Intel shrinks Pentium 4 Northwood

The chip giant delivers a smaller, faster Pentium 4, which could mean price cuts down the line for consumers. The company also appears to be stepping up its attack on AMD's True Performance Initiative

Intel has launched a 2.4GHz version of its Pentium 4 processor with a revamped manufacturing process designed to bring production prices down, even as it continues a behind-the-scenes public-relations battle against rival chip maker AMD.

The new Intel chip is based on the "Northwood" core, with a fine-tuned version of the .13-micron manufacturing process introduced earlier this year. The new chip, while retaining the 0.13micron process, shrinks transistor sizes to reduce the chip die size by 10 percent. Intel has simultaneously increased the size of the silicon wafers to 300mm. Both moves are designed to reduce the cost of producing the processors, which could ultimately lead to lower end-user prices.

The chip includes a 512KB Level 2 memory cache, and sells for $562 in quantities of 1,000 units.

Intel has also stepped up its marketing campaign against the True Performance Initiative launched last year by rival AMD, which has led to an AMD policy of emphasising processor model numbers over clock speed. The chip giant has begun offering one-hour remote training courses that appear to focus on the True Performance Initiative.

The company is taking registrations for a course called "Model Number Training", which begins on Tuesday and is offered through 12 April, with two courses offered per day.

The courses are being promoted by Intel as a "a training class to help you understand the facts behind AMD Athlon processor naming methodology", according to a letter published last week on the hardware community site HardOCP. The letter was said to be sent from Intel's Product Dealer Program to North American distributor Azzo Computer.

Another memo, attributed to a PC manufacturer and published on HardOCP, suggested that Intel has been urging customers to clear up the "confusing" situation around AMD's model numbers by increasing the emphasis on Athlon XP clock speeds.

With the introduction of Athlon XP last year, AMD begain giving its chips a model number that the company says reflects the chip's performance better than clock speed. For example, an Athlon XP 2000 runs at 1.67GHz, indicating that it has comparable performance to an earlier model Athlon running at 2GHz. Athlon XP's architecture means the chip delivers better performance for the same clock speed as earlier Athlons, according to AMD.

However, Intel argues that the model numbers are designed to make Athlon XP appear to compare more favourably to Pentium 4 processors.

Intel would not comment on the classes except to confirm that the company trains its customers on "a variety of different subjects, including competitive subjects".

Last week Intel promoted an Intel-funded report from Aberdeen Group, which criticised the True Performance Initiative as "bad science". Industry analysts widely regard it as impossible to compare different processor platforms, except by running specific tests for specific applications.

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