by Ilya Gavrichenkov
12/03/2004 | 06:49 PM
The autumnal outburst of announcements in the CPU market has exhausted itself and today we are examining the last announced top-end desktop processor among those that will be competing for the CPU socket in your computer during the approaching Christmas sales season.
We are talking about the Intel Pentium 4 570J CPU which is based on the Prescott core and works at 3.8GHz frequency. Besides the increased frequency, this processor is curious for its being the last CPU from Intel to use the current version of the Prescott core. After Intel’s abandoning the plans for a further frequency escalation, the Pentium 4 570J has a chance to be a frequency leader for a long while. At least, Intel doesn’t plan to boost the frequency further, focusing on other performance-improving techniques instead like a larger L2 cache and dual-core architectures. So, we just couldn’t leave the Pentium 4 570J out of our scrutinizing sight.
The new processor from Intel provokes even more interest as it is based on the new E0 stepping of the core, which had been supposed to form a basis for a further development of the Prescott-core Pentium 4 series. At least, we hoped it would be one until Intel declared the abandonment of its plans to release 4GHz and faster Prescott-core models. Considering this, the new stepping of the core may become a sensation among overclockers, and we will check this out in this review.
The Pentium 4 570J, which is going to become the highest-performing CPU in the Pentium 4 series, will be a competitor to the recently-announced AMD Athlon 64 4000+. It’s no secret AMD’s top-end solutions have rapidly raised the performance bar for systems of PC enthusiasts, and it’s interesting to see if the announcement of the Pentium 4 570J can restore the status quo.
After examining the newcomer in detail we will try to answer the question which CPU family, Pentium 4 or Athlon 64, can be called the leader of the market on the eve of the new year.
The Pentium 4 570J is the first CPU based on the Prescott core of the new E0 stepping. Cores of that stepping are going to get into other Pentiums 4, but so far we can only examine the particulars on the example of this new CPU. So, what’s so unusual about the new stepping? Intel’s official documentation defines the advantages of Pentium 4 models with the E0 stepping of the Prescott core (compared to the cores of the earlier D0 stepping) as “Execute Disable Bit support and additional power management features”.
By the way, the letter J in the model number of the new CPU stands for the new core stepping. This letter actually denotes the support of Execute Disable Bit technology, but processors with D0 and C0 core steppings do not offer this technology. Next, the return value of the CPUID instruction changes from 0xF34h to 0xF41h as the Pentium 4 transitions to the new stepping of the Prescott core, so it should be quite easy to tell a Pentium 4 with the new core from other models.
Another interesting fact is that the E0 core stepping was developed by Intel when there was no talk about the cancellation of Pentium 4 models clocked above 3.8GHz. So, one of the goals the engineers faced then was to increase the frequency potential of the Prescott core in such a way that would allow for a mass production of CPUs with clock rates of 4GHz and higher. Thus, we should also add a higher overclockability to the specified features of the E0 core stepping. We will talk about that in more detail below.
Otherwise, the Pentium 4 570J resembles the earlier Prescott-core models: 1MB L2 cache, Hyper-Threading, 800MHz system bus (its multiplier is 19x).
The popular informational utility CPUZ reports the following about the Pentium 4 570J:
CPUZ couldn’t detect the processor’s support of the Execute Disable Bit technology, so there’s no letter J in the model name. It also couldn’t determine the CPU voltage on our mainboard.
Here’s the list of formal characteristics of the Pentium 4 570J:
We haven’t yet discussed the Execute Disable Bit technology in our reviews, so now is a good time – the more so as we’ve got such an occasion as an announcement of the first Pentium 4 that supports this feature.
We should make it clear from the start that Execute Disable Bit technology is a full analog of the Enhanced Virus Protection that AMD had implemented in its Athlon 64 and Opteron processors more than a year ago, so we can’t call it an innovation. The key point of both technologies is in support of the so-called NX bit (Non-Execute) which prohibits the execution of code that is stored in certain memory pages to prevent buffer-overflow attacks the x86 architecture originally had no means to oppose to. Such an attack looks like that: the malicious program writes some code into a memory page allocated for data and then executes this code. To execute the code, the program provokes an overflow of the buffer the OS keeps the return points of subroutines in. Right now more than 80 percent of all attacks use this technique, so the problem has long called for a solution. Enhanced Virus Protection and Execute Disable Bit technologies from AMD and Intel, respectively, introduce an additional attribute bit in paging structures for address translation. This attribute indicates if the code stored in the given memory page can be executed. Although it’s still possible to overflow the buffer and damage the application, the NX bit prevents the launch of the malicious code: the processor just issues a memory access error.
