Articles: CPU

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The competition in the CPU market hasn’t become any weaker. Despite the fact that both major processor developers, AMD and Intel, have almost run out of the scalability potential of their current processor cores, the companies keep on the armament drive by seeking new ways to speed up their CPUs. The shift to new 90nm technology, which will allow increasing the CPU clock frequencies further on without any difficulty, is expected to take place only in the end of this year – beginning of the next year. Therefore, the only weapon for the CPU developers will be the processor bus frequency increase, which doesn’t require and changes in the processor core.

Today Intel announced its new Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz processor, which appeared the first solution supporting 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus. This way the processor bus bandwidth of the today’s fastest Pentium 4 models has been increased up to an impressive value of 6.4GB/sec. to load this bus with work Intel has also developed two new chipsets: i875 and i865 supporting dual-channel DDR400 SDRAM. This memory subsystem guarantees the bandwidth of the same 6.4GB/sec.

Pentium 4 3.0GHz processor, which has been just launched, will be not the only processor featuring such a fast bus. Intel is planning to push 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus very actively into the industry, so that to make it and Hyper-Threading technology widely spread. All Intel CPUs to be announced after today will support Hyper-Threading technology and feature fast processor bus. As we see, Intel’s policy is highly flexible. If you remember, last autumn the microprocessor giant hasn’t even mentioned the 800MHz bus and claimed that Hyper-Threading technology will be implemented only in CPUs working at over 3GHz core clock. However, the latest event’s, which had happened in the memory market lately, pushed Intel to undertake some serious measures to improve the performance of their flagman CPU family.

Pentium 4 CPUs with 3.0GHz core frequency, 800MHz bus and Hyper-Threading technology support will be available string from today, and a bit later in the second half of May more CPUs of the kind will come out. The new processors to be launched in the second half of May will work at 2.4GHz, 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz. Here we would like to draw your attention to the fact that Hyper-Threading technology will be enabled in all Pentium 4 processors with 800MHz bus, but the only CPU with 533MHz bus and Hyper-Threading technology will still remain Pentium 4 3.06GHz launched last year. Moreover, Pentium 4 processor family supporting both: 400MHz and 533MHz bus will stop developing, although Intel will still supply these CPUs for the  lower market segments. This approach will help the company transfer the entire industry to CPUs with 800MHz bus very quickly. According to the preliminary forecasts, in Q3 2003 35% of all Intel processors will already support 800MHz bus, and by the end of the year this number will grow up to 60%.

This way, the enhancements introduced to Intel’s processors will let the company raise the performance bar a little higher again. First time they did it by introducing Hyper-Threading technology. At that time an only 5% die size increase resulted into a significant performance improvement in a number of multi-threaded applications. Almost the same thing happens when we shift from 533MHz bus to faster 800MHz one. The specific internal architecture of the Pentium 4 Quad Pumped Bus implies that the addresses are transferred via it twice per clock, and the data – four times per clock. Therefore, the effective data transfer rate through the Pentium 4 bus can be easily increased by just raising the FSB frequency on mainboards up to 200MHz. However, the performance of systems with 800MHz bus should become significantly better. Why does Intel so urgently want to increase its CPUs performance ASAP, without even waiting for the new processor family on 90nm Prescott core to come (which is scheduled for the end of this year already)? One of the possible answers to this question is Intel’s vital desire to be able to respond to its major competitor’s, AMD’s, actions. As you remember, AMD was going to start shipping this spring its new generation processors based on Hammer architecture and using x86-64bit technology. For example, we could prove this statement by the fact that the first Hammer based processor models will also feature 6.4GB/sec bus bandwidth, just like the new Pentium 4 CPUs. Therefore, Intel does an absolutely correct thing from the marketing prospective: they don’t want to let the competitor outpace them anywhere.

However, Intel’s concerns about AMD introducing a new Athlon 64 processor generation based on Hammer architecture into the mass market didn’t come true. AMD decided to postpone the launching of their x86-64 processors until this fall. Intel, however, has already announced its definite intention to introduce 800MHz bus all over the place and didn’t want to give up its plans, therefore 800MHz bus appeared in Pentium 4 processors earlier than the competing processor solutions with the same bus from AMD.

Nevertheless, AMD is still going to respond to the launching of Pentium 4 3.0GHz with 800MHz bus and Hyper-Threading technology before the coming fall. In the nearest future the company will announce another Athlon XP processor based on Barton core and supporting 400MHz bus. This CPU will be rated as 3200+ and will work at the actual 2.2GHz. Anyway, we will have another opportunity to talk about this product, and today our story is about Intel.

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