Intel plans to swamp the semiconductor market this year with the release of more than a dozen new Pentium II processors primed to run all types of machines, from notebooks to sub-$1,000-PCs to high-end servers.
Many of the chips will be released in the next five months, including a 400MHz processor for high-end workstations and servers, and a 333MHz chip designed for mobile computers, says Intel spokesman Manny Vara.
All the new chips with clock speeds greater than 350MHz will feature 100MHz bus speeds, in contrast to the 66MHz bus speeds available today, Vara says. Bus speeds dictate how fast the processor can communicate with a computer's main memory and other parts of the system, and in general higher bus speeds mean better performance.
Offering a broad range of Pentium IIs optimised for different systems represents a new strategy for Intel, and is a response to growth and fragmentation in the computer market, Vara says.
"Five years ago PCs were fairly similar to each other -- at the higher end they were called servers, and at the low end they were called desktops," Vara said. Nowadays, vendors offer a variety of machines optimised for different applications, and processors must be specialised to suit each type of computing need, Vara sys.
For servers and high end workstations Intel will deliver by mid-year a 400MHz Pentium II processor featuring 512Kb of Level 2 cache memory. The same processor will be available in a 450MHz implementation by the end of the year, Vara says.
Also at the end of the year Intel will deliver versions of the 400MHz and 450MHz chips with 1Mband 2Mb of Level 2 cache, making six new high-end chips in all, Vara says.
Greater amounts of high-speed cache memory enable the chips to process large amounts of data more quickly, making them more suited to typical server functions, Vara says. For the first time, the Level 2 cache will run at the same speed as the processor itself. Hence, the Level 2 cache on a 400MHz chip will run at 400MHz.
For desktops, the 333MHz Pentium II released last week will be followed before mid-year by versions running at 350MHz and 400MHz, with a 450MHz version to ship at the end of the year, Vara says.
The company also will introduce by mid-year three new Pentium II processors for laptop computers running at 333MHz, 300MHz, and 266 MHz, Vara says. The mobile chips initially will include a 66MHz system bus, with 100MHz to follow at a later date, Vara says.
Intel also will introduce Pentium IIs aimed at the sub-$US1,000 PC market, although the company is not prepared to announce pricing for any of the new chips yet, Vara says.
Like the chips for higher end desktops, the Pentium IIs for basic PCs all will be built using Intel's Slot 1 architecture, a specification which determines how the chip plugs into the motherboard inside a computer.
Certain workstations and low-end servers used for file and print functions also will be based on Slot 1, while processors for higher-end machines will be built to the Slot 2 specification.
The Slot 2 chips will be capable of 4-way multiprocessing, meaning up to four servers can be linked together to share tasks, Vara says. By the end of the year the Slot 2 specification will support 8-way multiprocessing, he said.
All the new processors will be built at Intel's .25 micron production facilities, of which there are more than a dozen around the world. The advanced technology enables more chips to be cut from each wafer of silicon, decreasing costs and enabling higher volume production, Vara said. Reducing the size of the chip also makes it a more suitable technology for making chips for laptop machines.