Intel, AMD preview 1.5GHz processors

Intel, however, looks poised to take over the bragging rights for the speediest processor on the market. Systems based on its Pentium 4 processor running at 1.4 GHz and 1.5 GHz are set for launch on November 20 in tandem with the official release of the new CPUs.

AMD, meanwhile, is scheduled to ship a 1.5-GHz version of its Athlon processor in the first half of 2001, company officials say. AMD showed off a prototype system with the new processor behind closed doors at the trade show.

Speed race begins again?

"We had the speed record for a while, and now they will have it for a while," says David Somo, vice president of marketing in AMD's computation products group. While AMD's fastest Athlon currently on the market clocks in at 1.2 GHz, Intel has managed to hit only 1 GHz with its Pentium III series, following a recall of a 1.13-GHz version earlier this year.

System vendors including Gateway and Toshiba demonstrated prototype systems featuring the 1.5-GHz P4 at the show.

In closed-door briefings with media and analysts, Intel also showed off similar systems from several other major PC vendors.

Do you need the speed?

While systems supporting the P4 will launch early next week, they'll likely be too expensive at first for all but the most demanding desktop users, says Mike Feibus, principal analyst for Mercury Research.

"The message is clear: If you just run Quicken it's not for you," he says.

Most users interested in an Intel processor will choose the PIII through much of next year, he says.

Intel doesn't expect the P4 to overtake the PIII in terms of sales volume until early 2002, says George Alfs, a company spokesperson. The company hopes to pull that crossover date inward as production ramps on the P4, he says.

Feibus expects prices on P4 systems to come down steadily throughout 2001.

The number of programs optimised for the P4 is steadily growing, Alfs says. Intel showed off some of those applications at its P4 Processor Software Pavilion on the showroom floor. Dozens of independent software vendors demonstrated applications designed to take advantage of the P4's new features. There are currently more than 60 such applications, Alfs says.

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