Intel readies hyperthreading Pentium 4

Intel Corp. plans to release on Nov. 14 its fastest Pentium 4 processor yet for desktop systems. The chip will also be Intel’s first desktop model with hyperthreading, a technology that is already present in its Xeon server processors and that allows multiple software threads to run more efficiently on a single processor.

The 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor is expected to be unveiled in systems from multinational PC vendors, according to information about the launch event from Intel in Europe. A spokesperson for Intel in Europe declined to comment further on the availability of systems with the new processor.

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 Inc. in Boston.

“We would expect the performance uptake of the 3.06GHz processor will be considerably more than the 200MHz (clock speed increase) 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 Corp.’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 doesn’t 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 (Adobe Systems Inc.’s) Photoshop or video-rendering software will benefit considerably,” he said.

At the recent Intel Developer’s Forum in Tokyo, the company 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 per cent faster.

Company officials said users will likely see performance benefits of up to 30 per cent, 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, based in Santa Clara, Calif., will likely include hyperthreading in all of its future Pentium 4 processors, he said.

– With files from Joris Evers, IDG News Service