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Intel adds hyperthreading to Pentium 4

Intel is set to release its fastest ever Pentium 4 processor yet for desktop systems next month.

The chip will also be Intel's first desktop model with hyperthreading, a technology that is already present in its Xeon server processors and which allows multiple software threads to run more efficiently on a single processor.

The 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor is expected to feature in systems from multinational PC vendors being launched in the next few months.

Hyperthreading eliminates the wasted clock cycles caused by a single-threading processor in queueing up its next set of instructions, said Peter Kastner, chief research officer for Aberdeen Group.

"We would expect the performance uptake of the 3.06GHz processor will be considerably more than the 200MHz from the 2.8GHz Pentium 4," he said.

Most modern software is written with multiple threads. An example of multithreaded software is the latest version of Microsoft's Word, which comes with an automatic spellchecker than runs in the background while the user types, Kastner said. This background operation is a software thread that does not require much processing power, so today's processors can handle the swapping back and forth between software threads, he said.

"You won't see a heck of a lot of difference in Word, but software like Photoshop or video-rendering software will benefit considerably," he said.

At the recent Intel Developer's Forum in Tokyo, Intel demonstrated the benefits hyperthreading stands to bring users. Two machines equipped with 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processors, one with hyperthreading turned on and the other with it turned off, were set to do identical tasks. The hyperthreading machine ran tasks, which included video encoding while running an Office macro, around 20% faster.

Company officials said users will probably see performance benefits of up to 30%, depending on the application, in hyperthreading processors.

Another benefit of hyperthreading is that it is a proven technology, having been in Xeon processors since February, Kastner said. Intel is expected to include hyperthreading in all of its future Pentium 4 processors, he said.

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