Computer chips are plenty fast enough, right? I remember Walt Mossberg writing a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal that for most consumers a chip running at 500 Mhz ought to be fast enough for average home use — e-mail, word processing, home accounting, and Web surfing. Of course, no one makes chips that slow anymore. Everything's over 1 Ghz, and clocking sometimes north of 3 Ghz. (I'm talking Wintel-based products, here, of course).
But it's pretty clear that consumers are not going to shell out big bucks for the fastest processor. In fact, among the varoius DIY super-geek sites where people talk about building your own PC, the budget for the processor is always the first to get trimmed in favour of beefing up the budget for video cards, RAM, fast storage, a bigger, better display, optical drives, and so on.
So, it's not surprising then that the world's biggest chipmaker, Intel, is easing itself out of the speed race and focusing on getting its Pentium and Centrino chipsets to do more. As I report in today's Globe and Mail, Intel executives laid out a product road map yesterday that includes dual-core processors and next-generation broadband wireless capability that features WiMax:
Chip maker Intel Corp. has announced plans to improve its flagship products in ways that could redefine the role of a microprocessor in a computer and help the company stay ahead of its competitors.
Now, if you're really into this processor stuff and want to know how many transistors Intel's new chips will have and how much Level 3 cache will be available, you want to read the report from the guys at Tom's:
… The Montecito processor on the stage carried 1.72 billion transistors and 2×12 MByte of L3 cache for a total of 26.5 MByte of cache memory …. The chip will feature parallelism capabilities on a instruction and thread level. Compared to the current 130nm Itanium 2 chip, Montecito will post a performance increase of about 25 percent in enterprise environments, Intel said .. [Read the full report].