It is not a secret for anyone these days that NetBurst architecture all Pentium 4 processors are based on is living through its last months. The launch of the “progressive” Prescott core manufactured with 90nm production technology revealed a number of serious problems. This was a clear indication that the architecture everyone pinned such great hopes and expectations for, is going through its final lifecycle stage. At first Intel engineers saw NetBurst as architecture with enormous performance potential, which they will be able to fully use with the time by raising the processor clock frequency. However, the noticeable frequency increase resulted into the ever growing power consumption and heat dissipation.
Moreover, the ongoing development of production technologies for semiconductor transistors doesn’t allow eliminating or bypassing the increase in the thermal parameters. As a result, the third generation of processors with NetBurst architecture aka Prescott has been remembered as one of the hottest CPU families. No kidding: the CPUs based on this processor core can consume and as a result dissipate up to 160W, while their clock frequency hasn’t gone over 3.8GHz. I have to stress that this high heat dissipation and power consumption resulted into a great number of other problems. Prescott processors required special mainboards with enhanced voltage regulator and new highly efficient cooling systems.
In fact, the heat dissipation and power consumption problems could be not so noticeable, if it hadn’t been for one thing. Prescott processors failed to demonstrate the expected superior performance that could make us overlook some of the inconvenient weaknesses like that. The performance level set by the competitor’s Athlon 64 solutions turned out unattainably high for the new Intel Prescott, therefore, these CPUs were steadily regarded as Intel’s big failure.
However, the fiasco of NetBurst architecture didn’t discourage Intel. This year the company postulated new priorities in the processor design strategy and started talking about a completely different direction for further CPU architecture development. They had to give up all hopes connected with the NetBurst architecture and get down to finding new solutions that will be highlighted in the middle of the coming year 2006. The major concept of the post-NetBurst era in Intel CPUs evolution will be the end of the megahertz race and primary focus on multi-core support and performance per watt coefficient.