3,200 MB/s. [ At best config AMD 2,133 MB/s. This enables the P4 to exchange data with the rest of the system faster than any other x86-processor. The fastest processor bus doesn't help much unless the system's main memory can deliver data at an according pace. Intel's new Pentium 4 850 chipset uses two Rambus channels RDRAM; delivering the same data bandwidth as Pentium 4's new bus (3,200 MB/s].

Advanced Transfer - 256 kB L2-cache is same size as P3 but the P4 uses 128-Byte cache lines, which are divided in two 64-Byte pieces, allowing it to fetch data from the system (main memory, AGP, PCI, ...) to give an impressive data bandwidth between L2-cache and core of 44.8 GB/s for Pentium 4 @ 1.4 GHz and 48 GB/s for Pentium 4 at 1.5 GHz.

Advanced Dynamic Execution (Execution Trace Cache, Enhanced Branch Prediction) – at only 8 kB, it replaces the L1 instruction cache of Pentium III to enable its extremely low latency of only 2 clock cycles. Intel P4 proudly boasts on the branch prediction unit that aids the execution trace cache. With a branch target buffer is 8 times larger than Pentium 3 and a new algorithm eliminate 33% of the mis-predictions of Pentium 3.

Hyper Pipeline - Pentium 4 has no less than 20 stages [ 10 in P3]. This longer pipeline delivers the highest clock rates; the smaller or shorter each pipeline stage, the fewer transistors or 'gates' it needs and the faster it is able to run. Unfortunately this also means more 'in-flight' instructions capable of being lost taking longer for the pipeline is filled again. The Pentium 4 pipeline can manage up to 126 instructions 'in-flight', including up to 48 load and 24 store operations.

Enhanced Floating Point and Multi-Media (SSE2)

All the means is the Pentium 4-systems have the highest data transfer rates between processor, system and main memory; a clear benefit. What remains to be seen is how the multiple high priced RDRAM will impact the overall price.

The excellent data throughput of Pentium 4's system bus and memory interface makes it perform extremely well in Quake 3 and MPEG4-compression. Even so, this doesn’t make it the greatest and best performing processor in the world.

Pentium 4's strongest feature is possibly its clock speed potential, and with the Rambus finally delivering to design spec in harmony with RDRAM it poses a real threat to AMD.


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