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Commentary: Pentium 4 impressive but not ready for mainstream

Mainstream users probably will not need the additional power and features of the new chip, but high-end users may want to consider immediate adoption.

By Kevin Knox, Gartner Analyst

Unlike Pentium III, which was merely an enhancement of Pentium II, Intel's Pentium 4 chip is a major new design that offers much more than the inclusion of additional instructions. Initially, mainstream users probably will not need the additional power and features of the new chip, but high-end users may want to consider immediate adoption.

See news story:
Pentium 4 computers arrive Monday
In particular, Intel designed the new Pentium 4 architecture, called "NetBurst," to better handle the needs of today's Internet user. Data encryption, video compression and peer-to-peer networking capabilities are greatly improved with Pentium 4. These improvements are achieved through enhancements that include:

•&nbsp The Rapid Execution Engine, a process that runs at twice the speed of the processor and handles frequently repeated tasks such as addition and subtraction.

•&nbsp Execution Trace Cache, a specialized storage memory cache designed to store and transfer data for high-speed processing.

•&nbsp Advanced Dynamic Execution, which allows the processor to recognize parallel patterns and prioritize tasks, thus speeding up overall performance.

•&nbsp A 400-MHz system bus, to allow faster data transfer to and from the microprocessor.

•&nbsp A total of 144 new instructions designed to improve multimedia performance in areas such as video rendering and sound.

Although Pentium 4 will be an attractive choice for advanced consumer and business users, it will not appear in the mainstream business environment for some time. Mainstream software requirements continue to lag processing capabilities, so few business users can take advantage of Pentium 4's capabilities at present.

Additionally, the Pentium 4 will initially be significantly more expensive than the Pentium III, and so it will be a pointless investment for most business users, who do not require the type of Internet capabilities for which the Pentium 4 was designed.

But some high-end business users--especially those who use the Internet heavily, as well as the perennial "power" personal user who insists on staying on the cutting edge--will find the additional horsepower the Pentium 4 offers worth the extra cost.

(For related commentary and discussion on Intel and AMD microprocessors, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.