So, in a nutshell, the NX bit protects your computer against viruses and other dangerous programs that start up from those memory areas that are intended by the OS and other applications to store data (not code). Unlike a firewall or an anti-virus program, this technology won’t warn you against installing a potentially dangerous program on your computer – it only keeps track of how your programs are using the system memory.
All new operating systems support both Enhanced Virus Protection and Execute Disable Bit: Windows XP (32-bit) with Service Pack 2, Windows XP (64-bit) with Service Pack 1, and Windows Server 2003 (32-bit and 64-bit) with Service Pack 1. The function that prevents the execution of code from data pages is referred to by Microsoft as Data Execution Prevention (DEP). The above-mentioned operating systems enable DEP by default for processors that support either Enhanced Virus Protection or the Execute Bit Disable technology.
Let’s see how this Data Execution Prevention works in Windows XP SP2. If your processor supports the NX bit, you should see the text “Physical Address Extension” in the System Properties window after you have installed Service Pack 2:
In fact, the NX-bit-related technology is part of the x86-64 extension, so you shouldn’t wonder at the announcement of an extension of the physical address. If you don’t see this message, but you’re sure your processor supports the NX bit, you should make sure that the appropriate option is activated in the BIOS Setup.
DEP-related options are found on the Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box in Windows XP SP2:
This setting is available even if your processor doesn’t support the NX bit, but your choices on this tab would have no effect then. If you do have a CPU that supports Enhanced Virus Protection or Execute Bit Disable, you can turn DEP on either for the OS core or for all applications (save for those that you set apart specifically).
You should be aware of the possible incompatibility of some programs and drivers with the DEP feature. For example, if an application dynamically creates a fragment of program code without giving this code the permission to be executed, such actions may provoke a memory error, although the application may have meant no harm. Such problems can occur with device drivers, but they first of all pertain to the PAE mode. That’s why Windows XP SP2 offers you the option of disabling DEP for selected programs.
In order to show you the behavior of the system when it recognizes an attempt to execute code that’s in a data area, we used the Data Execution Prevention Test by Robert Schlabbach. This small utility is downloadable from the author’s home page.
So, you’ll have the following warning when your Execute Disable Bit-supporting processor and OS spot an offending application:
Here you can calm down the OS saying the application isn’t dangerous or you can refuse from running it. If the OS or the user places the running application to the category of malicious ones, the application is terminated, issuing a standard error message:
The same malicious application would run without any error messages on a system whose CPU doesn’t support Enhanced Virus Protection or Execute Disable Bit.
The technologies for a lower heat dissipation and power consumption are no less important features implemented in the E0 stepping of the Prescott core. Intel’s talking about two innovations in this respect: Enhanced Halt Mode C1E and Thermal Monitoring 2. These technologies differ from their predecessors in a bigger reduction of the heat dissipation which is achieved by reducing the voltage of the processor core. Particularly, when the CPU load is low and a Halt command is issued, the CPU voltage is dropped to 1.2v, which results in a greatly reduced idle heat dissipation. As for Thermal Monitoring 2, this technology drops the CPU frequency to 2.8GHz after the CPU temperature reaches a certain threshold value. Coupled with the voltage reduction, this produces a fast cooling effect.
But let’s check this out in practice. We assembled the following testbed for our tests:
We used this testbed to check out the temperature mode of LGA755 Pentium 4 processors based on the Prescott core of D0 and E0 steppings. We selected frequencies of 2.8, 3.0, 3.2, 3.4 and 3.6GHz for both steppings of the core, and 3.8GHz for the E0 stepping. The FSB frequency and the core voltage were default. We used a boxed LGA755 cooler in our tests and measured the CPU temperature via the core-integrated sensor. We read the temperature data in two modes: Idle and Burn (the maximum load as created by the special-purpose S&M utility version 1.0.0 alpha).
As we see, the idle temperature of the processor with the new stepping is really lower. That’s the effect of the implementation of Enhanced Halt Mode C1E. As for the Burn temperature, it is similar between the D0 and E0 steppings of the Prescott core. The new core is slightly cooler than the older, but its temperature of 70°C under a load is still very high.
Besides the temperature, we measured the power consumption of the Prescott cores of D0 and E0 steppings by measuring the current in the 12v line the CPU is powered up through.
It’s all even clearer with the power consumption, which equals the heat dissipation, as the law of conservation of energy states. The idle power consumption of processors with the new E0 stepping has diminished in two times. This improvement, however, doesn’t allow it to compete with the Athlon 64 based on the 90nm Winchester core whose idle heat dissipation is less than 14 watts.
