Intel has taken the wraps off its latest Pentium 4 processors, the first chips produced using the company's new 90 nanometre (nm) manufacturing process.
Formerly codenamed Prescott, the four new chips come in 2.8, 3.0, 3.2 and 3.4GHz flavours and herald Intel's plan to shift manufacturing away from the current 0.13 micron process.
The new manufacturing process has allowed Intel not only to reduce the size of the chip by 15 per cent but also to cram in 125 million transistors, compared with the 55 million in current Pentium 4 processors. The chip giant claimed this will allow for a better performance at a lower price.
Chips built using the new process retain the multitasking Hyper-Threading Technology and include an enhanced Intel NetBurst micro-architecture, a larger 1MB of Level 2 cache and 13 new instructions.
There has been speculation that the transistors contain functionality relating to additional security or 64bit extensions that have not been turned on yet, but Intel declined to comment on these rumours. Intel is under increasing pressure to come up with a rival 64bit technology to compete with AMD's popular 64bit Opteron.
"Intel is the first company in the world to have a 90nm product in high-volume production," said Bill Siu, general manager of Intel's desktop platforms group.
"This new manufacturing technology, along with numerous architectural enhancements, enables us to continue delivering products that allow end-users to interact with a wide variety of digital devices.
"These processors provide improved responsiveness for today's corporate and home applications, and offer headroom for the next wave of technologies."
Terry Fisher, business development manager at Compusys, said: "We have samples at the moment. It will take a little while, however, for these processors to get into businesses because they are not really aware of the benefits.
"Intel is very confident in the new manufacturing process, though. It should have some real impact on the Xeon processors, where higher clock speeds are important, particularly for high-performance applications."
The new 3.0 and 3.2GHz versions are shipping immediately, according to Intel, with the 3.4GHz version due later in the first quarter.
The sheer number of transistors in the new processors means the world's first 4GHz processor can be expected before the end of the year.
In 1,000-unit batches, the processors are priced at $178, $218, $278 and $417 for the 2.8, 3.0, 3.2 and 3.4GHZ versions respectively.
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