Intel has redesigned a key element in an upcoming version of the Pentium 4 processor to allow the chip to hit higher speeds, but analysts say the change may only incrementally improve performance at first.

The Prescott processor, an enhanced version of the Pentium 4 set for release in early February, will feature a pipeline--the equivalent of a assembly line inside a chip--that will be substantially longer than the 20-stage pipeline on current Pentium 4s, according to sources.

Extending the pipeline in this manner will likely help Intel achieve its goal of selling desktop chips that run at 4GHz in 2004.

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