Intel is showing off its P4 muscle again. At a show Wednesday in Taipei, Taiwan, the company demonstrated its upcoming 2GHz Pentium 4. First demonstrated at IDF in August 2000, the company trotted out the speedy chip to remind vendors it will begin shipping the product as scheduled in the third quarter of this year.
It's been a busy week for Intel. Monday the company launched its 1.7GHz P4, which puts the chip significantly ahead of Advanced Micro Devices' 1.33GHz Athlon processor in terms of raw megahertz. However, Digit tests continue to show the two chips neck and neck on many real-world benchmarks.
Intel spokesperson George Alfs insists the P4 outperforms the Athlon, and says the chip's true performance chops will to come to light as more software companies optimize their products for use with it.
Analyst Kevin Krewell of MicroDesign Resources says those newly optimized programs, when added to the upcoming 2GHz chip's growing speed advantage, should give the P4 a leg up on the Athlon in terms of performance, even as that chip reaches 1.5GHz in coming months.
"Intel is making an aggressive move to bump up the frequency again," he says. "That was the whole point of the P4's new architecture." When the P4 hits 2GHz and the Athlon is at 1.5GHz, the speed gap will start to show up in performance, he says.
Intel designed the P4 for larger MHz leaps, Krewell says. It was only a year ago that Intel and AMD were cranking up their processors in 33MHz increments, he notes. Now the P4 is moving upward in 200 and 300MHz leaps.
Shift From PIII to P4
Intel launched the P4 chip at 1.5 and 1.4GHz last November, then back-filled with 1.3GHz chips. The company has quickly ramped up production to take the processor from high-end machines only to mainstream buyers, Alfs says. The company has already passed the one million mark for P4s shipped, he says.
And despite a slowdown in the PC industry, the fast production increase, and a $300 million advertising campaign, is working quite well, Alfs says. The P4 is working its way down the price ladder, and already there are 1.3GHz P4 systems.
MDR's Krewell agrees that the P4's move into the mainstream is happening fast. "Intel wants to obsolete the PIII as soon as possible," he says. By the first quarter of next year, he doesn't expect to see any PIII-labelled desktop processors left on the market.
Intel has no intention of slowing things down. In the fourth quarter of this year, the company plans to release the next version of the P4, codenamed Northwood. Intel will make the chip using its next-generation .13-micron process instead of the current .18-micron process. As a result, the new P4 will be smaller and cheaper to make, as well as faster.
Krewell expects Intel to launch the Northwood version of the P4 at well beyond 2GHz, at speeds of 2.3 or 2.4 GHz.