SAN FRANCISCO -- PC users in offices and living rooms can now purchase systems with dual-core processors, as well as chip sets that incorporate a number of new technologies designed to boost performance. Intel formally introduced the two most visible pieces of the chip maker's revamped product design strategy, the Pentium D and accompanying 945 chip set.
Technically, the Pentium D is Intel's second dual-core processor, following the introduction of the Pentium Extreme Edition in April. But the new Pentium D 840, 830, and 820 chips are much less expensive than the Pentium Extreme Edition, and will introduce dual-core technology to far more users than the Extreme Edition chip.
"This is the first dual-core that will make a real impact on the marketplace," said Gerald Holzhammer, vice president of Intel's Digital Home Group and general manager of the consumer client group, during the event.
The launch of the 945G chip set also brings several new technologies, such as virtualization, system management, and high-definition audio, to both consumer and business users. Intel today launched the Professional Business Platform, with its Pentium 4 600 series processors, the 945G and 945P chip sets, and the Intel Pro/1000 Network Adapter, as its first desktop platform modeled on the success of its Centrino notebook PC platform. The 945G chip set features integrated graphics, while the 945P chip set is designed for use with a third-party graphics card.
Last year was a turning point in Intel's recent history. The company made two crucial decisions about its product design strategies, opting to accelerate the development of dual-core processors and focus on integrating technology that boosts overall system performance without relying on increases to clock speed or cache size.
A four-year ride up the clock speed ladder allowed Intel to reach new performance heights; but as the Pentium 4 surged past 3 GHz, reaching the next speed grade became harder and harder due to overheating. Likewise, there's only so much cache memory a chip maker can add before the processor becomes too large to be manufactured efficiently. Building two processor cores onto a single chip will allow Intel to increase performance without having to worry about melting the inside of a PC chassis.
But the company also wants to improve the user experience without having to rely solely on processor performance. This is Intel's "platform" strategy, or its plans for building new technologies into its chip sets. The company started doing this with its hyperthreading technology several years ago, and introduced 64-bit extensions to the desktop earlier this year through chip sets.
Now IT managers will be able to remotely manage PCs, even if they are shut down, through Intel Active Management Technology, one component of the 945G chip set. AMT allows administrators to download software updates to a PC or take inventory of their network through a protected part of the chip set and processor that is transparent to the user.
"AMT provides a significant step forward in managing a PC," said Gregory Bryant, general manager of Intel's Digital Office Platform Division.
Business users can also take advantage of virtualization technology in the 945G chip set to run multiple operating systems on a single PC, or to create partitions on a system. These capabilities are available on servers with software, but the performance of that software is dramatically enhanced by hardware dedicated to virtualization.
However, the virtualization technology will not be available to users until later this year, Bryant said. Users will not need to purchase new hardware to take advantage of it, he said, implying that the capability is built into the 945 chip sets but not yet activated. Intel has done this with several other chip set technologies in the past, such as 64-bit extensions and the execute-disable bit.
While the business features may help users pay the bills, Intel designed some new technology into its chip sets for home PC users more concerned with entertainment. The integrated graphics in the 945G chip set are the company's best yet, and the inclusion of high-definition audio and noise-reduction technology will improve the sounds home users want to hear and stifle the ones they don't, Intel said.
"As more devices and content goes digital, we'll see more a lot more evolution," Holzhammer said.
On Thursday, Intel's PC partners announced several new systems available worldwide with the new technology, both for consumers and business users.
Dell's new Dimension 9100 supports either the dual-core 800 series chips or the 600 series Pentium 4 chips. A base configuration with the new 945P chip set costs $1299 with the Pentium 4 630 processor, 512MB of DDR2 memory, a 160GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, a 17-inch CRT monitor, and a Radeon X300SE graphics card from ATI Technologies with 128MB of video memory.
Hewlett-Packard is making the dual-core 800 processors available on several existing models in its Pavilion lineup, and is also introducing a new desktop for business customers and new workstations based on Intel's new technology. The Compaq Dc7600 Business desktop starts at $564 with a Celeron processor, but is available with both 600 series and 800 series processors. Pricing information was not immediately available for the Xw4300 workstation, which will also use either 600 series or 800 series processors.
Lenovo Group's ThinkCentre A52 and M52 desktops will be available later this year with the dual-core processors and the new chip sets. This will be the first time Lenovo, or IBM, has brought Intel's 64-bit chips to the ThinkCentre line, recently acquired along with the ThinkPad notebook lineup by Lenovo. Specific pricing information was not available, but the systems should cost between $700 and $800, a Lenovo spokesperson said.