Intel P4 Northwood

Apr 11th, 2002 | By

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Intel P4 Northwood

: 04/11/02 – 01:59:35 PM


: Processors

Page 1 : Index

Manufacturer: Intel
Price: About $500


It has been about six months since Overclockers Online reviewed the P4 2.0GHz based on the Willamette core. Until the first week of this year, that 2GHz Pentium 4 CPU remained the fastest CPU available. But between that day and now, things have changed a lot on the hardware scene because the peeps from Intel have released their new P4 CPUs based on a new 0.13µ core. As you might remember from our previous P4 review, the Willamette Pentium 4 CPUs were based on the 0.18µ technology. You guys can ask yourselves if this difference in die size is of any importance to the end user at all! Well, we'll try to give you a straight answer on that question when we talk about the specifications in a little while.

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What it all comes down to is that the Northwood P4 CPUs really don't differ all that much from the older Willamette Pentium 4 CPUs. The most significant change in the Pentium 4 scene is that Intel has moved away from the RDRAM disaster and towards DDR solutions. RAMBUS was and still is way too expensive for the average computer enthusiast and doesn't offer us that much more performance compared to a cheap(er) DDR based P4 system. You won't even notice the difference in most benchmarks. So, what used to be an AMD-only platform, is now also widely available for every Intel CPU out there.

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I already told you that a Northwood P4 doesn't show that much of a difference compared to an older Willamette CPU, but then again, there are some major differences that we would like to discuss in this review. We'll also have a look at how the Northwood stacks up in our benchmarks. And what do you think about having a look at the architecture?

Let's head on to next page and find out together …

Page 2 : Specifications


Processor core speeds

2.20 GHz (0.13 micron), 2.0 GHz (0.13 micron), 1.90 GHz, 1.80 GHz (0.13 micron), 1.70 GHz, 1.60 GHz (0.13 micron), 1.50 GHz, 1.40 GHz


Binary compatible with previous generation Intel Architecture processors


Intel® NetBurst Micro-Architecture

System Bus

400 MHz


8KB L1 data cache; 12K µops L1 Execution Trace Cache; 256 KB L2 Advanced Transfer Cache; 512 KB Advance Transfer Cache (0.13 micron)


Compatible with the Intel® D850MD, D850GB, D850MV, D845WN, D845HV and others


Compatible with the Intel® 850 chipset and Intel 845 chipset


Dual channel Rambus* technology RDRAM, PC133 SDRAM, DDR200/266 SDRAM

Hyper-Pipelined Technology

Extended pipeline stages increase overall throughput

Streaming SIMD Extensions 2

144 new instructions accelerate operation across a broad range of demanding applications

Rapid Execution Engine

Arithmetic Logic Units run at twice the core frequency, speeding execution in this performance critical area

128-Bit Floating Point Port

Floating Point performance boost provides enhanced 3D visualization, life-like gaming and scientific calculations

SIMD 128-bit Integer

Accelerates video, speech, encryption and imaging/photo processing

Execution Trace Cache

Greatly improves instruction cache efficiency, maximizing performance on frequently used sections of software code

Advanced Dynamic Execution

Improved branch prediction enhances performance for all 32-bit applications by optimizing instruction sequences

Thermal Monitoring

Allows motherboards to be cost-effectively designed to expected application power usages rather than theoretical maximums

Built-in Self Test (BIST)

Provides single stuck-at fault coverage of the microcode and large logic arrays, plus testing of the instruction cache, data cache, Translation Lookaside Buffers, and ROMs

IEEE 1149.1 Standard Test Access Port and Boundary Scan

Enables testing of the Pentium 4 processor and system connections through a standard interface

More About The Specs

First of all, it is important to know that all Pentium 4 CPUs that are based on the Northwood core come in a Socket478 package. The Willamette P4 CPUs running at 2GHz also has that same S478 package, but obviously does NOT have a Northwood core!

The new Pentium 4 Northwood CPUs have become a lot smaller compared to the Willamette ones (0.13µ vs. 0.18µ) although they are equipped with 55 pins more (S478 – S423 = 55). If you want to know all about the P4 2GHz and the Willamette core, you can always check the information behind this link. It's our P4 "Willamette" 2GHz review and tells you about everything there is to know about the P4 architecture.

What we will do in this review, is to explain some of the differences between that previous review (the P4 Willamette) and the new Northwood P4.

