In Intel’s eyes the Pentium 4 was created to replace the Pentium III; and at that, it did a very good job. The Pentium III was clearly reaching the end of its time around the 1GHz marker, and while the 0.13-micron die-shrink gave new life to the P6 core it won’t take it far enough. From all estimates we’ve seen, Intel’s 0.13-micron process would only be able to take the Pentium III to 1.7GHz and definitely not much beyond. The Pentium 4 is faster than all currently available Pentium IIIs and its new NetBurst architecture has much more room to grow.
What Intel didn’t bank on however was their formerly dormant competitor, AMD, having such a solid processor. You can spend hours thinking about how the Athlon came to be from the lessons AMD learned with the K5 to the acquisition of NextGen but the bottom line is that it didn’t take long for Intel and the rest of the market to realize that the Athlon was to be AMD’s most successful part ever.
Throughout the past year AMD has done nothing other than take market share away from Intel; the launch of their Athlon XP line was icing on the cake as it further widened the performance gap that put the Pentium 4 to shame.
Today however the tables could very well turn; Intel is officially announcing the very first Pentium 4 processors based on a new 0.13-micron core that has been known under the codename “Northwood.” You should already be aware of the Pentium 4’s abilities to reach high clock speeds, but the move to a 0.13-micron core provides even more frequency headroom thus allowing the Pentium 4 to mature much more quickly. There are other benefits that come with this core but we’ll address them later.
In order to counteract today’s launch, AMD is showing more of their hand as they release another addition to the 0.18-micron Palomino based Athlon XP line – the Athlon XP 2000+. AMD obviously didn’t feel the introduction of the Northwood was alarming enough to push for the release of 2100+ and 2200+ parts but we’ll see if AMD is able to retain the performance crown they’ve held throughout the past several months.
We’re effectively killing two birds with one stone in this review so we’ll first talk about the Athlon XP 2000+ and then onto the new Northwood core from Intel. As usual, let’s get to it.