Intel unveils faster Pentium processors

In what Intel said was the most sweeping product rollout in its history, the company yesterday launched 15 new Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon microprocessors, all manufactured on a finer 0.18 micron process technology.

The chips, with speeds reaching 733MHz, are up to 25 per cent more powerful than the previous line of Pentium III processors, Paul Otellini, manager of Intel's Architecture Business Group, said at a product unveiling in California.

"This is the first time we have brought out products across all segments and based on the 0.18 micron technology," Otellini said.

The launch of the chips, called the "Coppermine" family, also triggered a wave of new desktop PCs, mobile computers, servers and workstations using the processors. The family includes nine chips aimed at desktop machines. Prices start at $US239 for the 500MHz Pentium III-500E. The 733MHz Pentium III with support for a faster 133MHz system bus will cost $766, Intel said.

The desktop processors will work with a number of chip sets, including Intel's 810E, 440BX and 440ZX chipsets, and will also include a new flip-chip package (FC-PGA) that is intended to allow smaller packaging for compact, high performance PCs.

Workstation and server processor prices start at $505 for the Xeon Pentium III with 600 MHz, and range up to $826 for the Xeon Pentium III with 733 MHz, both of which are based on Intel's 840 chipsets. For the first time, the processors will run in mobile PCs and are available in 500, 450 and 400MHz speeds. The new processors will increase performance as much as 100 percent over Intel's existing fastest mobile processors.

The new chip family is designed to ensure that Intel maintains its speed advantage over Advanced Micro Devices' high-end line of Athlon microprocessors, from which Intel has come under increasing pressure. Intel has also been criticised for the delayed launch of its 820 chipset, which Intel officials now say will be shipped by the end of the year.

But several analysts said the breadth of the new offerings should overcome any doubts about the launch.

"The PC market is always strong in the fourth quarter and the quarter is always strong for Intel," said Mario Morales, an analyst for International Data Corp. "This will help." He said the delay in shipping the 820 chipset should have a minimal impact on Intel sales.

However, others felt the shipment delay creates uncertainty. "I can't remember a quarter as cloudy for everybody using the Intel platform," said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight 64, a consultancy in California.

PC vendors Gateway, Toshiba and Dell all announced yesterday they are incorporating the new mobile Intel Pentium III chips into products.

Dell launched two new Latitude C-family corporate notebook PCs that use the 500MHz Mobile Pentium III processor; Toshiba said it has incorporated all three mobile processors into its Tecra 8000 line of products; and Gateway revealed a new Solo 2550 portable PC with the Mobile Pentium III processor. Gateway is also using the 600MHz and 700MHz Pentium IIIs in its Performance line of desktop PCs, the company said in a statement.

Compaq said its new Presario 5700T desktop would use Pentium III with up to 700 MHz. Its new Presario notebooks, 1830 and 1800T, will include Pentiums of up to 500MHz.

Hewlett-Packard said its OmniBook 4150 notebook PC and the lightweight OmniBook 900 notebook PC will incorporate Pentium processors as fast as 500MHz and 450 respectively. The company also plans to use the processors in its Kayak PC Workstations with up to 733MHz, HP Vectra corporate PCs at up to 600MHz and HP Pavilion home PCs at 733MHz.

Sony Electronics announced the latest edition of the VAIO, F series of notebooks, saying the F390 and F370 notebooks will use Pentium III processors running at 500MHz and 450MHz respectively, and Fujitsu said it would use these same two chips for its Lifebook E Series notebooks.

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