System vendors will no doubt follow the Intel announcement of a 550MHz version of the Pentium III to add new desktops and workstations to their product lines. But IT buyers looking to refresh their desktops may want to wait until the next Intel announcement later this year.
Representing not much more than what system OEMs call a speed bump, 550MHz desktop systems will be priced at $US150 to $200 more than current systems using the 500MHz version of the Pentium III. The new systems will leave the current system architecture, including motherboards, untouched. Boxes ship this month.
The big change in Pentium III systems will be at year's end, when Intel ships a 600MHz-plus version with its new 820 chip set. The chip set will add many features to systems, including instant-on, Ultra ATA, support for Rambus memory, a four-speed Accelerated Graphics Port, a 133MHz system bus, and 256KB of on-die Level 2 cache.
Major changes to the system architecture will result in a longer and more costly requalifying process, according to a Dell Computer representative commenting on the Pentium III systems due out later this year.
Intel's march continued with more announcements last week of its 366MHz mobile Celeron processor and two new mobile chip sets: the 440MX and the 440ZX.
Several prominent notebook vendors pledged support for Intel's new mobile Celeron. Compaq released its Armada 1500c full-size notebook last week starting at $US1799.
Fujitsu and IBM are also shipping mobile Celeron 366MHz systems, according to Intel officials.
Intel's 366MHz mobile Celeron chip introduces the Micro Pin Grid Array, a new processor format for Celeron and Pentium II CPUs running at 266MHz and faster. The Micro PGA lets vendors use a single motherboard design for a variety of chip speeds. This streamlining can reduce inventory costs and expedite the "build-to-order" process.
Intel's new Celeron chip also features Quickstart technology, which improves battery life by reducing processor power to 0.4 watts when a machine is idle, says Charlie Carey, Intel's mobile marketing manager.
Budget notebook users
Light on features and low on price, Intel's new chip sets target budget notebook users. The 440MX, Intel's cheapest mobile chip set, does not support Accelerated Graphics Port technology. Designed for mini-notebooks, the 440MX integrates audio and modem functions. The 440ZX is Intel's first low-end mobile chip set with AGP support.
Intel expects to ship a 400MHz mobile Celeron in June.
Intel also plans to ship mobile Pentium III processors running at 600MHz and faster later this year. Using Geyserville technology and built on a 0.18-micron process, the PIII mobile family will blur the line between power notebook and desktop performance.