October 14, 2004 10:49 AM PDT

Intel kills plans for 4GHz Pentium

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Intel is dumping plans to release a Pentium 4 processor that runs at 4GHz, saying it will boost performance on next year's chips using other means than clock speed.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip company said it plans to brief PC manufacturers Thursday on the latest changes to its processor road map. The main change is that the 4GHz Pentium 4--scheduled for release early next year and originally due out at the end of 2004--won't come out at all now.

Instead, Intel will boost performance on its chips by increasing the size of the cache, a pool of memory located on the processor for rapid data access. Current mainstream Pentium 4s now have 1MB cache. In the future, these chips will have 2MB of cache, like Intel's Xeon server chips and the "Extreme Edition" Pentium 4s designed for gaming PCs.

Intel will continue to come out with Extreme Edition chips by boosting the bus speed and cache size, said Bill Kirby, director of platform marketing at Intel.

The first mainstream Pentium 4 with 2MB of cache will run at 3.8GHz and come out early next year, an Intel representative said. Larger caches will then cascade down the Pentium 4 product line, the representative added.

The chipmaker also intends to emphasize more sharply technologies such as 64-bit functionality, HyperThreading and a security technology called LaGrande. It will also increase development efforts on dual-core chips with the goal of a 2005 release.

Intel has already "taped out," or completed, the design on its dual-core Pentium-style chips, Kirby said, a major milestone that Intel has not announced until now. Typically, chips start to come out a year or so after taping out.

Behind the shift is Intel President Paul Otellini, who wants the company to move away from focusing on increases in chip speed, measured in megahertz, as the primary way to increase performance. Intel has talked about such a shift for years, but remained fond of the clock-speed approach until recently. Speeches by executives about moving away from megahertz were often closely followed by announcements of faster chips.

Technically, Intel could likely come out with a 4GHz chip, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Hobbyists are already running Pentium 4s at 6GHz, and game machine specialist Alienware is selling an overclocked 4GHz system.

On the other hand, Intel would have to put so many engineering and testing resources into qualifying a 4GHz Pentium to work in all conditions that the cost would far outweigh any financial benefit. Because Intel's dual-core chips are set for release in 2005, only a few thousand 4GHz chips would likely have been sold, McCarron said.

"It's somewhat embarrassing, in that they have promised this product for a really, really long time," McCarron said. "But it was the right decision to make."

Problems with power consumption and heat that accompany megahertz increases are likely another spur for the change. Processors with larger caches or two cores can run at lower speeds than conventional chips--hence they produce less heat and consume less energy, but provide better performance. "Hot spots"--high energy centers on chips that crank out heat--can also be spread out or reduced.

To further reduce power consumption, the company plans to begin in 2007 to produce a desktop chip code-named Merom. The processor is based on the more energy-efficient architectures from Intel's notebook chip line-up.

Chips with larger caches can be more expensive to make, because fewer can be produced out of a single wafer. Two factors, however, will soften the overall impact of a larger chip size. Earlier this year, Intel shifted to the 90-nanometer manufacturing process, which leads to smaller chips. The company also said that, because of an inventory surplus, it will scale back production in the current quarter.

"When you aren't running the fabs at 100 percent, there is no (financial) penalty to doing this," McCarron said.

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In a press release today
In a press release today, Intel announced that they will no longer compete based on hard, measurable evidence of superiority but rather by tweaking existing chips and making up buzzword features to appear to be improving their products.

"My product is better than yours because I named it with a higher number than you, trademarked more nifty sounding features that dont really do anything and no one really knows what they mean and of course because we say so."

Yeah thats worked so well for the video card industry. Every manufacturer has all these cool sounding features that mean nothing to the end user but no hard numbers to compare.

Lovely.. caveat empor just took on a whole new level in the CPU market.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
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YES!
God bless you! SOMEONE gets it!
Posted by (22 comments )
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Isn't That What They've Been Doing For Years Now?
When the average Joe goes into a store to buy a computer, is he going to buy the 2.6 ghz P4 computer, or the superior 2.2 ghz AMD computer? No, he's gonna buy the P4 because "it's faster."
Posted by Lucky Bob (47 comments )
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They'll actually have to increase efficiency
Intel will actually have to work at increasing efficiency for once!
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
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Slow-thinking but bigger brain
OK, so what good is it for most of us regular end users if Intel
keeps pushing processor speeds higher and higher while
Windows keeps getting slower, clunkier and less safe? It's like
having the biggest brain in the class but the slowest mind too. I
still can't believe my old Pentium II laptop running Win98 runs as
fast (if not faster) than the brand new WinXP P4 desktops at my
office. Intel knows how to cater to us dumb Americans who
easily fall for the "bigger=better", "faster=got to have it"
egocentric trap all the time.
Posted by (1 comment )
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