Intel's plans include 400-MHz Pentium II chips

Next month Intel's new Pentium II processors will debut at clock speeds of 233 MHz and 266 MHz, but already by this time next year the chips will reach speeds of 400 MHz, industry sources say.

Next month Intel's new Pentium II processors will debut at clock speeds of 233 MHz and 266 MHz, but already by this time next year the chips will reach speeds of 400 MHz, industry sources say.

A 300-MHz version of the new chip family, which adds MMX multimedia instructions to the sixth-generation Pentium Pro and is targeted at high-end workstations, may also be announced next month, but will only be available in limited volume, the sources say.

Late this year, or early 1998, Intel will follow up with a 333-MHz version, they add, and by the second quarter next year, Intel will further boost speeds with 350-MHz and 400-MHz iterations of the Pentium II.

The aggressive plan aims at positioning the low-end 233-MHz version of Pentium II for high-volume, sub-US$2000 desktop systems by the first quarter of 1998, sources say.

The first mobile versions of the Pentium II, meanwhile, running at 233 MHz and 266 MHz, will also be introduced early next year, says a source at a major Taiwanese notebook OEM supplier. A 300-MHz version is scheduled for next year's second quarter, the source says, and the low-voltage versions will be delivered on Intel Mobile Modules with 256kb or 512kb of Level 2 cache.

Notebook manufacturers that are using the current generation of Intel's Pentium/MMX mobile modules will therefore be able to easily upgrade the systems to Pentium II, the source says.

All desktop and server Pentium II chips, meanwhile, will come in new packaging, called the single edge contact (SEC) cartridge, that will also integrate Level 2 cache memory and will fit vertically into motherboards featuring the new Slot 1 interface, Intel officials say.

Initially, Intel will ship cartridges with 256kb or 512kb of burst synchronous RAM (BSRAM) cache, one source says. But forthcoming Pentium IIs will ship with as much as 1Mb to 2Mb of cache, which will greatly improve performance, the source says.

The main enabling factor behind the aggressive ramp in processor speed is the dual independent bus (DIB) architecture, that will be built into SEC cartridges, and allow the processor to communicate with the Level 2 cache at higher speeds than a single bus architecture, sources say.

The DIB architecture, which Intel first introduced with the Pentium Pro, lets the processor simultaneously transfer data to the Level 2 cache and to main memory through the system memory bus, Intel officials say.

"Dual independent bus greatly increases the amount of data that we can get in and out of the microprocessor," says Sean Maloney, Intel's Hong Kong-based vice-president and general manager of its Asia-Pacific operations, in a presentation here late last week.

The bus technology inside the SEC cartridge is Intel's intellectual property, Maloney says.

"I'm not going to comment on licensing," he says, when asked about the possibility of Intel licensing the proprietary technology to allow competitors such as Advanced Micro Devices and Cyrix to design similar Slot 1-compliant devices.

The new SEC cartridge packaging is an improvement over the Pentium Pro's multi-chip module, which houses both the processor and Level 2 cache in the same ceramic package, making it more suitable for high volume production, he says.

"You can [also] get very high transmission speeds inside the packaging between the cache and the microprocessor," said Maloney. "This is a next-generation solution."

And by the time systems featuring the 350-MHz and 400-MHz versions of the Pentium II hit the market in next year's second quarter, Intel will also raise the speed of the system memory bus from today's 66 MHz to 100 MHz, further increasing system performance, sources say.

Intel officials decline to comment on unannounced products.

Intel is on the World Wide Web at http://www.intel.com/.

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