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Discovering the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition Learn how Intel combined its Xeon, Xeon MP, and Pentium 4 chips to produce a high-performance 32-bit processor just in time to compete with AMD's Athlon 64 introduction

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Discovering the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition
Learn how Intel combined its Xeon, Xeon MP, and Pentium 4 chips to produce a high-performance 32-bit processor just in time to compete with AMD's Athlon 64 introduction

Introduction

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) isnt the only processor company to introduce a new processor in September 2003. At about the same time that AMD rolled out its long-awaited Athlon 64 family of processors, Intel introduced a new version of the Pentium 4, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (P4EE).

As tests by third-party websites such as Toms Hardware and Anandtech indicate, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is faster than any previous Pentium 4 processor and beats the new Athlon 64 FX on some benchmarks. In this article, youll learn how the P4EE differs from conventional Pentium 4 processors and what other Intel processors influence its design.

The P4EE plugs into the same Socket 478 used by other recent Pentium 4 models and also supports Hyper Threading Technology (HTT), the virtual dual-processor feature developed for the original version of the 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor. It also features a clock speed of 3.2GHz and an 800MHz front-side bus (200MHz actual clock speed with four data transfers per cycle).

The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition gets its Extreme tag in large part from an L3 memory cache, the first L3 cache found in an x86-compatible processor for desktop computers. The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition has the same L1 12KB instruction and 8KB data caches and 512KB L2 cache as normal Pentium 4s and adds a 2MB L3 cache. All three caches are built into the processor, and run at full speed as do all recent processor caches.

In my book Upgrading and Repairing PCs , I compare the memory caches relationship to the processor to a very alert restaurant waiter who knows my tastes and keeps me well-fed without waiting. With three high-speed caches in the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, maybe I should update this example with a trio of waiters!

The P4EEs Family Tree

According to some press accounts, the introduction of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition was a surprise to both the computer press and to some Intel executives. How did Intel develop the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition so quickly? As AMD did with the Athlon 64 FX, Intel created the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition by combining features of existing desktop and workstation processors.

As I pointed out earlier in this article, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition has the same Socket 478 interface, 3.2GHz clock speed and Hyper-Threading Technology as the current top-of-the-line 3.2GHz Pentium 4. But, where did the very large L3 cache come from?

As I wrote in my article Breaking the 3 GHz Barrier with the Pentium 4 Processor, Hyper-Threading Technology was originally developed for the Pentium 4s workstation and server sibling, the Intel Xeon. Thus, it should be no surprise that a version of the Intel Xeon, the Xeon MP, should provide the 2MB L3 cache now found in the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition.

Thus, the Pentium 4 Extreme Editions family tree can be pictured as in Figure 1.

Figure 1

The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition combines the features of the Pentium 4, Xeon, and Xeon MP processors.

Conclusion

The Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is the fastest 32-bit-only x86 processor on the market. It offers extremely high performance, mainly because of its 2MB L2 cache. Because it plugs into the same socket and motherboards as the Pentium 4, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition will be showing up in many high-end systems in the future.

However, the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition runs neck-and-neck overall with the Athlon 64 FX processor, which runs at only 2.2GHz. Although the Athlon 64 FX requires a new motherboard and (in initial versions) registered DDR SDRAM DIMMs, it provides a bridge to the emerging world of 64-bit computing, while the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition remains a 32-bit chip (granted, for the time being there isn't much need for a 64-bit desktop chip; it's time will come, though).

Resources

Intels official website for the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition is available at http://www.intel.com/home/desktop/pentium4/extreme_edition.htm

Third-party reviews of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (including comparisons to the Athlon 64 series) are available at:

Lost Circuits
http://www.lostcircuits.com/cpu/intel_p4ee/

Toms Hardware
http://www20.tomshardware.com/cpu/20030923/index.html

Anandtech
http://www.anandtech.com/cpu/showdoc.html?i=1884

Gamers Depot
http://www.gamersdepot.com/hardware/cpus/intel/p4_ee/001.htm

Hexus
http://www.hexus.net/content/reviews/review.php?dXJsX3Jldmlld19JRD02MzQ

Copyright©2003 Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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