Intel's Prescott chip gets rebuilt for speed

Intel has redesigned a key element in an upcoming version of the Pentium 4 processor to allow the chip to hit higher speeds, but analysts say the change may only incrementally improve performance at first.

The Prescott processor, an enhanced version of the Pentium 4 set for release in early February, will feature a pipeline--the equivalent of a assembly line inside a chip--that will be substantially longer than the 20-stage pipeline on current Pentium 4s, according to sources. Some sources say that the Prescott pipeline will be around 30 stages. Extending the pipeline in this manner will likely help Intel achieve its goal of selling desktop chips that run at 4GHz in 2004. (The chip will likely debut at around 3.4GHz, according to sources.) An Intel representative would not confirm the length of the Prescott pipeline but said it was indeed longer than the one found on the Pentium 4.

"It will have a larger pipeline," the representative said. "The larger the pipeline, you can do less work per clock and speed up the processor." However, the change will also likely create controversy, in that critics are likely to say that Intel is increasing the speed of its chips merely for show. Consumers and many businesses tend to concentrate on chip speed, measured in gigahertz, when choosing a PC to buy. The higher the speed, the higher the price tends to be.

News source: C|Net

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