Intel Corp., as expected, today introduced its highest-speed, 1.7GHz Pentium 4 processor, at a bargain-basement $352 price. The Santa Clara, Calif., chip giant also demonstrated its new 1.4-GHz Xeon (code-named Foster), designed for servers and workstations, at the National Association of Broadcasters connvention in Las Vegas.
The 1.7-GHz clock speed is expected to compensate for any of the performance penalties caused by the chip's deep, 20-stage pipeline due to prefetch misprediction delays. Nathan Brookwood, analyst at InSight64, Saratoga, Calif., said any pipeline delays are more than offset by the higher operating speed.
However, the chip's $352 introduction price attracted the most attention. It was half the $700 price that Intel had originally informed customers of several months ago. That has set up a ripple effect of Pentium 4 price cuts of other speed grades in the line.
As reported, by the first of May Intel will have cut all Pentium 4 types to 50% below the level at the beginning of April. Analysts said the steep cuts are to jumpstart the sluggish Pentium 4 ramp up to now, and to attack archrival Advanced Micro Devices' growing strength in the top-end consumer PC market.
The new 1.4-GHz Xeon server processor, slated to be unveiled this quarter, uses the same quad-pumped 400-MHz bus architecture as the Pentium 4. The first iteration of the new Xeon chip will be for workstations using a new Intel 860 chipset and Direct Rambus memory.
Next quarter, Intel will unveil the server version, a third party ServerWorks chipset supporting DDR memory, while the existing Pentium 4 desktop processors only use Intel's 850 chipset, which is now solely supporting Direct Rambus memory.
In the third quarter, Intel Intel will introduce its 845 Brookdale chipset supporting SDRAM and later DDR memory for Pentium 4.
Intel is hoping the new Xeon processors will turn-around a dropoff in server chip sales caused by the dot.com crash and economic slowdown. But that turnaround will take some time, as server OEMs gradually phase in new product lines over a long transition period.