At Christmas 1994, Intel's big Q3 launch was the original Pentium processor, rated at 60MHz. It's amazing to think that that stupid jingle's been driving us nuts for a decade, and the current version is 50 times faster than the first model ten years later. While rival AMD overtook the company in a less than meteoric rise by mercilessly ploughing the value sector, Intel, with a slightly greater fondness for keeping its chips cool and reliable, couldn't be written off, continuing development in the mobile sector until the emergence of Centrino.
It abandoned clock speeds in favour of nonedescript model numbers last year but like AMD before it, this made more savvy consumers ever more curious about the true clockspeeds. The Pentium 4 600 Series stays at 3GHz, cycling up to 3.6GHz and to make these more powerful, the cache has been doubled to 2Mb. Speedstep technology, a product of that mobile research, will cut more power when the chip is idle and reduce the need for large-scale cooling. This means the 600 series chips should be arriving on Small Form Factor/Shuttle style PCs and eventually, desktop replacement notebooks.
Intel's Extended Memory 64 Technology will let the new chips to access larger amounts of memory and support newx86-64 instructions - Intel promises that its line of EM64T enabled chips will support the new wave of 64-bit operating systems from Microsoft and various flavours of Linux - whether every single Linux variant and emerging games software will reciprocate, remains to be seen. Mindful of recent developments in the virus wars, the NX instruction has been designed to block deliberately triggered buffer overflow errors by hackers.
Prices range from $224/1000 to $600 per 1000 chips - so the fastest will cost resellers over half a million dollars to buy in - expect to see these in new systems as normal, sold as a whole machine to make good on the margins.
On its tenth birthday, this is where the current Pentium peaks- Since dual processing on a single chip die is the next intended method of acheiving ever faster performance in future, the 600 Series as launched will be the final single-core processor range on the desktop. It's capped off by another step in the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, whose front side bus runs at 1.06GHz and its chip speed is pushed up to 3.73GHz. The hitch is, resellers will need just under a million dollars to buy their first batch. (it's $999 per 1000).
The only difference is, AMD axed the 32-Bit AMD Athlon XP range last week, so they won't automatically benefit from rush of value chips - although both companies have their value ranges, they would of course like you to go 64-Bit.