Pentium 4 Price/Performance Comparison

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A Look at Pentium 4 Options

This started out to be a look at the different Intel Pentium 4 (iP4) CPU’s. Not only how the different CPU cores compare, but also how CPU speeds affect overall system performance under various applications. However, while doing the testing I became a bit curious as to how other factors would affect the overall system performance, such as installed memory size, and IDE controllers and modes. Could it be that for some situations you might pick a faster CPU, for others more memory, or perhaps even choose RAID 0 over both? And what about cost? What would happen if we keep the cost about the same but vary components – in other words a slower CPU but more memory, or less memory and a slower CPU but install a RAID 0 array?

First, lets look at a graph showing the price difference (as of 2/15/2002 – dealer cost from a major authorized Intel distributor) between the different CPU cores and speeds. The ‘A’ series are those with the new Northwood core – 512K of L2 cache and 0.13 micron process, versus the 256K of L2 cache and 0.18 micron process for the older Willamette core.

I’m sure one of the first things you’ll notice is that the new ‘A’ series Northwood CPU’s cost about the same as the older Willamette version at the same speed, even thought they have more L2 cache. Reason is quite simple – due to the smaller .13 micron process being used the CPU die is smaller and more will fit on a wafer. As long as the yields are as good as the .18 micron process Intel can produce more CPU’s per wafer. Since the actual production cost of the wafer is the same regardless of the number of CPU’s it produces the CPU die actually costs less to produce even though it has more L2 cache. Note that the actual price starts to rise at about 1.8GHz, even more at 2.0GHz and the 2.2GHz part is significantly higher.

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