When the Pentium 4 was released on November 20, 2000, the Pentium III had not quite finished its career. But Intel being more and more challenged by AMD, and seeing that the rise in frequency of Pentium III would not lead them very far (following the unfortunate experience of Pentium III 1.13GHz), they quickly released the Pentium 4, the first model of the Netburst architecture , supposed to crush the competition with a computing power due to frequencies never reached before .
And yes, we were still in full reign of the "queen" frequency, at a time when the GHz was recently exceeded (by AMD, followed by Intel a week later .. .).
Intel even planned to raise its Pentium 4 up to 8GHz !!! We know today that the incredible heat release of the Pentium 4 got the better of this objective.
This release of Pentium 4, will kill for the general public the next Pentium III Tualatin, which will be sold overpriced compared to the Pentium 4.
The first models released were the Pentium 4 at 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz, name of code Willamette, intended for a brand new Socket, the Socket 423.
From the start, tests were so so. While these processors had great potential, they did not do much better than Pentium IIIs running at lower frequencies. In addition, the fact that these early Pentium 4s only ran on expensive RAMBUS memory did not facilitate at all their commercial takeoff.
Then followed models at 1.3Ghz then 1.7Ghz, 1.6 and 1.8GHz in 2001. But in April 2001, at the same time as new models even higher in frequency, 1.9Ghz and 2.0Ghz on Socket 423, Intel also announced a brand new Socket, the Socket 478, with Willamette core models as well, and at the same frequency !
This sealed the fate of Socket 423, which will be abandoned, leaving loyal Intel buyers who have made the leap to Pentium 4, without the slightest possibility of upgrading.
And yes, this was the first time that Intel was doing this, and it wouldn't be the last. It was also a sign that things were off to a bad start for the Pentium 4...
As seen above, the first Pentium 4s to be released on Socket 478 were Pentium 4 core Willamettes, the same models as those on Socket 423, except the 1.2 & 1.3GHz versions, but quickly, in an attempt to recover sales and impose its Pentium 4, Intel released a brand new version, based on the Northwood core, and engraved in 0,13µm (compared to 0.18µm for the Willamette) .
This allowed the cpu to have less energy consumption, lower selling prices and a better propensity to increase in frequency, all that were missing on the previous core.
The first Northwood models, from 1.6 to 2.5GHz, used a 100Mhz QuadPumped bus (FSB400), then switched to a 133MHz bus (FSB533) in May 2002 with the 2.26GHz, 2.4GHz and 2.53GHz models.
The rise in frequency continued and the FSB533 models went up to the record frequency of 3.06GHz at the end of 2002 ! Almost one GHz more than the most powerful AMD of the time, the AMD Athlon XP 2800+ (Thoroughbred core, clocked at 2.25GHz) !
Intel was betting everything on frequency and it showed. From 1 Ghz in 2000, Intel went to 2 Ghz in 2001 and 3 Ghz in 2002. Almost 1 GHz per year ! At the time, people were wondering where this mad race would be going to end, and Intel's 8Ghz initial target no longer seemed quite as mad as it would.
Mid-2003, Intel drove the point home and offered FSB800 (200Mhz QuadPumped) processors, clocked from 2.4 to 3GHz, and featuring a brand new feature, HyperThreading. This feature, without any equivalent in the market, allowed to simulate two physical cores within a single-core cpu. It was a very big innovation, allowing to improve performance in multitasking and in some very specific applications.
At least that was needed to counter AMD, which had released the very convincing Athlon XP, much more powerful and efficient at equivalent frequency, and above all, much cheaper.
The Pentium 4 Northwood went up to 3.4Ghz, before being replaced by the Pentium 4 Prescott, at the beginning of 2004, after a rather positive assessment.
Anxious to always continue the increase in frequency, the main advantage of the Pentium 4 over the Athlon XP, Intel therefore released the Prescott Core at 2.8 and 3Ghz in February 2004. This core was engraved in 0.09µm, had an L2 cache doubled compared to Northwoods, as well as the all new SSE3 instructions. Unfortunately, it turns out that at equal frequency, the Prescotts did not bring any improvement over the Northwoods, while heating a lot, significantly more than the latter.
This would prevent it to go to much more higher frequencies than Northwoods, despite the reduced engraving technology. Highest frequency reached by the Prescott have been 3.8GHz, 400MHz above the fastest Northwood. Despite the fact that, finally, the Pentium 4 would never reach 8GHz, it was not a ridiculous frequency at all : we have waited the Devil's Canyon Intel Core i7-4790K in 2014 to beat that stock frequency on the consumer cpu market, 10 years after the Pentium 4 570J release !
Because the frequencies were not anymore the major asset of the Pentium 4 with the Prescotts, aware of their failure regarding the GHz race, which they leaded alone, with processors as powerful as AMD Athlon XPs running at 1GHz less, Intel changed the way they named their processors.
From that time, there would be no longer any direct reference to the frequency, in processor naming, but a 3-digit number, the first indicating the range, the second the position of the model in the range, and finally the last one serving to differentiate processors on specific functionalities, which we will see in detail in the next page (Models).
This naming evolution was also accompanied by a new format & new socket for the Pentium 4, the LGA775 , without any pins which was supposed to eradicate the problems of bent and missing pins on processors with a lot of legs. There was also many other induced changes, such as the move to DDR-2 memory and the PCI-Express bus.
