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Intel Corporation finally unveiled its new Pentium 4 processor today. The chip runs existing applications pretty well, but somewhat below what the general public has expected. However, the main goal of Intel’s 90nm core called Prescott seems to be possibility of future gradual performance and feature-set growth, but not immediate speed gains.

Traditionally Intel offers new processors at the same speeds as predecessors allowing PC makers and OEMs to shift for fresh technology without any issues. At this time Intel offers its Pentium 4 “Prescott” processors at 2.80GHz, 3.00GHz and 3.20GHz, while 3.40GHz speed bin for new Pentium 4 will be available next month. To distinguish between “Northwood” and “Prescott” CPUs, Intel will mark the latter with “E” letter, e.g. Intel Pentium 4 3.20E GHz.

The new 90nm Pentium 4 processors have a lot of architectural tweaks and improvements, such as 16KB L1 data cache, 1MB L2 cache as well as improved branch predictor, faster instruction execution a better data pre-fetcher as well as 13 new instructions called SSE3. The main drawback of the Prescott seems to be extremely deep pipeline which sometimes impacts its performance negatively. You can find more information on the new Pentium 4 “E” architecture in our article called “Intel Prescott: One More Willamette-like Slow Processor or a Worthy Piece?”, and get more details about the performance of Intel’s first commercial 90nm desktop chips in our “Massive Attack: Performance Tests of 14 Processors Priced at $200+” review.

All the architectural tweaks have been made with purpose to continue driving clock frequencies of Intel NetBurst processors upwards. According to the most recent roadmap, Pentium 4 “E” processors should gain 1000MHz in a year with 4.20GHz part available in Q1 2005.

Separately Intel slashed the prices on the whole line of Pentium 4 processors by 16%-33%. Pentium 4 processors with 800MHz Quad Pumped Bus with speeds at 3.40GHz, 3.20GHz, 3.0GHz and 2.80GHz will cost $417, $278, $218 and $178 respectively. Pentium 4 3.06GHz chip with 533MHz QPB and HT technology is quoted at $218, Pentium 4 2.80GHz CPUs with 533MHz processor system bus and no HT technology cost $163 in commercial quantities.

All announced 90nm Intel’s chips are now available from leading PC makers and retailers with the exception of 3.40E Pentium 4 processor. According to unofficial information, the chip will show up in March. The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.40GHz with 2MB cache will be available later during the quarter. Intel Pentium 4 “Northwood” chip with 512KB L2 by now has also reached retail.

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