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Intel speeds Xeon chip to 2GHz

The company's processor for workstations--and eventually for servers, Intel hopes--is available at 2GHz speeds, the chipmaker will announce Tuesday.

Intel's Xeon processor for workstations--and eventually for servers, the company hopes--is available at 2GHz speeds, the Santa Clara, Calif., chipmaker will announce Tuesday.

The Xeon chip is the big brother of the Pentium 4, which reached 2GHz in August. The Xeon, though, comes with higher-end features for working in multiprocessor computers and addressing larger amounts of memory.

The new 2GHz model costs $615 in quantities of 1,000, said Shannon Poulin, product marketing manager at Intel. The former fastest model, at 1.7GHz, was introduced at a price of $406 in similar quantities.

Xeons were first introduced in May for use in workstations, the souped-up PCs that are used for computation-intensive tasks such as creating digital animation. But despite Intel's hopes, the chips still aren't used in the larger market of servers, the networked computers used for tasks such as hosting Web sites or sending e-mail.

Broadcom's ServerWorks division has been working on a supporting chipset that would enable Xeon servers, but the first Xeon servers will instead use a faster Xeon chip called "Prestonia" along with an Intel chipset called "Plumas."

The release of Xeon-based servers was constrained by the ServerWorks chip, Poulin said.

Intel last week advanced the release of the Prestonia-Plumas combination. Prestonia is built with 130-nanometer (0.13-micron) features and 512K of high-speed secondary cache memory, aspects that make the chip faster than the earlier model with 180-nanometer features and 256K of secondary cache, Poulin said.

Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell Computer, NEC and Fujitsu-Siemens are expected to have products incorporating the new 2GHz Xeon chip at or soon after launch, Poulin said.

A faster CPU isn't all that's needed for a fast computer, however, because other bottlenecks such as links to memory or hard disks also constrain the system. The 2GHz chip is about 18 percent faster than the 1.7GHz model, but overall computer performance will increase more in the neighborhood of 10 percent, Poulin said.