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P4 delayed, Timna cancelled, PIII to receive new core..

Just what is Intel up to? Their movements over the last few weeks have been suspicious and often puzzling - is the great chip giant finally feeling the brunt of AMD's processing punch?

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Last Friday Intel surprised the world by cancelling its so-called "budget PC on a chip" Timna product. The chip would have faced off directly against the Duron and Celerons of this world, but according to the CPU behemoth it was canceled due to problems with the MTH (Memory Translator Hub), which was employed to allow the board to use inexpensive SDRam instead of the Rambus RIMMs for which it was originally designed. The now-infamous MTH made its first appearance on early i820 boards, and forced a recall of those, so it's surprising Intel haven't learnt their lesson.. and of course need I even mention the absurdity of putting Rambus in a budget PC? Although Timna's cancelation six months before its proposed release is a fairly major announcement, many see it as a smokescreen for the announcement several days beforehand of another Pentium 4 delay. Originally the expensive 1.4 and 1.5Ghz parts were expected to see release on Halloween, but now they have been pushed back until November, missing the Christmas rush as far as OEMs are concerned. In fact, OEMs and not a supposed problem with the 850 chipset (which Intel have since fixed anyway) may be one of the main reasons the P4 is being delayed. Many of the major OEMs have openly stated that they have no plans to offer P4 systems this year, citing price and performance issues with regard to current memory and graphics card architecture. A 1Ghz PIII is just as formiddable as 1.4Ghz P4 in the modern marketplace it seems, let alone an Athlon part. Current forecasts indicate that perhaps Intel will choose to cut the prices on its PIII parts in the run up to Christmas to make them more attractive to shoppers, before releasing the P4 in the new year to a hardy reception, perhaps at levels above and beyond the chips we've seen so far. In other related matters, it seems that new PIIIs will use the C stepping, which is minutely smaller and allegedly more efficient than the previous B stepping. For those who don't know, just like most modern games, processor development continues past the initial release, and when the team working on the project have updated it to a certain extent, they release a new version of the core of the processor, and the term "stepping" is used to describe these updates. As you may know, Pentium III "CopperMines" used the B stepping and performance was vastly improved thanks to changes in the way the cache operated with them. Similarly, these C stepping PIIIs are supposed to improve performance and produce better yields at higher frequencies. That said, Intel's much discussed 1.13Ghz part, which was widely recalled due to instabilities, used the C stepping, and naturally people are concerned Intel don't release more duff chips. The chip giant is assuring the world that this is not the case, but people are understandably cautious.

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