Intel Shows 1.5-GHz Pentium

Intel launched a major offensive Tuesday in the chip wars against Advanced Micro Devices, demonstrating a prerelease 1.5GHz CPU and three "production-ready" 1-GHz Pentium III systems in the keynote of its Intel Developer Forum here.

Intel Chairman Andrew Grove did the honours, unveiling the 1-GHz PIII systems from Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. The companies have begun product sampling of the 1-GHz chips, and will start limited production shortly, says Albert Yu, Intel senior vice president in charge of microprocessor development. Intel will ship the 1-GHz processors in volume in the second half of this year, Yu says.

The 1.5-GHz chip is part of a new line code-named Willamette. The first Willamette chips, running faster than 1GHz, will also ship in the second half of this year. Yu teased the audience with his demonstration, first running the processor at 1450 MHz. He declared that wasn't fast enough and, as the crowd watched, the speed jumped incrementally to 1500 MHz.

Intel has discussed Willamette before, but is offering new details. It's a 32-bit CPU with a 400-MHz system bus, and does not require any special cooling technology. The demonstration is based on the earliest working version of the chip, Yu says.

Intel is also bolstering its low end. Executives offered the first demo of a new processor code-named Timna, which they say will complement but not replace Celeron.

Geared toward the sub-$600 PC market, the chip incorporates functions such as graphics and memory control, saving costs to help produce cheaper PCs, says Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's desktop products group. Based on Intel's P6 micro architecture, Timna will be introduced with SDRAM and probably not use RDRAM until 2001, in order to keep the price down.

Gelsinger won't say what speed Timna will run at its debut, but an Intel roadmap projects a 700-MHz Timna this year.

Raining (Fast) Chips in 2000

Intel executives promise a steady stream of faster chips throughout the year. Watch for a 900-MHz PIII, a 900-MHz PIII Xeon, a 750-MHz Mobile PIII, and a 600-MHz Celeron in the first half of this year.

In the second half of the year, besides the debut of Willamette, Intel expects to ship a 1-GHz PIII, a 1-GHz PIII Xeon, an 800-MHz Mobile PIII, and a 700-MHz Celeron. The first Itanium, based on the company's new IA64 architecture, is also expected to ship in the second half of 2000.

Besides its CPU demos, Intel gave the first public demonstration of the upcoming Universal Serial Bus 2.0 standard, which supports 480MB-per-second transfer speeds. That's 40 times faster than the current USB standard, Gelsinger says.

Intel announced the start of the 2.0 development at its developers' conference a year ago, Gelsinger says. This time, it showed a working demonstration between a PC and scanner. The new standard is completely compatible with previous standards, he says.

Intel's major announcements Tuesday follow a week of activity from archrival AMD, which recently showed a 1.1-GHz Athlon processor using standard cooling techniques, and also released its Athlon-850. AMD officials have stated that the company will ship a 1-GHz Athlon before the end of 2000.

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Tom Mainelli

PC World
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