Code Cracking

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Seeing what a few letters printed on a few 2.4GHz CPUs can tell us — Ed

As reviews continue to come in on the 2.4GHz Northwood, if you see a pretty nice overclocking result here or there, keep the following in mind:

The engineering samples being used still have the same stepping as the “old Northwoods.” If you go here, you’ll see that Sandra reports the new chip as a Family 15, Model 2, Stepping 4, the same as the “older Northwoods” (and the same as Intel’s hexadecimal CPUID in their specification update).

There’s contradictory evidence on whether or not the 2.4GHz Northwoods are or are not smaller than the original Northwoods and/or made at the 12-inch fab in Hillburo, Oregon. VR-Zone says “Yes.” Anandtech and Tom’s Hardware says “No.”

We can tell you for sure that somebody’s wrong, since all these CPUs not only come from the same place, but the same batch.

All the 2.4GHz I’ve seen have the following codes:


Do the codes tell us something about this matter? Why, yes.

Looking at our CPU Database, which asks for codes, we find that most Northwoods have codes beginning with L, and that they come from Malaysia. Some have a code beginning with the number “3” and they come from Costa Rica.

There are none, zero, zilch, nada PIV chips (old or new), that begin with the letter “C.”

So it’s very safe to say that these engineering samples are coming from a new fab, and fairly safe to say they’re coming from Oregon. It’s also fairly safe to say that if you find a lower-speed “C” Northwood, they’ll come from the same place, and probably are made the same way as these 2.4GHz engineering samples.

It is not safe to say that you’re likely to find an LSN with a “C” anytime soon. Nor do we know how soon whatever is being done at Hillsboro will start being done elsewhere. We can’t even say for sure at this point if all 2.4GHz will be made using this process.

We may get a clearer idea once Intel revises their processor specification updates April 17. It’s possible the 2.4GHzs will have a substepping improvement. We’ll just have to see.

Finally, VR-Zone did get a 3.1GHz out of this chip, but keep in mind this is an engineering sample out of a batch a number of which went to hardware sites, so these may be “pick of the litter” chips. (Indeed, when VR-Zone got the initial Northwood, they were able to overclock their CPU more than most using the same environment also. That’s certainly not VR-Zone’s fault, and they can only report what they get, but don’t automatically assume you’ll get the same).

The norm so far for most Northwoods seem to fall in the 2.4-2.6GHz range using moderate overclocking techniques, and that’s probably not going to change, especially for LSNs, for a while yet.

So don’t run out and buy a Northwood now expecting to get 3GHz. That day will come, but probably not quite yet.



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