Under a load, an E0-stepping Prescott-core processor consumes less power than a D0-stepping processor of the same frequency, but the difference is negligible, as the main power-consumption improvements have been targeted at the idle mode.
This also makes clear why Intel refused to launch faster Pentium 4 processors with frequencies above 3.8GHz. The company’s engineers just couldn’t find a way to considerably decrease the processor’s power consumption under the maximum load in the third (E0) stepping of the Prescott core. A further frequency growth would require supply currents that go out of the FMB 2.0 requirements, and Intel just doesn’t dare to propose another FMB specification that would make necessary new mainboards and cooling systems. That’s why the company’s going to find other ways to improve the performance – those that wouldn’t entail revising the already formulated requirements to the heat dissipation and power consumption.
Thus, Intel’s refusal to release a 4.0GHz or higher-clocked Pentium 4 doesn’t mean the Prescott core has reached its frequency maximum. Of course, this is good news for overclockers who may find the following section of this review interesting.
The higher frequency potential of the Prescott core is yet another appeal of the E0 stepping towards the enthusiasts. Processors of that stepping are expected to reach higher frequencies at overclocking than Prescott-core models of earlier steppings. We built the following system to check this out in practice:
To cool our Pentium 4 570J down throughout our overclocking tests we took the most efficient air cooler for LGA processors we had in our test lab, Zalman’s CNPS7700Cu. We didn’t increase the CPU voltage as the Prescott core is practically indifferent to this trick. To overclock the CPU we were raising the FSB frequency above the standard 200MHz. The frequencies of the PCI Express and PCI busses were locked at their defaults (100MHz and 33MHz, respectively).
So we were probing for the maximum frequency and found it at 230MHz FSB, i.e. at a CPU frequency of 4.37GHz. The system booted up at that, but couldn’t pass some of our tests. Our attempt to achieve stability by increasing the CPU voltage was expectedly fruitless. So we had to roll back a couple of steps. As a result, the maximum FSB frequency the system was absolutely stable at was 226MHz. The processor was working at 4.3Ghz at that. Here’s a CPUZ screenshot to confirm our words:
So, overclocking a sample of the new Pentium 4 based on the E0 stepping of the Prescott core, we got very satisfying results. Although the tested Pentium 4 570J is the top-end model in its family, we could give it a 13-percent performance kick and set a new overclockability bar for the Prescott. As you remember, this bar was at about 4GHz for the Prescott core of the previous stepping (D0). The new stepping breaks this record easily.
As the new E0 stepping is making its way into junior processor models, overclockers should see various exciting opportunities ahead. So, if you’re a proponent of the Pentium 4 architecture, we recommend that you consider new processors of that family based on the E0 stepping in the first head.
The goal of this testing session is to determine the performance delivered by the new Pentium 4 570J and to compare it to the performance of earlier and competing CPUs. To do that, we used the following hardware:
We performed our tests in Microsoft Windows XP SP2 with DirectX 9.0c installed. The test systems were set up for the maximum performance. Note that we increased the Cycle Time (Tras) timing to 10 for the Athlon 64, as our experience suggests that the memory controller of the Athlon 64 works more efficiently at this setting rather than with Cycle Time = 5 (the minimal possible value).
The averaged performance in “general-purpose” applications was measured by the SYSMark 2004 suite.
The Pentium 4 570J proves to be a very fast processor as it outperforms the competing products from AMD in five out of six subtests. It is only in the Communication subtest that Intel’s new CPU is behind the Athlon 64 4000+ and the Athlon 64 3800+. We’d also like to mark the highest performance of the Pentium 4 570J compared to the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz: with its 1066MHz system bus and a 2-megabyte L3 cache buffer, the latter is no match for the former as the new processor’s clock rate of 3.8GHz is a trump that’s hard to beat.
The SYSMark 2004 average performance results confirm that:
As you see, Intel’s new processor, the Pentium 4 570J, is terribly fast in general-purpose applications, outperforming the competitors from the Athlon 64 family as well as the products from the higher price category (Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and the Athlon 64 FX series).
Thanks to their support of Hyper-Threading technology, Intel’s processors are traditional leaders of PCMark04. Adding the Pentium 4 570J into the race makes the overall picture even gloomier for the AMD camp.
The highly efficient integrated memory controller of Athlon 64 family processors doesn’t allow the Pentium 4 570J to feel superior in the memory subsystem test, though.
We see a different picture in gaming applications (we think 3DMark 2001 SE can be regarded as such): the Pentium 4 570J is worse than the Athlon 64 4000+ as well as the Athlon 64 3800+ here. The recently-released Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz has the best results among Intel’s processors.