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As you can see on the pictures, the S478 package looks a little bit different from the S423 one. Of course, the S478 packaging consists of a 478-pin design, but it also comes with an integrated heatspreader. The first thing you notice when you look at the top of the CPU (read heatspreader) is the tiny hole. Check out the pictures if you don't believe me. So why is there a hole in the heatspreader? Well, according to our sources at Intel, the official answer is that the hole is there to give the CPU some room to breathe when it gets hot and raped by thermal paste. I seriously doubt that the hole in the CPU is really needed, but hey, the hole does nothing wrong by just sitting there. If Intel wants to have a hole in their Northwood P4 CPUs, that's fine by me. Intel's happy, we're happy, everybody's happy!:) The idea of using a rather large heatspreader is actually quite ingenious. This way, Intel provides us with a much larger mounting surface to mount some big-ass heatsinks compared to the competition. This should improve the heat dissipation a lot and prevents the core from being crushed by accident, for example when you're mounting a HSF with a hard retention clip or something. Don't get me wrong here … You can still kill a P4 Northwood, but you'll have to try a lot harder than with a fragile AMD Athlon CPU for example. (Note : future AMD (Hammer) CPUs will also have integrated heatspreaders)

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Another huge architectural difference between the Willamette and the Northwood is the amount of L2 cache. As a result of the smaller 0.13µ Northwood core, Intel had the chance and space to implement twice as much L2 cache as they did on the Willamette, resulting in a total of 512KB (the Willamette has only 256KB). Even though there is an increase of transistors on the Northwood die, it still is quite a bit smaller than the Willamette. The Northwood die size is 145 mm² against 215mm² for the Willamette die. Overall CPU performance will benefit a lot from this increase of L2 cache because the CPU can now buffer twice as much data before it needs to send it across the rest of the system.

The second (or is it "the fifth"?) advantage of the 0.13µ technology has enabled Intel to reduce the core voltage of their Pentium 4 CPUs based on the Northwood core from 1.75V to 1.5V. By cutting down the Vcore by 0.25V and using the 0.13µ technology, Intel has managed to lower the heat dissipation by more than 1/3 compared to the Willamette P4s using the 0.18µ manufacturing technology.

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The first Intel CPUs using the new and improved Northwood core worked at a core speed of 2GHz and 2.2GHz. That 2.2GHz is the lucky one for today's review. So how can you tell the difference between a Willamette CPU and a Northwood CPU running at let's say 2GHz? Well, Intel has chosen to put an "A" next to the core speed of the Northwood CPUs. So if you see a package that says 'Intel Pentium 4 2.0A GHz', you can be sure that you're dealing with a Northwood-based Pentium 4 processor. On the other hand, if some store ever tries to sell you a box that is labeled 'Intel Pentium 4 2.0GHz' as a genuine Northwood package, you can be sure that it's a fake! Meanwhile, Intel has launched an even faster Pentium 4 CPU running at 2.4GHz. And soon they will be releasing P4 Northwood CPUs using a quad pumped 533MHz bus instead of the current 400MHz bus. I'd also like to note that during the first months of this year, Intel has not only released P4 Northwood CPUs with a clock speed of more than 2GHz, they have also released the P4 1.6A and 1.8A based on the exact same Northwood core.

Now that you know the most significant differences between the Northwood and the Willamette, let's see how the 0.13µ Northwood core handles overclocking …

Page 3 : Overclocking


Alright folks, this is where all the fun starts … overclocking :p To overclock this monster to its limits, we used the BD7-RAID motherboard from Abit. This board is based on Intel's i845D chipset, features DDR memory support and has a wide range of settings that should enable us to get the most out of our P4 2.2GHZ :) I'm referring to the FIX PCI 33 feature that makes sure the PCI bus is always running at 33MHz or as close as possible. Secondly and maybe even more important, the BD7-RAID offers CPU core voltages of +1.85V. That's right, the CPU core voltage of a P4 CPU can be increased all the way up to 2.2V. That's a whole lot of power for our Pentium4 CPU. But before we continue, I must warn you to NEVER run the CPU at +1.85V without any type of extreme cooling! It's extremely important that you make sure the CPU always has sufficient cooling! Well then, here we go …

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Because the multiplier of every Pentium4 CPU is hard locked, Intel leaves you with nothing but the Front Side Bus to crank up the core speed of their CPUs. The multiplier of our 2.2GHz Northwood sample is locked at 22x just as it is on all retail 2.2GHz P4 CPUs. It's time to fresh up your math folks : 22 x 100MHz FSB = 2200MHz or 2.2GHz. Now, we have increased the 100MHz stock FSB to a sweet 118MHz using our BD7-RAID motherboard. This increase of FSB speed forces the P4 2.2GHz to run at 22 x 118MHz or 2600MHZ or no less than an impressive 2.6GHz! Of course, we had to increase the CPU core voltage to 1.85V. We also had to remove the stock Intel cooling and mount a bigger heatsink on top of the heatspreader. Continuous 3DMark2k1 loops and Prime95 were showing no traces of CPU and/or system instability due to this 400MHz overclock. Nice! :)

