US Report: New Intel processors on the way

Intel Corp. is preparing to release a flurry of new CPUs next month in a move that could further muddy the waters for low-cost notebook and desktop processors.

The introductions will expand the company's mobile and desktop processor lines to four families--Pentium Processor with MMX Technology, Celeron, Pentium II and Pentium II Enhanced--many of which have overlapping functions and processor speeds. For example, Intel will offer four mobile processors with clock speeds of 266MHz and 300MHz.

A new 300MHz MMX chip will join Intel's new 266MHz and 300MHz Celerons, which include 128KB of integrated cache. Those Celeron chips should enable OEMs to hit laptop price points below $1,500 (£915), sources said. Intel plans to bump up the clock speed of the new mobile Celeron to 333MHz in the second quarter, sources said.

Intel also will debut next month new enhanced mobile 333MHz and 366MHz Pentium IIs. Code-named Dixon, the Pentium II Enhanced processors will include 256KB of integrated L2 (Level 2) cache, which should push the chip's performance beyond that of Pentium II chips that have 512KB of external L2 cache.

On Jan. 4, Intel is expected to unveil new 366MHz and 400MHz desktop Celerons. A 433MHz desktop Celeron is expected by midyear. Intel is hesitated at releasing a Celeron with a 100MHz bus because of its potential to cannibalise sales of higher-end PCs based on Pentium II chips.

IT managers will find that PCs with the new Celerons will perform almost on par with existing 100MHz-bus Pentium II systems and will outperform many older Pentium II systems with 66MHz system buses--at a cost of several hundred dollars less, sources said. Desktop PCs based on the new Celerons are expected to start below $1,000. "That's a great price point. We're going to definitely be looking at that when it comes out," said John Weaver, vice president of IT at Elektra Entertainment Group, in New York.

Major PC OEMs, including Dell Computer Corp. and Gateway Inc., plan to ship systems using the new Celerons almost immediately upon the chip's availability, with others, such as Hewlett-Packard Co., shipping systems later in the first quarter, sources said.

To help minimise confusion, several OEMs plan to offer mobile systems based on only two of the four available processors, sources said. Gateway, for example, will transition its laptops to Celeron and Pentium II Enhanced, sources said.

Along with the new Pentium II chips, Intel will announce early next month its latest Xeon processor for servers. The 450MHz Xeon chip will differ from others available now by offering 512KB, 1MB or 2MB of L2 cache. A host of server vendors are expected to support the new chip, sources said.

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