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3GHz Pentium 4 on its way

Get ready for Intel's 3GHz Pentium 4. PC makers will show off systems containing the high-performance chip just days before the Comdex trade show.

PC makers will show off systems containing Intel's 3GHz Pentium 4 on Nov. 14, a few days before the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas.

The 3GHz Pentium 4 will likely be the highest-performing desktop chip on the market when it comes out next month. Not only will the chip run at a higher clock speed than other desktop parts, but it will also contain Intel's hyperthreading technology, which lets one chip act almost like two.

Nearly every major computer maker will release or announce consumer systems on that day, according to sources close to the companies. As usual, price cuts will also likely take place around the same time. Intel last cut desktop prices in early September following the release of the 2.8GHz Pentium 4.

Intel declined to comment on the story.

Although manufacturers do not expect to see strong PC sales in the fourth quarter, Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices continue to push the performance envelope. Toward the end of November, PC makers are expected to come out with computers containing AMD's Athlon XP 2700+ and 2800+ processors.

Hyperthreading will likely be the most distinguishing characteristic of the new chip. With hyperthreading, different regions inside the processor, such as the floating-point unit for decimal math and the integer unit, can process different parts, or threads, of an application at the same time. By contrast, most current chips behave like a wood chipper, processing threads in a fairly linear fashion. This simultaneous processing, already featured in Intel's Xeon server chips, boosts performance by up to 30 percent.

Bargains will likely be fairly easy to find this holiday season. Since September, manufacturers have been dropping prices, increasing rebates, and goosing bundles in anticipation of a frosty holiday season.

Last month, for instance, Hewlett-Packard released a $399 Compaq Computer Presario desktop, without a monitor. Gateway last week began to advertise deals for PC and flat-panel monitor bundles, which cost almost as much as computers with regular cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors.

As in recent years, some companies are unfurling their major hardware releases before Comdex, the five-day conference in Las Vegas, rather than at the show. On Nov. 7, Microsoft will formally release its Tablet PC software in an event in New York, while HP, Fujitsu, Toshiba and others will show off convertible notebooks and electronic slates using the software.

In 2000, Gateway and AOL unwrapped the TouchPad days before the conference. The Internet appliance was quickly killed off after a major reorganization at Gateway.