Prescotts I and II

Two Products In One

Intel ought to have two product introductions within the next three months. They’ll introduce Prescott in February, then they’ll introduce Prescott in April.

No, unfortunately, I’m not repeating myself.

We’re supposed to see a Prescott for socket 478 come within a month, then we’re supposed to see a socket T Prescott come roughly around April Fools’ Day.

For an overclocker, it is likely that they might as well be considered two different products.

Socket 478: Power-Capped?

Socket 478 Prescotts will initially get a lot of attention simply because people with Canterwood/Springdale motherboards will want to get a processor upgrade.

However, at least a major reason for the delay in Prescott is Intel’s apparent inability to get Prescotts to run within the power environment of those mobos. It only stands to reason that if Intel can’t get Prescotts to run fast in an 875/865 environments due to power restrictions, overclockers are hardly going to be able to get them to run faster by adding more power.

There are some indications that socket 478 Prescotts will only be sold in the 2.8-3.4GHz range, with anything above that being a socket T processor.

This is hardly promising for an overclocker.

So unless Intel has pulled off a miracle, the only people who ought to be interested in a socket 478 Prescott are those who already have Canterwood/Springdale boards, and maybe not even them.

Socket T: Electrically Sound, But?

No, if we’re going to break any serious new ground, that will almost most certainly require a socket T platform.

Until we get some tested results in, it’s probably not unreasonable to expect 4-4.2GHz out of these. That ought to be enough to equal or edge ahead of a 130nm FX, and beat an Athlon64.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take very much improvement from a current O/Cd Northwood system to do that, and the total cost of ownership for a socket T Prescott system could be somewhat harrowing for the benefits you get from it.

If you want the best Intel has to offer next April, that means a new CPU, a new mobo, DDR-II RAM and a new PCI-Express video card. For practical purposes, that means the real cost of a socket T system depends on how much recent, good-enough stuff you’d have to replace from your current system.

You’ll probably be able to duck having to buy DDR-II, and maybe you’ll be able to duck replacing your AGP card, but even if you do both, we’re still talking about $350 for a system probably not much better than a current O/Cd Northwood system.

Power Gradients

Another major issue with socket T Prescotts will be “How much power will they chew up?”

The real answer at this point is, “We don’t know enough about it yet” and if you think you do, you’re just wrong.

What we do know enough about at this point is that this is very likely to be an important issue, and could end up being a huge problem, especially for overclockers.

The item that we don’t know which we need to know is whether or not Prescott acts like other PIV processors when it comes to power/frequency. There’s been some speculation that due to changes made in making the CPUs, the power requirement of Prescott jump up much more with increased frequency than has been the case in the past.

To put it simply, if Intel’s spec sheets show that a 3.4GHz Prescott chews up 10 or 15 watts more power than a 3.2GHz, we overclocker have one big problem on our hands, much more so than if the difference is just five or six watts.

Another possibility is that the power curve on Prescotts starts at a much higher point than one would normally expect. For instance, historically, one would expect a 2.8GHz Prescott to chew up much less power (say a third less, including the extra cache) than a 2.8GHz Northwood. If that’s dramatically not the case, again, we’re going to have some real problems.

It could be both.

What we really don’t know is why Intel has had such problems, and the degree to which Intel has gotten a handle on those problems.

Put another way, if it takes 120-130 watts to overclock a socket T Prescott to 4.0-4.2GHz, that isn’t too bad. If it takes 160-180 watts, that’s bad.

We just won’t have the kind of information needed to start coming up with decent estimates until the socket T Prescott datasheets come out, probably late March.

Can’t We Just Wait Until 2005?…

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