Three gig chip can walk and chew gum at same time

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Chip giant Intel has broken the 3GHz clock speed barrier with its latest P4 microprocessor and introduced a chip architecture dubbed “hyper-threading” (HT).

Intel claimed HT - suitable for users wanting to work with multiple graphics-intensive applications at one time - lets the processor work on two separate threads at the same time rather than one. HT is also used in Intel's server architectures.

Only the Windows XP, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Red Hat Linux operating systems support HT. Vendors, system builders and OEMs will also be required to select new chipsets that support the technology. Intel is using the “845GE” label to identify these chipsets.

At a surprisingly low-key event at Sydney's IMAX theatre, David Bolt, MD at Intel Australia, said the 3GHz P4 would increase PC performance by at least 25 percent and would be attractive to users that want to handle multiple applications at the same time. The chip costs US$637 (A$1274) in 1000 unit quantities.

Darren Tan, desktop product manager at one of Intel's largest local distributors Synnex, said the new chip would be attractive mainly to high-end gamers. Synnex will take stock of between 150 and 200 units this month, picking up to around 300 units in January, he said.

One issue with the chip is the limited availability of the cases that are placed around the processor. “The real concern is the chassis solution for it - not many people have it available,” he said. He was referring to the P4 cases that have an air duct which pump out excess heat from the CPU cooling fan.

“We're only bringing limited stock in to test the market,” he said. But demand for the 3GHz chip will be better than the 2.8GHz version mainly due to the fact that it breaks the 3GHz barrier. Another issue was that there are only a “limited” numbers of applications that support HT. He said that some retailers are already asking for the chip, but the real demand will come from gamers. Corporate organisations are more likely to stick with their existing 2GHz and 2.4GHz boxes, he said.

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