Intel has given PC enthusiasts a gift with its latest batch of low-cost Celeron processors -- they can be a viable alternative to the pricier Pentium III chips.
Testers in the community of "overclockers" -- users who rev their processors' clock speed far faster than the figure it says on the box -- say the new generation of Celerons offers performance possibilities similar to the much costlier Pentium IIIs. New Celerons, of 566MHz and faster, are based on Pentium III "Coppermine" core technology and have been nicknamed "Celeron 2".
"If your motherboard can take it... a Celeron 2 will give you a whole lot of computing power for a very attractive price," wrote Daniel Rutter, an Australian hardware tester, in a review this week.
A 566MHz Celeron goes for about $122 (around £75), compared to around $207 (about £128) for a 550MHz Pentium III.
The new chips raises an old dilemma for Intel: how to keep its cheaper line of processors looking attractive without undercutting the flagship Pentium brand.
The main difference between Pentium III and the newer Celerons is cache, on-chip memory used to store frequently accessed data and program code. Because this memory is very closely coupled to the processor, it can be accessed much faster than if the chip had to retrieve it from the systems main RAM. In general, the larger the cache the bigger the performance increase -- Celerons have smaller caches than Pentium IIIs, but for most desktop needs they are sufficient.
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