Intel, in a race with rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), sees the release of faster microprocessors this year helping to speed up slow desktop personal computer sales in Asia. But analysts say: 'Not so fast'. The two chip makers both raised hopes for an energised desktop PC market with this week's separate launches of their fastest PC processors, supported by most of the world's leading PC hardware vendors. Yesterday in Hong Kong, Intel unveiled a 2.2-gigahertz Pentium 4 chip, which officials claimed as the world's highest-performance desktop processor. Intel director for worldwide desktop platform marketing Jeff McCrea said the chip was built using the company's most advanced 0.13-micron manufacturing technologies and helped set the stage for a new class of high-performance PCs which could run increasingly popular digital music, photography and video programs, as well as the latest applications being developed for the workplace. 'We expect the steady adoption of Pentium 4-based PCs, especially those based on the new 2.2 GHz product, will help raise PC sales worldwide this year,' he said. 'We've had great response in Asia, specifically in China.' However, PC analysts from research firms Gartner and International Data Corp (IDC) said the first-half pick-up in sales that Intel, AMD and their client desktop PC makers hoped for appeared unlikely - except on the mainland. IDC's Kitty Fok said: 'We see desktop PC market sales in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, to significantly rise in the second half.' Slow desktop PC sales across the region last year were attributed to the economic downturn affecting most geographic markets. IDC had forecast Asia-Pacific region desktop PC sales last year to grow 5 per cent from about 17 million in 2000, when they grew 38 per cent from 12.5 million units in 1999. Gartner's Annie Chung expects Hong Kong desktop PC sales in the first half to fall a year-on-year 20 per cent to 146,000 units. The mainland market, however, was projected to generate a 17 per cent rise, to four million desktop PCs from 3.4 million units a year ago. Both Gartner and IDC analysts said the advances made by Intel on its Pentium 4 would enable it to keep its dominant market share in Asia, including value-priced, generic-brand desktop PCs. On Monday in the United States, AMD launched its fastest desktop PC chip, the Athlon XP processor 2000+, which uses 0.18-micron technology and runs at 1.66 GHz at the same time as Intel introduced its new chip. Market analysts said Intel's product had a 533 MHz advantage in clock speed as well as twice the amount of cache - a sub-directory in the hard disk to store frequently used applications - compared with AMD's new chip. However, most benchmarks put the processor's actual performance far closer due to the ability of the AMD chip to process more simultaneous instructions. The chip milestones from Intel and AMD come at a time when nearly 450 million people worldwide use PCs running at 700 MHz or less. They pre-date the MP3 revolution, streaming video on the Internet, recordable DVDs and online gaming. Mr McCrea said: 'This holiday season brought another surge in sales of digital cameras and as consumers use such devices to record and share their lives with others, the highest-performing PCs enable the best experiences.'