3GHz Pentium 4 delay indefinite

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Australian channel partners will be informed “as soon as possible” what date shipments of the 3GHz Pentium 4 chip will start, an Intel Australia spokesman has promised.

Shipments of the just-launched chip, which has a system bus potentially up to 50 per cent faster than the previous version, were delayed on Monday when Intel discovered a performance-related “anomaly” at the last minute.

“Our technical people in the US are still looking into the issue and as soon as we have details we'll let [partners] know,” the spokesman said.

He said Intel did not yet know what was wrong with the chip, but technical staff had noticed a performance-based anomaly of a “small number” of the 3GHz processors during final testing with 800MHz buses.

Frank Sheu, MD at components distributor Synnex Australia, said the company had received many enquiries for the new chip. Intel chip sales account for 10 per cent of Synnex's business by volume.

The chip supports Intel Hyper-Threading (HT) and an 800MHz bus, instead of the previous 533MHz bus. Hyper-threading helps users perform concurrent complex tasks – such as games, 3D modelling or video editing.

The new chipset, the Intel 875P, supports dual-channel DDR400 MHz system memory, a feature Intel believes will further improve performance across multimedia applications.

“Because of the Hyper-Threading, there has been good demand,” Sheu said. “Our problem is our selling price for clients, so we love the high-performance technologies when we can sell some quantity.”

The Intel spokesman said the company believed the chip would be worth the wait, with performance improvements, based on the faster system bus and a new chipset platform, expected to be “significant”.

However, Sheu said available hardware often could not support promised improvements in chip performance. More improvements across the board were needed to reap full benefits for the end-user.

“A lot of desktops still can't do the job,” Sheu said. “If you're going to convince customers to upgrade their machines, then you've got to continue to drive the technology cycle,” he said.

Phil Cribb, group manager for Intel products at Sydney-based distributor TodayTech, said that in his experience Intel was careful not to release products until they were ready. He did not think the delay of the 3GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with HT would significantly affect demand.

“While I don't know how much demand there has been, because there has been a premium price point [on that product] what we'll find is that customers wanting to purchase a high-end system will probably wait,” Cribb said. The 3GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor with HT and 800 MHz system bus will cost $417 each in quantites of 1000. The Intel 875P chipset costs $53 with RAID, $50 without RAID.

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