New Pentium IIIs arrive

Intel announces 850 and 866MHz chips, but looks like it has a problem delivering in volume

Intel rolled out a pair of new Pentium III processors Monday.

The Santa Clara, California, company said it is now shipping 850MHz and 866MHz Pentium III chips. For consumers, the chips will make for high-performance PCs that cost about $2,000 (£1220). They are significantly less expensive than 1GHz Pentium III PCs, which began shipping in the past week from Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard

Intel however, appears to be still somewhat out of breath from the gigahertz race with rival Advanced Micro Devices. Intel and AMD each announced their 1GHz desktop PC chips two weeks ago.

While Intel officials said the 850MHz and 866MHz chips are readily available, the new Intel chips will be tough to come by at first. Dell, for example, is quoting customers 12 to 15 day lead times on Dimension desktop PCs with the new chips. Customers should expect the models with the 866MHz Pentium III chip to have lead times of about 12 days, while PCs with the 850MHz Pentium III are expected to ship in about 15 days, a Dell spokeswoman said. By way of comparison, an 800MHz Dimension could be delivered in just four days, she said. "We expect lead times (on the 850MHz and 866MHz chips) to go to our standard three to five business days within a few weeks," the spokeswoman said. Intel "just doesn't have quantities right now."

The main difference between the two chips is in the bus speed. The 850MHz Pentium III supports a 100MHz system bus, while the 866MHz Pentium III supports a 133MHz bus. The system bus provides a data pipeline between the processor and system components, such as memory.

Different bus speeds mean the two chips will be used with different chip sets, and will likely see different markets. While the 850MHz will be used with Intel's 440BX or possibly its 810E chip set, the 866MHz will be paired with Intel's performance 820 chip set or its forthcoming 815.

Pricing on Dell's 866MHz Dimension XPS B866r starts at $2,149. The desktop comes configured with the 866MHz chip, 128MB of Rambus Direct RAM, a 20GB hard drive and 17-inch monitor. Pricing for the XPS T850 starts at $1,949, which includes the 850MHz Pentium III, 128MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive and 17-inch monitor.

Pricing on the processors themselves, are $765 for the 850MHz and $776 for the 866MHz, according to Intel. These prices are for 1,000-unit quantities. A 933MHz Pentium III chip is also forthcoming from Intel. However, it's not clear when the chip will ship.

Rival AMD announced its 900MHz and 950MHz, along with its 1GHz Athlon, on March 6.

Intel is suffering from what we might call Microsoft Syndrome, the symptoms are rampant and unnecessary paranoia, read the news comment at AnchorDesk UK with Peter Jackson.

Now that the gigahertz barrier has been broken, what's next? Will anyone care when we pass 2GHz? Michael Caton thinks not. Go and read the news comment at AnchorDesk UK.