Intel launches first of superfast-bus fleet

Intel is poised to release a version of its powerful but expensive Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor with a chipset containing...

Intel is poised to release a version of its powerful but expensive Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor with a chipset containing a faster front-side bus.

The 3.46GHz Pentium 4EE and the 925XE chipset will be Intel's most powerful desktop PC engine. It also sets the stage for Intel to launch similar processors over the coming year.

The Pentium 4EE is basically the same as the Pentium 4 desktop processor except for 2Mbytes of Level 3 cache compared with 1Mbyte of Level 2 cache on the Pentium 4. Cache memory stores frequently accessed data close to the processor, where it can be reached more quickly than data stored in the main memory, which improves performance.

Intel has decided to stop revving up clock speed to improve processor performance and to use instead bigger caches and multicore designs to create more powerful chips . The company recently cancelled plans for a 4GHz version of the Pentium 4 and said it would increase the cache of Pentium 4 processors to 2Mbytes and release dual-core processors, expected by the end of next year.

System performance will also improve because of the 925XE chipset's new 1066MHz front-side bus. Previously, Intel's fastest front-side bus topped out at 800MHz.

The Pentium 4EE costs PC makers $999 (£545) compared with $417 for Intel's most powerful Pentium 4. The chip is generally marketed to gamers and PC enthusiasts, who are willing to pay extra for performance.

Dell plans to release a new version of its Dimension XPS gaming desktop PC at the same time as the new Pentium 4EE and 925XE chipset appear. The Dell's system has a new chassis and can add up to three 400Gbyte hard drives that can be used in a Raid configuration. A base system costs $2,759 including 512Mbytes of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM and a 80Gbyte hard drive.

Hewlett-Packard and Gateway will evaluate the technology before making a decision on when or if they will release products with the chip, according to company spokeswomen.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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