And You Thought Intel's Old Chips Were Fast

You may think you already have enough power in your desktop or laptop to handle the most demanding computing tasks. But chipmaker Intel Corp. begs to differ. On Aug. 22, the semiconductor giant disclosed technical details of its next family of microprocessors, dubbed the Pentium 4 line. The new processors perform at speeds of 1.4 gigahertz and higher and contain a staggering 42 million transistors--twice as many as 1995's Pentium Pro.

They also have a much faster connection to the memory chips that store software programs. All that extra capability boosts the processor's handling of power-hungry applications such as 3-D graphics, multimedia audio and video, and data encryption. Pentium 4 PCs are expected to be faster than Pentium III versions. But they won't come cheap: Figure $2,500 or more for the first PCs to sport the chip this winter.