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Reviewed By: Carl Nelson [02.02.02]
Manufactured by: AMD, Intel
Prices: AthlonXP 2000: Find the lowest price on iBuyer!
Intel Pentium 4 2.2 GHz: Find the lowest price on iBuyer!


Battle @ 2000+

Finally, we can say that both AMD and Intel have reached the 2000 MHz milestone.  Well, kinda.

AMD's naming method was met with controversy when the Athlon XP CPU was first introduced 4 months ago.

The controversy surrounds the fact that AMD names their CPU's based on performance in respect to the Pentium 4, rather than pure CPU clock speed.  For instance, they claim their 1.53 GHz product can perform on par with an Intel Pentium 4 clocked at 1800 MHz.  Initial reviews proved this to be correct, in fact it turned out that AMD was quite conservative with their naming; The "1800" actually outperformed the Pentium 4 1800 in many cases.  This actually prevented the naming issue from being bigger than it ended up (most people accept it now).

The sole reason AMD does this is purely marketing to the mainstream.  No was is Joe AOL going to take an Athlon 1.53 Mhz over a Pentium 4 1800 MHz! While most of the hardware enthusiast community will realize that pure clock speed isn't everything, Joe AOL doesn't pay attention to such details.  I think AMD will be quite successful with this new naming program, as most people who would even take issue with it are the ones that know otherwise.

How did AMD come up with those numbers? They used several contemporary benchmarks (all of which are used by hardware reviewers as well, thus their results can be confirmed).  For full details, check out this whitepaper regarding benchmarking and model numbering methodology.  One thing you'll notice is that AMD actually patched one of the benchmarks to sway the score in their favour.  We'll discuss this a bit later on when we get to the benchmarking, but it is really a pretty controversial issue, and is quite beyond the scope of this review.

Intel's Challenge

The problem with naming your processor based on a competitor's performance is, what happens when your competitor changes their product line? As you likely know, no Intel processor is ever the same from the beginning to the end of its life cycle.  Compare the Pentium III when it first came out to the one you can buy now, and you might even guess they are completely different CPU models! To prevent too much confusion, Intel *usually* adds a letter to the clock rating (IE a 550E MHz Pentium III has full speed cache, and runs on a 133 MHz bus, but a simple 550 MHz PIII is an older SECC2 processor, with 512KB of half-speed cache, and runs on a 100 MHz bus).

That's the monkey wrench Intel is inadvertently throwing into AMD's gears.  Sure, the AthlonXP 1.53 GHz performs on par with a "Williamette" Pentium 4 @ 1.8 GHz, but what happens when the Pentium 4 evolves? With the introduction of the "Northwood" Pentium 4 core, this is what is bound to happen.  We are going to look at this issue with an AthlonXP 2000 and a Pentium 4 2.2 GHz.

2.2 GHz is currently the top line Pentium 4 CPU, and it is only available on the Northwood platform.  Other CPU's available as Northwood are 1.6, 1.8, and 2.0 GHz parts.  These are marked as "A" on the CPU (IE a 1.8A GHz is a Northwood CPU, as opposed to 1.8 GHz).

Whenever Intel releases a new CPU core with lower clock speeds, they are always highly sought after.  It is expected by most that the exact same core was used to create all Northwood CPU's (they just sell them as lower speeds to cover more of the retail market), thus they should all be able to run at the same speed.  For more details, check out this article over at HardOCP Kyle takes a 1.6A GHz Pentium 4 all the way to 2.1 GHz with almost no effort (all you have to do is up the FSB rate).  These CPU's are expected to disappear FAST, so get yours soon! You can find them using our Weekly CPU Price List (Northwoods are at the bottom).

Enter Northwood

Intel released the Northwood Pentium 4's last month, so in case you don't know the full details, we'll cover them with a short summary.  We'll just talk about what's new; for full details on the specifics of the Pentium 4 CPU, you should see the Intel page.  So what's new?

0.13 micron die - A die shrink from 0.18 to 0.13 microns will provide Intel with higher scalability, and allow them to run much cooler at a much lower voltage.  Ask any casual PC user the difference between Intel and AMD CPU's and they will say "AMD CPU's are HOT!".  They are right; the P4 2.2 runs MUCH cooler than the AthlonXP, not that would be an issue to Joe AOL.  A die shrink also lowers production costs, but don't expect those savings to be passed on to you.

512KB L2 Cache - The cache size was doubled to 512KB.  As proven in our Athlon vs. Duron article, cache size makes for a nice chunk of performance in large scale operations.

Copper Interconnects - Rather than Aluminum interconnects found in the older P4's.  This is what allowed for the die shrink, and basically this technology is the catalyst for all other improvements on the Northwood.  Without copper interconnects, Intel would not be able to shrink the die.  If they could not shrink the die, the extra cache could not be added without making the wafer sizes larger and prohibitively expensive.

This is how you tell a Northwood from a Williamette Pentium 4 (Intel never marks their codenames on a production CPU's).  1: Look for an "A" beside the clock speed, if it is lower than 2.2 GHz.  Anything 2.2 GHz and higher is a Northwood.  2: Look for 512KB of L2 cache.  Only Northwood P4's have 512KB, Williamettes have 256KB.

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