New Intel Chips

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We haven’t seen a revision (official ones, anyway) to the lower-speed Northwoods since introduction. Now we’re going to see two, in rapid succession.

B-O Shrink

This change will reduce the size of the active part of the CPU down about 10%, from 146mm to 131mm. Intel says this shouldn’t change anything, but in the past, this has helped overclockability a little.

Intel announced this last May, and now the lower-speed Northwoods are supposed to start showing up. I say supposed because in the past, they haven’t shown up in the reseller channels until well after their official date, sometimes as long as a couple months.

There Are Lists And There Are Lists

The OEM CPUs with the B-0 Shrink are as follows:

OEM CPUs With B0 Shrink

Speed
S-Stepping
1.8A
SL66Q
2A
SL66R
2.20
SL66S
2.26
SL6D6
2.40
SL66T
2.40B
SL6D7
2.53
SL6D8

What about boxed processors?

This represents a little more of a problem. Intel has never been terribly good at coordinating data on its new processors.

New items are supposed to be announced in a Product Change Notification, usually a couple months ahead of time.

When the processors become available, they get included as new items in the Specification Update, and then finally get included in Processor Spec Finder.

In the past, Intel has usually made separate announcements for boxed and OEM processors, which come pretty close to one another. The change for OEM processors was announced two-and-a-half months ago. So far, there’s been no announcement about boxed processors.

(Regular OEM Northwoods have a Product Code that begins with RK80532. Regular boxed Northwoods have a Product Code that begins with BX80532.)

However, the Specification Update (which was updated a few days ago) includes new sspecs for boxed processors.

I can’t be sure of this, but these new s-specs probably represent new boxed Northwoods with the B-0 shrink. It seems likelier somebody at Intel just didn’t get the announcement out than boxed processors aren’t being upgraded, too.

Likely Boxed CPUs With B0 Shrink

Speed
S-Stepping
1.8A
SL68Q
2A
SL68R
2.20
SL68S
2.26
None
2.40
SL66T
2.40B
None
2.53
None

Here Comes The C-1 Stepping

Intel just announced a C-1 stepping for some of its OEM processors.

This is an official stepping change. These CPUs will have a new CPUID (0F27h, as opposed to the current 0F24h).

They will also have a slight voltage increase, from 1.5V to 1.525V.

This, along with a few other new pieces of info, may be an indicator that the .13 micron design is starting to run out of gas a bit sooner than expected. More on that in the next article.

The first date of availability for these processors is the end of August for the 2.4 and 2.53 CPUs, and early October for the rest.

OEM CPUs With C1 Stepping

Speed
S-Stepping
1.8A
SL6LA
2A
SL6GQ
2.20
SL6GR
2.26
SL6DU
2.40
SL6GS
2.40B
SL6DV
2.53
SL6DW

What This Means

For right now, it would be better if you got yourself a Northwood with one of the stepping listed in the first two charts. They should do a bit better than what’s available now.

For those of you who are thinking more like Christmas and/or a not-too-difficult 3GHz, you’ll want a C-1 stepping (though it’s quite possible the B0 shrink might make 3GHz pretty accessible). The C1 stepping looks to be a bit simpler electronically, and the changes are supposed to improve the CPU’s system noise immunity, which probably will help stability a little.

The pleasant surprise for bargain overclockers is that the 1.8A is going to be around a while. You’ll probably be able to pick up a 1.8A, C-1 stepping for Christmas for about $130.

Of course, Hammer and Barton will be waiting in the wings for a January/February debut.

I see two upgrade strategies at the moment.

1) If you want an ideal PIV system, once you can get a C-1 stepping Northwood and a well-functioning dual DDR board, buy it. It’s not going to get appreciably better until fall 2003 on the Intel side.

2) If you want an AMD system, matters get a little trickier. I suspect many people with reasonably current socket A systems are going to be disappointed with the initial Hammer, from the initial price tag if nothing else. Many will like the idea of popping in a Barton into their existing system to hold them awhile, see how events play out, and see what .09 micron brings in late 2003/early 2004. That seems to be a very wise strategy for those who have to watch their dollars.

Ed

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