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3GHz P4 launch date set for 14 November

Intel promises big performance boost, but do PC Advisor's tests back this up?

Intel's Pentium 4 processor is set to reach 3GHz on 14 November. The chip, which will run at 3.06GHz, will also be the first desktop processor to include hyperthreading, the performance enhancing technology already found in Xeon server processors, that allows multiple software threads to run more efficiently on a single processor.

Thanks to the inclusion of this new technology, Peter Kastner, chief research officer for Aberdeen Group says: "We would expect the performance uptake of the 3.06GHz processor will be considerably more than the 200MHz (clock speed increase) from the 2.8GHz Pentium 4."

Most modern software is written with multiple threads. An example of multithreaded software is the latest version of Microsoft Word which comes with an automatic spellchecker than runs in the background while the user types, Kastner said. This background operation is a software thread that doesn't require much processing power, so today's processors can handle the swapping back and forth between software threads.

"You won't see a lot of difference in Word, but software like Photoshop or video-rendering software will benefit considerably," he said.

At the recent Intel Developer's Forum in Tokyo, the company demonstrated the benefits hyperthreading stands to bring users. Two machines equipped with 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processors, one with hyperthreading turned on and the other with it turned off, were set to do identical tasks. The hyperthreading machine ran tasks, which included video encoding while running an Office macro, around 20 percent faster.

Company officials said users will likely see performance benefits of up to 30 percent, depending on the application, in hyperthreading processors.

But when PC Advisor tested a PC based on the latest 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor, away from the watchful eyes of Intel, the results weren't quite as conclusive. While it did top the speed stakes in our video encoding tests, and was an excellent performer for games, its WorldBench test results were less impressive.

It scored better in our tests with hyperthreading turned off, illustrating that many common applications won't really benefit from the new technology. To see the true potential of hyperthreading it looks like we will have to wait until the software developers write code that genuinely takes advantage of it.

To read a full review of the 3GHz P4 PC see the January 03 issue of PC Advisor, which is coincidentally due out on the launch date — 14 November.

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