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Intel’s Roadmap

So, the major idea pursued by Intel’s engineers when they worked on the new Prescott core was to develop a processor, which will be more scalable in terms of clock frequency than its predecessors. However, despite this fact, the maximum clock frequency of the today’s Prescott CPUs is only 3.4GHz. Although Intel claims that Prescott based CPUs will go beyond 4.5GHz next year.

According to the company’s roadmap, Prescott core will be used for Pentium 4 CPUs for the next year or a little bit more than that. During this period of time Intel will use the frequency potential of the newcomer. This is what Intel’s plans looks like regarding the introduction of the new processor models throughout the next year:

In Q2 2004 we should see Prescott based CPUs working at 3.6GHz, and in Q3 Intel is planning to announce Pentium 4 3.8GHz. By the end of the year 2004 there should appear Pentium 4 4GHz. Next year Prescott core will continue speeding up until Tejas replaces it. Tejas will be manufactured with the same technology process (maybe slightly modified by then) as Prescott. However, it will also get a number of improvements, which will raise the maximum clock frequency even higher than 4.5GHz. Of course, they will again increase the length of the execution pipeline and as a result, again do something to reduce the negative influence of the longer pipeline on the processor performance: namely increase the cache-memory size, improve the branch prediction algorithms, etc.

They will also move the low-cost Celeron processor family to the new Prescott core. The first Celeron CPUs based on 90nm Prescott will appear in the market in Q2 2004. Prescott core will be slightly cut-down for the low-cost segment: Celeron will have 256KB L2 cache and 533MHz bus, while Hyper-Threading technology will be simply disabled. Celeron processors will also work at lower clock frequencies than their Pentium 4 fellows. For instance, the first Celeron processors on Prescott core due in Q2 will work at the maximum frequency of 3.06GHz.

Speaking about Intel’s plans for the next year I should say a few words about the compatibility of contemporary mainboards with the upcoming Prescott based processors. Unfortunately, I have to state that the last Prescott based processor, which will be fully compatible with the today’s mainboards is the 3.4GHz models announced today. Despite the fact that Vcore of the new Prescott has been reduced to 1.25-1.4V, the CPU still requires pretty high current, which is not any lower than that required by Northwood working at the same core clock. Contemporary mainboards are not intended to support such power-hungry CPUs and simply can’t produce the current high enough for processors faster than 3.4GHz. In order to avoid any confusion with the compatibility of the new Prescott based processors and already existing mainboards, Intel decided to design all CPUs working at 3.6GHz+ for a totally new socket form-factor known as LGA 775. Mainboards for LGA 775 processors will be released in Q2 together with the Pentium 4 3.6GHz, which will not be modified for the current Socket 478. Together with the new processor socket we will also see the new chipsets coming out within the same period of time, however, this is a totally different story already.

In conclusion to our discussion of Intel’s upcoming plans I can’t help mentioning the problem of 64bit extensions to IA32 architecture. Until quite recently, Intel has been denying the possibility to introduce 64bit extensions like x86-64 from AMD in its IA32 processors. However, the company’s position has become much more flexible lately: now the company’s officials say that 64bit extensions can be introduced as soon as there appears corresponding software, which will be able to use the new advantages. Keeping in mind that 64bit user version of Windows XP operation system is scheduled for the middle of this year, we dare suppose that the new Prescott core already has these 64bit extensions implemented, but they will remain deactivated until the right time comes. This way I wouldn’t deny that we might soon see Intel’s x86-64 processors in the market in the nearest future. Although, I wouldn’t also make any forecasts yet…

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