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Saturday, 16 November, 2002, 10:08 GMT
'Double' chip promises faster PCs
Intel chip, Intel
Intel has broken the 3Ghz chip barrier
The chip inside your computer is about to get better at doing its job.

The world's largest chip maker Intel is introducing technology that tricks a computer into thinking it has two chips instead of one.

Called hyper-threading, the technology can speed up programs by up to 25%, says Intel.

Both Intel and its partner Microsoft are promoting the technology, hoping it will help to boost sales of computers and software.

Two in one

The use of hyper-threading on desktop machines has been described by Intel as a major innovation. Before now the technology has only been used in servers.

Two Intel chips, Intel
PC sees two chips instead of one
It makes a single computer chip act like two by allowing a processor to carry out different tasks at the same time.

This is a cheaper alternative than having two chips in a computer.

"This will effectively allow a single chip to see two processors," said Rick Skett, Director of Intel UK and Ireland. "It will enable people to do what they want with their PCs and not have to wait."

Before now chip makers have used many different tricks to speed up the way that processors work to make them look like they are doing two things at once.

Technologies known as pipelining, which splits tasks into small chunks, and multitasking, which splits up the time a chip devotes to each task, have been used.

But it is only now that Intel has incorporated the technology into its new 3-gigahertz Pentium 4 chip which the company says is the fastest commercial microprocessor for PCs.

Speed at a price

In a demonstration to journalists, Intel showed how encoding a home movie at the same time as editing a digital photograph was much faster on a hyper-threaded computer than an identical machine without the technology.

The technology can be used on computers running Windows XP and Linux, and works best with programs designed to work with hyper-threading technology.

Intel says 40 popular software programs already available make use of the technology and it is working with PC game developers to encourage them to use hyper-threading in future titles.

But the additional power comes at a price. The 3Ghz chips cost $637 (400), far higher Intel's other chips. The cost of the computers range between $1,200 and $3,000 (800 and 2,000).

Some analysts say companies and individuals may be satisfied with the speed of their computers and not willing to pay extra for additional power.

See also:

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