Intel has started shipping Pentium 4 processors running at 1.7Ghz, aggressively priced at $352 per chip when bought by the thousand.
It will mean cheaper processor prices across Intel's Pentium III and Pentium 4 ranges and a probable price war with rival AMD, which has promised to match prices at comparable speeds. Intel is expected to unveil price cuts for its Pentium 4 chips running at 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5Ghz later this week.
The processor platform is based on the Intel 850 chipset, with dual RDRAM memory and a 400Mhz bus.
For consumers and business, it means the price of a PC that can easily handle multimedia technologies such as video conferencing and streaming media is now a lot cheaper than this time last year. Indeed, at $352, the 1.7Ghz chip is almost a thousand dollars cheaper than the $1299 a 1Ghz chip cost just over a year ago.
The cuts will make the Pentium 4 more attractive to PC makers who have chosen AMD chips because of price and performance issues. AMD has increased its market share from 17 per cent to 21 per cent for the first three months of 2001, according to Mercury Research.
Intel's Pentium 4 had been regarded as the big thing in PC technology advances for 2000, but was regarded as delivering too little extra performance at too high an additional cost, triggering Intel's profits to fall by 80 per cent.
However, analysts now believe that at the new speeds and price levels, the chip has become a must-buy. Pundits have predicted that Pentium 4 chips produced using new methods that wipe up to 30 per cent of production costs, and running at 2Ghz and 2.2Ghz, will arrive before the end of the year.
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