The first models released were those of the 5xx family ranging, to simplify from 520 to 560, or from 2.8 to 3.6 GHz (again, more details in the Models section).
Then, declinations were released like the Pentium 4 520J, 530J, ..., 570J which also had the Execute Disable Bit function (allowing to avoid "buffer overflow" attacks).
Then released the models 521, 531, ..., 571 with EM64T , allowing the use of 64-bits addresses.
In addition to all these variants, Intel released in February 2005, the models of the 6xx family, with an L2 cache doubled compared to the Pentium 4 5xx. These models went the same way from 3 to 3.8Ghz, with variants without EM64T (Pentium 4,630 to 670) and others with (Pentium 4,631 to 661, released in early 2006) . Finally, at the end of 2005, Intel released their latest Pentium 4, 662 and 672, with Virtualization technology, allowing these processors to natively run two (or more) OS simultaneously.
Despite an inherently bad architecture, Intel was not mean in innovations to add various advantages to the Pentium 4. Especially to try to follow AMD, which at the end of the Pentium 4 era, had no longer the small Athlon XP, but the Athlon 64, even more powerful and able to execute natively 64-bits x86 instructions.
Already in great difficulty since the Athlon 64 release end of 2003, Intel found themselves in an emergency situation with AMD, when this latter announced Dual-Core processors for mid-2005.
Intel already lost the 1GHz race for few days, it was out of question to loose the new trend race, for the dual-cores.
So Intel decided to put forward he first Pentium 4 Dual-Core, renamed for the occasion Pentium D (D for Dual-core). It was developed in just 9 months and came out in April 2005, just in time to beat AMD. Which finally released their Athlon 64 X2 one month later, in May 2005.
This processor, code name Smithfield, was made of two distinct Prescott cores connected together on the same wafer and did not embed all the innovations foreseen by Intel (Hyperthreading in particular), for lack of time. The yields were relatively bad, because if every other core was bad, the whole processor was bad.
In early 2006, Intel revised its copy and released new Pentium Ds, codenamed Presler, this time made up of two separate cores connected on the LGA775 PCB (see illustration below)
Few models were released: 3 Smithfields, the Pentium D 820, 830 and 840 and 4 Preslers, the Pentium D 920, 930, 940 and 950 (if we except the Pentium Extreme Edition, based on the Smithfield and the Presler, and detailled in the chapter below).
These processors, too greedy in electricity, not sufficiently optimized, and announced in the middle of Intel's marketing campaign for future Conroe (Core 2 Duos) were, whatever may be said, the swansong of the Netburst architecture ...
In an attempt to maintain the leadership of the most powerful processor against AMD, Intel was led to release special Pentium 4 models, optimized for better performance, especially in games, called Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (Pentium 4 EE).
The first Pentium 4 EE, clocked at 3.2GHz, came out at the end of 2003, distinguishing itself from the "classic" Pentium 4s by the addition of a 2MB L3 cache. Actually, it was reusing the Xeon's Gallatin core used for Server and Workstations.
This cache slightly increased performance, but also the price, which was around $1000.
The second and last Pentium 4 EE for the Socket 478, @ 3.4GHz, came out a few months later, in February 2004. Then, like casual Pentium 4s, the Pentium 4 EEs went to LGA775 format, with models at 3.4 and 3.46GHz. The latter had the particularity of working with a FSB1066 (266Mhz QuadPumped), which boosted performance, significantly more than the big L3 cache.
Just before moving to the new processor numbering, Intel released a 3.73Ghz Pentium 4 EE, still with FSB1066 but without L3 cache, because unlike the previous ones, it was based on the Prescott core, and not on the Gallatin core.
The next Pentium 4 EEs were renamed Pentium EE, without the "4" like the Pentium D. They were also based on them.
The first Pentium EE released to market was the Pentium EE 840 (the only processor with the same number as its Pentium D equivalent), running at 3.2Ghz. It differed from the Pentium D 840 only in the support of HyperThreading, which was rather lean to widen the gap in terms of performance, at a time or systems of operation and software were not already optimized for dual-cores.
Then came the Pentium EE 955 and 965, which differed from the equivalent Pentium D by an FSB1066.
The Pentium EE 965 was the last processor of the Netburst architecture to be released, thus closing 6 years of a mixed reign, where Intel managed to save the face of the average consumers, even if he still let AMD took some market shares.
If the Pentium 4 have never been very good desktop processors, as mobile CPUs, it was even worse ... For this type of processor, the power consumption is the first criteria, just before the power itself, and the CPU energy efficiency prevails.
However, despite the Speedstep 2 technology also called Enhanced Speedstep, allowing to reduce the voltage and frequency of the processor when it is not charged, the different kind of Pentium 4 Mobile core has always been too greedy in energy.
Laptops using this cpu did not have a long battery life and were therefore mainly what we now call "desktop replacements", laptops that are generally always used in the same place, plugged in, and which may be transported from time to time.
The Mobile Pentium 4 or Pentium 4-M was therefore not very successful, few models came out (at least 25 anyway!). And was replaced by the Pentium M on the laptop market long before the end of the Pentium 4 desktops, mid 2003.
Usually before, it was the opposite : Mobile versions of a generation of CPUs remained on the market longer than desktops versions...