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Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Latest Pentium 4 picks up speed

MORE HORSEPOWER Intel's Prescott processor will be available at speeds ranging from 2.8 GHz to 3.2 GHz, while a 4 GHZ model is expected by the end of the year


Intel Corp was to launch the next generation of its flagship Pentium 4 microprocessor yesterday, adding more memory to the chip and other features that should allow it to reach record speeds of up to 4 gigahertz by the end of the year.

The processor code-named Prescott will be available at speeds ranging from 2.8 GHz to 3.2 GHz, with a 3.4 GHz model expected within a few months, said Bill Siu, vice president and general manager of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group.

The updated Pentium 4 will have 125 million transistors, up from about 55 million in the previous models. Most of those tiny switches will be devoted to doubling the memory on each chip from 512 kilobytes to 1 megabyte, Siu said.

The chips will be physically smaller as Intel, for the first time, deployed an updated process technology that creates chip features as small as 90 nanometers. That also will make production more efficient, because more die can be made from each silicon wafer.

"This is, we think, a very exciting and important milestone not just for Intel but for the industry," Siu said.

He declined to comment on reports that Intel added circuits that would eventually enable strict, hardware-based security -- and possibly iron-fisted copyright protection schemes.

Intel also would not comment on whether its latest chip might someday support 64-bit extensions, which would make it possible to add memory beyond today's 4 gigabyte limit.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc is already selling 64-bit chips for desktops, even though most software does not yet support it.

"Our position has always been Intel will offer these capabilities when the ecosystem, including operating systems and other things, is there to support it," Siu said.

Intel has in the past added features to a new processor but only switched them on later. In 2002, it released the Pentium 4 with Hyper-Threading, which tricks the operating system into thinking a PC has two chips instead of one. Hyper-Threading was inside previous Pentium 4s, but not enabled.

Prices of the new Prescott chips, when purchased in bulk, range from US$178 for the 2.8 GHz model to US$417 for the 3.4 GHz version.

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