Pentium 4 uses hyperthreading

Intel Corp. launched its latest Pentium 4 desktop processor earlier this month, the first P4 to break the 3GHz speed barrier.

The new chip features a clock speed of 3.06GHz and is also the first Pentium to feature hyperthreading technology, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said.

Designed for the “high-performance” business user, hyperthreading technology (HT) allows software programs to “see” two processors at once, said Doug Cooper, country manager for Toronto-based Intel of Canada.

Intel chips with hyperthreading can execute multiple software threads found in newer products such as Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP or the latest version of Word.

Already built into its Xeon range of server processors, Cooper said users running multiple applications simultaneously will see a 30 per cent increase in performance.

Background applications such as continuous virus scanning, encryption, or compression can be run simultaneously with unused processor resources without slowing the performance of foreground applications, Cooper added.

Multitasking is becoming a significant trend in the industry, Cooper said, adding the technology allows IT managers in a multitasking environment to boost efficiency and security with new services while reducing disruptions for employees.

The key to taking advantage of hyperthreading is not simply to run multiple programs or a multithreaded application, but to make sure that those programs hammer the CPU with tasks, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. “Both threads need to be throwing instructions at the processor simultaneously,” he said.

The technology is poised to take advantage of recent and future intensive applications including e-learning, peer-to-peer and grid computing, and Web services, Cooper said.

But this also depends on whether support for hyperthreading is built into the operating system and software. Some versions of Linux and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP feature support, but earlier editions of Windows do not, and application software support is limited.

Michelle Warren, market analyst at Evans Research Corp. in Toronto, noted that many enterprises haven’t yet migrated to XP and don’t plan on doing so in the near future.

It will be at least until the second half of 2003 before the high-end technology makes an imprint in the enterprise space, Warren said.

The chip costs US$637 in bulk quantities of 1,000 units, a significant premium over Intel’s second-fastest desktop processor, the 2.8GHz version of its Pentium 4.

Coinciding with the launch, several PC vendors announced systems featuring the new processor.

Dell Computer Corp. announced the Precision 350 workstation and the OptiPlex GX260 and SX260 for business users will carry the new chip as an option for users buying through Dell’s build-to-order system.

Dell’s business users can also choose from either OptiPlex model, with a sample configuration of the SX260 with the new Pentium 4, 256MB of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 20GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, and a 15-inch flat-panel display priced at US$1,854.

HP has also made the chip available in its Compaq Evo D310 line of corporate desktops and workstations, an HP representative said.

-With files from IDG News Service