Intel's 3GHz Pentium 4 processor makes program multitasking easy

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Intel's 3GHz Pentium 4 processor makes program multitasking easy

The latest Pentium 4 processor uses parallel processing to run applications faster or run two applications simultaneously, writes Eric Doyle.

The 3.06GHz chip uses Intel's Hyper-Threading technology which allows two programs, or threads, to operate at the same time, effectively making the single Pentium 4 chip PC behave as though it was a dual-processor model.

Many applications do not need 3GHz of processing power so Hyper-Threading means that two programs can run independently within the single chip.

For example, a security program such as an anti-virus checker could run behind a spreadsheet or an e-mail application without the user experiencing any reduction in performance.

Rather than running two applications, a single application can run faster if the developer splits the code into two threads that can be executed in parallel.

Rick Skett, Intel's director and country manager for the UK and Ireland, said this can offer speed increases of 25% over normal performance. Similarly, threaded operating systems, such as Windows XP and Linux, will run faster.

With previous Pentium chips, running two applications simultaneously could cause problems, especially if one required constant data streams.

For example, transferring files to a recordable CD requires an uninterrupted data flow and if this fails the process will abort and the CD is rendered useless. Before Hyper-threading, the best advice was to avoid running any other programs while burning a CD because a peak in activity by the companion program could cause the burn to fail.

With Hyper-threading, the two activities run independently and this means that PC users become more efficient because they can continue working while the CD is created.

Systems using the 3GHz Pentium 4 with its new chipset and Bios include the Pavilion 793 from Hewlett-Packard and the Dimension 8250 and Optiplex business PCs from Dell. The price of a complete system will be from $1,699 (£1,075).

The chip's price, in quantities of 1,000, is $637 each. The previous top-speed Pentium 4 running at 2.8GHz is expected to fall in price from $508 to $401.

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