Intel v AMD: let the battle begin

The latest round of the Intel versus AMD megahertz battle begins Monday.

At this week's Microprocessor Forum in San Jose, California, Intel will reveal new details on its Coppermine technology, which will be the basis of a number of new Pentium III processors to be announced at the end of the month.

Coppermine is Intel's codename for a Pentium III design utilising its P858 manufacturing process, which features increased performance and lower power consumption. The design, Intel says, can scale past 800MHz in clock speed. It will, however, first be introduced at a top speed of 700MHz. Pentium III Coppermine chips will support a 133MHz system bus. The system bus is the pipeline between the processor and the rest of the components inside the PC.

According to sources Intel will make its Coppermine announcement on Oct. 25. On that day it is expected to introduce desktop Pentium III chips based on Coppermine at 533MHz, 600MHz, 650MHz, 667MHz and 700MHz. A 733MHz should follow by the end of the year. At this time PC makers are expected to make a flurry of announcements, introducing PCs based on the new chips. Because of the range of clock speeds, the chips are also expected to be available in lower cost as well as high performance desktops.

Mobile Pentium III chips based on Coppermine will also be announced on the same day. They will be available at 400MHz, 450MHz and 500MHz, sources said.

The chips will also be available in notebooks that span a wide range of prices and form factors. The mobile Pentium III could be a boon for mini-notebooks. Because it offers low power consumption, a 1.6 volt core, and low heat dissipation relative to its clock speed, it should be cool enough to fit into mini notebooks, where heat is a major design issue.

The Coppermine-based Pentium III chips will also include 256KB of integrated level 2 cache. While mobile Pentium II chips have this already, desktop Pentium IIIs do not. Integrating the cache into the chip, otherwise known as on die, offers a performance increase, because the memory can operate at the full clock speed of the chip. The performance increase offered by this is usually about 10 percent, according to Intel.

Pentium III Xeon chips for workstations and servers are expected at 600MHz, 667MHz on Oct. 25 and later 700MHz and 733MHz versions of the chip, sources said. These chips will include larger amounts of Level 2 cache. Intel says the 600MHz Coppermine Pentium III, when combined with its forthcoming 820 chip set, perform between 12 and 20 percent faster than the current 600MHz Pentium III chips on performance benchmarks. An 800MHz Coppermine Pentium III will perform 40 to 42 percent faster than the current 600MHz Pentium III chips.

The company also made a number of other design optimisations for mobile Pentiun III chips based on Coppermine. They include SpeedStep Technology, formerly known as Geyserville Technology. The technology automatically launches the chip into a "battery optimised performance mode" when it detects that a notebook is running on battery power. This pulls back the chips clock speed by 20 percent and decreases voltage consumption by 50 percent, according to Intel. SpeedStep isn't expected until next year, however. It will first be used on a 600MHz mobile Pentium III, due in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, AMD will reveal its newest Athlon processor, running at 700MHz. The chip will cost $849 and will be available in IBM Aptiva series desktops and Compaq Persario models, such as its 5861 desktops, AMD officials in Austin, Texas, said.

With the introduction of the new chip, AMD cut prices on its existing Athlons by up to 32 percent. The company lowered its 650MHz Athlon from to $615 (£375) from $849, a 28 percent reduction. The 600MHz chip was reduced to $449 from $615, a 27 percent drop. The 550MHz Athlon was cut to $304 from $449, receiving the largest Athlon price cut of 32 percent. Finally, AMD lowered the 500MHz to $209 from $249, a 16 percent cut, the officials said.

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