Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. rang in the New Year on Monday by moving the clock forward on their top-performing processors, releasing their fastest PC chips to date.
Intels launch of two new Pentium 4 processors, a 2.2GHz and 2GHz "A" version (with twice the on-die memory as the companys previous top-performing 2GHz chip), marks the product lines transition to a new manufacturing process that will enable the worlds top chip maker to produce faster, smaller and less costly chips.
AMD, Intels top rival in the PC market, countered by releasing the Athlon XP 2000+, a 1.67GHz chip that the Sunnyvale, Calif., manufacturer claims will outperform Intels 2GHz product in handling many applications—spurring the use of the "2000+" label.
Prior to Mondays release, AMDs fastest chip was a 1.6GHz Athlon XP 1900+.
The newest processors from Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., are being produced using a 0.13-micron manufacturing process that allows the chip maker to make already microscopic components even smaller, resulting in smaller die sizes that are less costly to produce.
Overall, the new processors are more than 30 percent smaller than previous Pentium 4 versions and feature twice as much on-chip memory, 512KB, as previous versions.
In addition, the new chips are built using copper, rather than aluminum, interconnects. Copper conducts electricity better than aluminum, helping boost processor efficiency and performance.
While AMD already produces chips using copper interconnects, it wont transition to the more advanced 0.13-micron manufacturing process for its top-performing chips until later this year.
The Athlon XP 2000+ is priced at $339 in volume, while the 2.2GHz and 2GHz Pentium 4 are listed at $562 and $364, respectively, based on 1,000-unit quantities.
Intel on Monday also announced that the 845 chip set packaged with the Pentium 4 is now capable of handling a new memory technology called double-data-rate synchronous DRAM (DDR SDRAM).
Initially, Intels Pentium 4 chip sets only supported Rambus DRAM (RDRAM), a relatively costly high-speed memory, and SDRAM, currently the most popular PC memory solution. Eventually, many industry analysts expect DDR SDRAM to replace SDRAM as the memory solution used by most PC makers.