Intel brings hyperthreading to luggable notebooks

Intel Corp. will bring its hyperthreading technology to its Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processor, which is used in desktop-replacement notebooks, the company announced Tuesday.

Hyperthreading allows a multithreaded operating system or application to take advantage of unused execution units in a single-threaded processor. Hyperthreading sends software instructions that aren't dependent on the execution of other instructions to those unused execution units, allowing the processor to do more work than it normally could.

The technology only kicks in when a user is running his or her PC at maximum performance, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research Inc. It helps users more quickly execute two demanding tasks, such as video editing or virus scanning, at the same time, McCarron said.

Hyperthreading operates independently of Intel's SpeedStep technology, designed to manage a notebook processor's power consumption, an Intel spokeswoman said. SpeedStep varies the clock speed of a mobile processor in order to conserve power between application tasks or even keystrokes.

Even if excessive heat dissipation due to a heavy workload or environmental factors forces the processor to throttle down, it will still be able to execute multiple threads per clock cycle, McCarron said.

Hyperthreading started off as a server technology on Intel's Xeon chips, but the company introduced it on its desktop Pentium 4 processors last year.

Strong sales of large notebooks offering near desktop performance prompted Intel to introduce the Mobile Intel Pentium 4 earlier this year for those machines. The chip is a version of Intel's desktop Pentium 4 chip that includes SpeedStep.

Customers will have the choice of purchasing Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processors with hyperthreading technology at clock speeds of 3.2GHz, 3.06GHz, 2.8GHz or 2.66GHz. The chips cost US$653, US$433, US$294 and US$234, respectively, in quantities of 1,000 units.

The 3.2GHz Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processor is a new chip as of Tuesday. Hyperthreading will come with all future processors released in this product line, including the 3.2GHz chip, but customers will have the option to purchase the 3.06GHz chip and slower chips with or without hyperthreading, an Intel spokeswoman said.

Dell Inc. refreshed its Inspiron 5150 notebook with the chip Tuesday. A base configuration of the notebook with the 3.06GHz processor, 256M bytes of DDR (double data rate) SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM), a 30G-byte hard drive, and a DVD-ROM optical drive costs US$1,599.

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Tom Krazit

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