Intel's Coppermine recaptures speed crown

In what Intel said was the most sweeping product rollout in its history, the company today launched 15 new Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon microprocessors, all manufactured on a finer 0.18 micron process technology.

The chips, with desktop speeds reaching 733MHz, are up to 25 per cent more powerful than the previous line of Pentium III processors, Paul Otellini, manager of Intel's Architecture Business Group.

"This is the first time we have brought out products across all segments and based on the 0.18 micron technology," Otellini said.

The launch of the chips, called the "Coppermine" family, also triggered a wave of new desktop PCs, mobile computers, servers and workstations using the processors. The family includes nine chips aimed at desktop machines.

The desktop processors will work with a number of chip sets, including Intel's 810E, 440BX and 440ZX chipsets, and will also include a new flip-chip package (FC-PGA) that is intended to allow smaller packaging for compact, high performance PCs.

For the first time, mobile Pentium III processors are available in speeds of 500, 450 and 400MHz. The new processors will increase performance as much as 100 per cent over Intel's existing fastest mobile processors. PC vendors Gateway, Dell, Toshiba and Compaq, have all confirmed the new processors will be incorporated into their notebook lines.

Desktop PCs featuring the new Coppermine-enhanced PIIIs will also be launched this week by Dell and Gateway. Compaq is planning a mid-November release for its desktop PCs featuring the new chips.

Coppermine brings performance gains

The megahertz jump tells only half the story. Intel's recent PIII speed increases looked good in the advertisements but didn't make productivity applications work much better. PC WorldBench 98 tests of the handful of new systems sporting Coppermine technology found some eye-popping performance gains.

The speed jump reverses the trend of earlier CPU releases this year, which saw faster chips without significant boosts to application speed. For example, PIII-550 systems ran PC WorldBench 98 apps just 5 per cent faster than the average PIII-500 machine. The PIII-600 systems ran them just 4 per cent faster than a typical PIII-550 PC. Neither gain was noticeable.

Thanks to a design improvement, however, the new PIII chips give everyday apps a potent shot of adrenaline.

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