Intel’s 2.2GHz Pentium 4 hits the streets early

Intel Corp.’s newest microprocessor, the next generation 2.2GHz version of its Pentium 4 chip, went on sale in Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district on Thursday afternoon, ahead of its official launch date in January.

The new processor is not just a faster version of the company’s previous chips but is the first new chip to be based on Intel’s Northwood core. Produced using a state-of-the-art 0.13 micron production process rather than the 0.18 micron process used for current Willamette cores, the Northwood cores include double the amount of layer 2 cache memory, 512k bytes, which should translate into higher performance for users. The Northwood core also uses less power and runs at a lower voltage – 1.5 volts against 1.75 volts for the Willamette.

Along with the new 2.2GHz chip, a 2.0GHz Pentium 4 based on the Northwood core is also due to be officially launched soon but, like the new processor, has already made its Akihabara debut, appearing a couple of days before Christmas.

Prices for the 2.2GHz processor range from 79,800 yen to 81,800 yen (US$609 to $624) depending on the store while the 2.0AGHz version (the letter A signifies the first generation Northwood core) is selling for around 60,000 yen.

Those prices may drop soon, however. An internal Intel roadmap, seen by IDG News Service in late November, had the 2.2GHz Pentium 4 intially debuting in early January for $615 but being cut to $560 on Jan. 27. If Intel sticks to these plans, the new chip should be 9 percent cheaper in one month.

The launch of the new chips comes at a time when high-performance Pentium 4 systems are getting cheaper for consumers. The launch earlier in December of Intel’s 845D chipset means PC makers can now couple DDR (double data rate) memory with the processor. DDR memory has the advantage of being both low cost – it is just a little more expensive than conventional SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) memory – and high-performance, delivering around the same performance as Rambus DRAM.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at