Pentium 4 Motherboards

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Socket 423

Pentium 4 for Socket 423

Socket 423 was the first Pentium 4 socket. It was rather short-lived, but still went through a few changes in its life. It only supported early Willamette core CPUs, which were mostly deemed as below expectations product.

Most Socket 423 motherboards used RDRAM with Intel 850 chipset instead of the more common DDR or SDRAM, making it too expesive, and so, as an unforseen result, it can be considered a fabled rarity in some areas of the world.

The first Pentium 4 chipset to support DDR was VIA P4X266 (mid-2001), and its price/performance balance was promising indeed. Meanwhile Intel pushed out the i845, which only supported PC133 SDRAM in its early steppings. It was too slow for obvious reasons, and by the time Intel 845 B0-Step (aka 845D, aka 845DDR) was ready, Socket 478 almost completely took over the market.

Today: Unless you're into historically accurate systems or, for some reason you need to work with P4 1.3GHz, there's very little sense in building such rig these days. The 2.0GHz Pentium 4 is about as fast as a Tualatin 1.4GHz while consuming a lot more power.

Socket 478

Socket 478

There are four major cores available for this socket: Willamette, Northwood, Prescott and Gallatin.

  • Willamette is exactly the same basic core found in the earliest Socket-423 CPUs. Support for these can be found in any period chipset: Intel 850, Intel 845, VIA P4X266, SiS645. Few Intel Celeron processors were introduced, based on something called Willamette-128, with reduced L2 cache. Perfomance drop mixed with already questionable P4 architecture made these a poor choice for most if its production cycle.

Best used: As a static exhibit.

  • Northwood is the first upgrade to Intel's NetBurst design. L2 cache is double that of a Willamette (512kB vs 256kB), manufacturing process moved to 130nm (the same as Tualatin), minor bugs and perfomance bottlenecks taken care of. Northwood is supported by pretty much any early 2000s P4 chipset, although in some cases, microcode update is required (system might still boot, but won't show proper CPU information). Hyper-Threading technology was available for some models since late-2002. As with the earlier Willamette-128, the Northwood-128 was introduced sometime after the main Pentium 4 lineup.

This was the first core to hit 800MHz FSB, and with it, Intel also pushed out their i865/i875P chipsets. Asustek used PAT technology to (presumably) push memory timings and some of the chipset core logic beyond specifications, something that helped their boards (ASUS P4P800 and P4C800 series) to be 15-20% faster than competition in some cases.

Northwood core is also known for Sudden Northwood Death Syndrome or SNDS. Setting the CPU voltage above certain level will gradually damage critical areas of the silicon, causing glitches, and ultimately, in some cases, rendering the CPU completely useless. There is no internal circuit to prevent this or even warn the user of a danger ahead. Keep that in mind while picking up used Northwood P4, as they generally were highly overclockable.

Best used: With i850E and RDRAM. Northwoods with 800MHz FSB go with i875P chipset.

  • Gallatin is essentially Northwood core with 2MB of L3 cache, first branded as Xeon, and later brought into High-end/Enthusiast desktop computer market under Pentium 4 Extreme Edition brand name. It is the first Intel CPU for home use featuring three levels of cache. Performance-wise it wasn't much faster than the competition, but because of its price and status, it became quite rare and collectible.

Best used: As a static exhibit, or with i875P chipset.

  • Prescott is the last core alailable for Socket-478. It's a big upgrade from the Northwood architecture, and is not supported by most early chipsets. Its low-end counterpart is Prescott-256 Celeron D. Intel 845E/PE chipsets are known to support Prescott through a BIOS update (if released by the motherboard manufacturer), although i865/i875P would be your best choice anyways. No earlier chipset is known to support this core officially, but as with most earlier designs, such CPU might still work.

Best used: With i875P or i915P chipset.

Today: Socket 478 is a classic and versatile platform for a retro PC enthusiast. The most interesting are perhaps Northwood and Gallatin. Gallatin (the Extreme Edition chip) is pretty rare and collectible, while Northwood is on the other side of the scale -- easy to obtain, no compatibility issues, reasonable performance for most retro activities. Prescott-based Celeron D may also work fine if you're looking for a straightforward single-threaded solution.

Socket 775

Socket 775

Otherwise known as LGA 775. Prescott and Cedar Mill Pentium 4 CPUs, Dual-Core Pentium D, and of course Core 2, used this socket. Early LGA 775 boards do not support Core 2, although later boards often support all LGA 775 CPUs.

Uniquely, "combo" LGA 775 boards with older Intel 865 chipset were popular for a short period of time. Some of those support Core 2 CPUs as well. ASUS P5PE-VM is one such board. Combined with single-core Celeron 400 series CPU, it results in system that features quite an extraordinary mix:

  • Fully Win98 compatible, with complete device driver support.
  • AGP 4x/8x that can reliably run with GeForce 256 and even later Riva TNT2s.
  • Single-core CPU which is a direct descendant to Intel's own, "classic" P6 architecture.
  • 35 Watts TDP compared to ~100 Watts for Pentium 4s of the time. When downclocking to 533MHz FSB, passive cooling should be sufficient.
  • Serial ATA or IDE drives supported.

The last Intel chipset to officially support Windows 98/ME is i925XE. It is capable of running most of the 90s games designed for Windows 98, and using PCI-E graphic card is rarely a brickwall.

Today: LGA 775 with i945/i955 or later chipset is not an option for old games because these boards do not support Windows 9x. While i915/i925 chipsets do support Windows 9x, i865 is a more classic design, with AGP and no obvious obstacles in running any Windows 9x game. Another way of enjoying LGA 775 build is retro-overclocking -- pretty much any regular Cedar Mill core Celeron D can go up to 7GHz+ with proper cooling, and reaching 8GHz+ promises world recognition to such overclocker or team.