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Now let's see how our bad boy handles popular benchmarks like 3DMark2001 (SE) and the Quake3 Arena benchmark! And don't you worry, we also ran a few Sisoft Sandra benchmarks …

Page 4 : Benchmarking


P4 Test System :

- Intel Pentium4 "Willamette" 2.0GHz CPU (reviewed here)
- Intel Pentium4 "Northwood" 2.2GHz CPU
- Abit BD7-RAID i845D Mainboard (reviewed here)
- Vantec P4 Heatsink
- 256MB Crucial PC2100 DDR RAM
- Visiontek GeForce3 videocard (reviewed here)
- Western Digital 20GB UDMA100 7200rpm hard drive
- Accton 100Mbit NIC
- Enermax 431W PSU
- Win2k Pro + SP2
- Deto 21.83

Now, let's get this show on the road …

Sisoft Sandra 2002 Pro : CPU Benchmark

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3DMARK2001 Second Edition

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Quake 3 Arena v1.17 – Demo001

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Quake 3 Arena v1.17 – Torture Demo

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None of the benchmarks we ran on this P4 2.2GHz system turned out to be a surprise for us. And I doubt it'll be a surprise for you guys either. The 3D performance is exactly what we would expect from a high performance CPU. It seems that the GeForce3 video card which we used in our 3DMark2k1 and Quake3 benchmarks is acting as the bottleneck in our test rig. If we look at the 3D performance at high resolutions, we see that a P4 clocked at 2.2GHz performs just as fast as the P4 clocked at 400MHz higher. I believe we should consider benching future high end CPUs with nothing less than a GeForce4 Ti or something ;)

Nevertheless, the P4 Northwood CPUs manage to break all speed records at this time!

Page 5 : Conclusion



- Sweet overall performance
- 2.2GHz!
- Overclocks nicely
- 0.13 micron technology
- Less heat
- 512KB L2 Cache


- Expensive
- Performance is not at full force yet (SSE2)
- 2.4GHz available

With a 2.2GHz CPU and very soon even the 2.4GHz P4, it's quite obvious that Intel has a big advantage over the competition when we talk about pure clock speed. But until this very moment the P4 CPUs have been running behind in real life performance because of the lack of software support for the Pentium 4 architecture. What I mean is that you didn't (and still don't) use 100% of your P4's capabilities. Remember our P4 Willamette 2GHz review? The P4 was getting its butt kicked by a 600MHz slower AMD Athlon Tbird CPU in most benchmarks. Now, things have changed. Intel is slowly moving back towards the DIY market after the RAMBUS disaster I mentioned earlier. The release of new chipsets like the VIA P4X266, the SiS 645 and the Intel i845D which all bring DDR support to a P4 solution was like a gift from heaven for Intel. These chipsets allow DIY users to assemble an inexpensive high performance P4 system without the high pricetag of the first P4 solutions using RDRAM memory on the Intel i850 chipset.

Would I buy a Pentium 4 2.2GHz right now? Well, when I take a look at the performance I would say YES without hesitating! But then there's the pricetag of about $500 and that's what's preventing me from buying one of the fastest CPUs in the world. So what should
do then? Would I consider a less expensive AMD Athlon XP system? Well, that could be an answer to the $$$ problem but there is a way to limit the costs and still have a high end Pentium 4 Northwood system! Remember that I told you guys that Intel also has the Northwood-based 1.6A GHz and 1.8A GHz Pentium 4 CPUs? Now if you know you can buy a P4 Northwood 1.6GHz for less than $200, things start to look a lot better for your wallet ;) It even gets better when you know that most P4 1.6A run 2.2GHz out of the box with stock cooling. Overclocking results may vary from CPU to CPU, but I still have to see the first 1.6A that doesn't run +2GHz.

So how can we conclude our P4 Northwood review of today? The P4 has become a much more attractive solution than let's say 6 months ago. But it still depends on the end-user. If you're satisfied with your AMD Athlon XP solution, then I see no reason why you can't stick with that one. But if you want an Intel system, the P4 Northwood combined with a DDR platform will offer you affordable high end performance as well! Whatever choice you make, I know it'll be a good one ;)

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