Intel brings the Pentium 4 to 3.2GHz

The Pentium 4 processor got a little faster Monday, as Intel Corp. bumped up the processor’s clock speed to 3.2GHz, making it the fastest chip in Intel’s product line.

The new processor has an 800MHz front-side bus and support for hyperthreading, two features that have been rolled out to most Pentium 4 chips over the last few months. Hyperthreading is a technique used to make a single processor handle more than one instruction thread at the same time.

Intel has recently played up the features of its processors and its chipsets more than the actual clock speed of the chip, which represents a change in the company’s marketing strategy, said Shane Rau, an analyst with IDC in Mountain View, Calif. In past years, the Santa Clara, Calif., company preferred to emphasize its ability to scale its Northwood processor core to higher and higher frequencies, but now emphasizes several performance metrics when discussing its chips, he said.

The 3.2GHz Pentium 4 processor will likely carry the performance lead for Intel until the launch of Prescott, scheduled to be its first 90-nanometer processor, later this year, Rau said. An Intel spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company would release another Pentium 4 chip before Prescott, but an Intel executive earlier this year said that Prescott would follow the launch of the 3.2GHz Pentium 4.

The company is shipping processors to system vendors worldwide as of Monday, Intel said. The new Pentium 4 processor costs US$637 in quantities of 1,000 units.