The next Pentium 4 processor, running at 2.4GHz, is set for an official launch next week, according to Intel. Some stores in Japan are already selling the processors.

Computer shop Sato Musen began selling the chips last weekend and had already sold out of its initial supply by Tuesday, a salesman at the shop said.

An Intel spokeswoman in the USA has said that the chip will be launched 'officially' next week. She declined to say when 2.4GHz PCs will go on sale but, typically, at least a handful of major system makers are already offering machines based on a new chip.

Hi-Grade is one such manufacturer, and you can read PC Advisor’s review of its 2.4GHz Pentium 4-powered Ultis PV4 2400 PA06 here. The Ultis comes with 512MB RAM and a 60GB hard drive, but even with a 2.4GHz processor this combination wasn’t enough to see the P4 outstrip AMD’s new 1.733GHz Athlon XP 2100+ chip in our speed tests.

Intel last introduced new chips in the Pentium 4 line in January, when it announced the 2.2GHz version of the processor. That announcement signalled a move to more advanced 0.13-micron architecture for the product line, something which enabled Intel to double the amount of onboard cache memory to 512KB. At the same time, a 0.13-micron version of the existing 2GHz Pentium 4 was also introduced.

In Akihabara, the 2.4GHz chips were selling for around ¥77,000 — £400.