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Chip wars heat up as rivals launch processors

Eric Doyle
Intel's release of a smaller, faster Pentium 4 chip is in danger of being eclipsed by AMD's latest processor, both launched last Monday.

Intel's 2.0 and 2.2GHz Pentium 4, codenamed Northwood, is being aimed at the anticipated needs for music, video and photo-intensive applications in the consumer market, although businesses could benefit from its ability to handle graphics applications, telephony convergence and videoconferencing.

Despite this, initial independent tests by ZDNet in Germany are showing that, while it does perform slightly better for these applications than AMD's Athlon XP2000+, which is only rated at 1.67GHz, the AMD chip has the edge in overall performance, price and size.

Kevin Krewell, an analyst for Microprocessor Report, said that the performance issues will not worry Intel too much because the larger cache size and the potential to boost clock speeds will allow the company to pull away from AMD. The current price gap will also erode, and Krewell said he expects Intel to cut prices because the manufacturing costs of the Northwood are about half that of current Pentium 4s.

The battle will not abate because in the next few weeks AMD also plans to move to a 0.13 micron process, the secret of the new Pentium's decreased size and larger on-chip cache.

Bulk purchase price for the Athlon is $364 (£253) compared to the Pentium at $562.

In the US, Dell has announced a Dimension 8200 Pentium 4 desktop for $1,900 but Compaq's Presario 8000 using Athlon comes to market at less than $1,500.

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