The Pentium 4 570J looks better in the newer 3DMark03 test – it only loses to the Athlon 64 FX-55 which is targeted at another price category.
In the CPU test of the 3DMark03 suite, the Pentium 4 570J again loses to the Athlon 64 family, though.
The newest version of the benchmark, 3DMark05, awards the Pentium 4 570J with the highest score without any hesitation – both in the CPU test and in the total score. This may be due to the fact that 3DMark05 is the first test in the 3DMark series to be optimized for Hyper-Threading.
Intel’s processors lose all the 3D game tests we use to AMD’s CPUs. Well, the superiority of AMD’s modern platform exactly in gaming applications is no surprise for anybody now.
Note also that the higher frequency of the Prescott-core processors doesn’t give it the performance boost needed to overtake the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition whose clock rate has only reached 3.46GHz as yet.
Thanks to its high frequency, the Pentium 4 570J has an advantage over the Athlon 64 CPUs in this test.
Pentiums 4 have always been good at video encoding tasks. The Pentium 4 570J leaves no chance to its rivals in our tests that measure the speed it takes to encode video into various formats.
The archiving test brings us an opposite outcome – the Athlon 64 processors with their low-latency integrated memory controller beat the Pentiums.
When scanning for viruses with a popular anti-virus program, the Pentium 4 570J is almost as fast as the top models from AMD.
The Pentium 4 570J is considerably faster than its competitors in Adobe Photoshop CS.
The processors of the Pentium 4 family cannot boast a high performance in math1 programs. The new Pentium 4 570J equals the speed of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz, but is very slow compared to the Athlon 64 CPUs.
The same goes for the popular Mathematica 5 suite. You shouldn’t wonder at the results, though. AMD’s processors have been excellent in computational tasks since the K7 architecture.
Visual C++ is yet another application where AMD’s processors can show their strengths. The high frequency of the new Pentium 4 doesn’t help here at all.
With the release of the Pentium 4 570J, the speed of the Pentium family has grown proportional to the frequency in 3D rendering tasks. For example, the top-end Pentium 4 is now faster than the top-end Athlon 64 when rendering video clips in 3ds max. Overall, Intel’s processors seem to have an advantage in tasks of that sort today.
Before saying the expected words about the higher performance level of the new Pentium 4 570J processor, we’d like to put an emphasis on the qualitative changes in the Prescott core this CPU is the first representation of. Particularly, this processor is the first Pentium 4 to be based on the E0 stepping of the Prescott core. This new core stepping is going to steadily find its way into all 500-series Pentium 4 models, giving these processors the support of the Execute Disable Bit technology as well as Enhanced Halt Mode C1E and Thermal Monitoring 2. What does it mean to us, humble end-users? The OS with its applications can now be protected against malicious code, the idle heat dissipation of the Pentium 4 becomes lower, and the performance drop won’t be as great as before at overheat.
Besides that, the introduction of E0-stepping Prescott cores means a growth of the overclockability of the Pentium 4 series – overclockers should enjoy this fact much. Thus, junior Pentium 4 models should be able to conquer frequencies above 4GHz after transitioning to the Prescott of the E0 stepping. We guess that’s good news for all PC enthusiasts.
As for the performance proper, the growth of the clock rate of the Pentium 4 570J processor to 3.8GHz certainly added more competitiveness to it. Now we can’t say AMD’s Athlon 64 series is better in terms of performance. Yes, the Athlon 64 3800+ and the Athlon 64 4000+ have no rivals in games, in data compression and computational tasks, but there’re still a lot of tasks, for example video processing and digital content-creation applications, where the Pentium 4 570J is superior. So, before voting for a particular architecture, make certain about the applications you’re going to use it in.
Still, we’re going to show you an averaged performance diagram with information about the prices of the processors that took part in our today’s tests.
As we see, the Pentium 4 570J can be viewed as a worthy competitor to the Athlon 64 CPUs. Meanwhile, since the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46GHz looks bad against the newcomer, we consider the Athlon 64 FX-55 as the fastest processor today.
According to Intel’s current plans, the Pentium 4 570J is going to remain a CPU with the highest frequency for a long time – at least throughout the next year. Instead pushing the clock rate above 3.8GHz, Intel’s going to add more performance to its processors by increasing their cache memory and introducing dual-core architectures. Thus, it’s quite possible that the Pentium 4 570J will remain the fastest CPU from Intel in some applications for very long. At least we don’t have much hope that Intel’s future processors on the Prescott II core or the dual-core Smithfield CPUs will push the performance bar of desktop computers much higher above.