System builders and PC customers are facing a confusing year as Intel prepares to unleash a host of new Pentium 4 processors in the next few months.
Market watcher iSuppli claimed that Intel's many proposed chip and technology introductions run the risk of creating "mass confusion" in the marketplace.
Intel is planning to introduce the 600 series and the 800 series of P4 processors shortly, alongside the existing 500 series. Within each series there will also be subdivisions, said iSuppli, as well as many new technologies and features.
The 600 series will boast 2Mb of onboard cache, up from 1Mb in the 500 series, and comes with Intel's 32-64bit Extended Memory Technology. This allows 32bit chips to run 64bit instructions and to address a larger amount of memory.
The 600 series will also come with Enhanced Intel Speed Step (EIST) power management technology - an option in the 500 series - which has been adapted from its mobile processors.
The 800 series of dual-core processors is due to launch at the end of the second quarter. All three lines will run simultaneously. iSuppli has pointed out that there will be too many processors with the same clock speeds but different features and functionality.
Joe D'Elia, research director at iSuppli, said: "This is only the first wave of microprocessor model proliferation. Intel has at least two other technologies lined up that it intends to release after the next batch of introductions: Vanderpool and Intel Active Management Technology.
"One wonders how Intel will differentiate the nomenclature of its products when these features are implemented. With the confusion likely to arise from all of these permutations, the ancient dictum caveat emptor applies more than ever. It will be up to customers to ensure they are getting what they think they want."
Les Billing, managing director of distributor Microtronica, said: "There is always a risk when introducing so many new things. The problem is that 'megahertz' is something you can no longer rely on as a performance indicator.
"Intel is right to focus on other things that matter more, such as adding extra cache and bringing out a 64bit processor. It's a big challenge for Intel and us, but there is also a big opportunity for those motherboard manufacturers and system builders that react fastest to the new additions."
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