The Pentium 4 2.0A (Northwood) – Should You Upgrade?

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Well, did we find out if the upgrade would be worth it? I think so. The average percentage gain in performance of 55% shown at the bottom of the test result table says it all. That would definitely be an amount that would be easily noticed by just about any user and with just about any application. I think any user upgrading an older Pentium 3 based system to a new Pentium 4 would find the upgrade well worth it, whether they were just upgrading the CPU, Mainboard and memory in their present system, or replacing the whole system with a new one based on the iP4 with 512K of L2 cache and DDR memory .

I think those users that are looking to use some of the newest applications dealing in multimedia such as video and sound manipulation would gain the most, just look at the scores from Content Creation and Video 2000. But even in older more traditional office / home applications there would be a significant gain – just look at the Business Winstone scores.

While the first generation of the i845 chipset did allow users to either purchase or upgrade to an iP4 for a reasonable price, it was a bit disappointing when it came to performance due to the use of PC133 SDRAM. And the i850 was not well received due to its need of RDRAM. But the latest generation i845 with its support for DDR memory changes that. You can now use memory that is reasonably priced and gives the data throughput that the iP4 needs.

The first iP4’s were also not too well received, and from what I’ve heard the first version with 423 pins had very poor sales. The next version with 478 pins and smaller packaging did start to take off in the later part of the year and now seems to be gaining even more steam. I suspect that the latest version with 512K of L2 cache will enhance sales even more – not only due to the added performance and higher speeds, but also due to being manufactured on a .13 micron process. Remember, the smaller the die the more cores that fit onto a wafer and the lower the production cost. While Intel may use some of that to bring their bottom line back up, it will also be reflected in the price to the consumer. We have already seen the iP4 2.0A (.13 micron with 512K L2) cost less than the iP4 2.0 (.18 micron with 256K L2).

My opinion? The latest Intel Pentium 4 based on a .13 micron process with 512K L2 cache will be a will be a winner for both Intel and the end user. The same goes for the i845 chipset when mated with DDR memory. The only questions now will be how the i845 chipset holds up against those iP4 chipsets from SiS and VIA, and for many users the performance and price of the AMD Athlon XP will also enter into the equation. I’ll be looking into both of those very soon…

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