Price drops of pentium processors anticipated

Intel's Pentium parade continues marching in quickstep time.

It will add 200MHz desktop Pentium processors to its lineup in June, about two months sooner than expected. Prices will be equivalent to 166MHz chips.

Intel will add a 150MHz mobile Pentium processor later in the US summer. But that chip will show only a small performance gain over 133MHz mobile processors, sources briefed by the firm say.

And Intel next month will drop prices on 100MHz and 120MHz Pentium processors, two products scheduled for extinction by year's end. That positions the 133MHz Pentium as the entry-level chip.

Though most PC vendors expect to offer the 200MHz desktop Pentium as soon as possible, some are a bit more reserved about the 150MHz mobile Pentium. It provides only a 5% performance boost above the 133MHz mobile Pentium. More important to users, the faster clock speed increases the heat of the system and drains the battery.

While PC vendors won't comment on future products, they say they are likely to develop products with the mobile chip despite the problems. "We've been following the Intel road map for some time, and I believe we can continue to do that," says a spokeswoman at Dell, in Austin, Texas.

But others admit the mobile chip could be a niche market. "It'll be high-priced and a battery hog, so it may not be a mainstream product for some time," says one PC vendor product manager, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It sucks power, and the wattage is just way too hot," agrees James Greene, an analyst at Summit Strategies in Boston. He says that, until now, the increase in notebook processor speeds has called for a tweak of laptop designs. But vendors now are considering adding fans to notebooks, a move that would reduce battery life and add noise.

Richard Pierce, director of marketing for mobile products at Intel in Santa Clara, California, denies the faster chip is causing undue design problems. Yet he concedes: "Obviously, the faster the chip, the more difficult it is to deal with heat and other issues."

Randal Giusto, an analyst at International Data in Framingham, Massachusetts, says it remains to be seen whether vendors can "absorb the 150".

"But Intel has been releasing these notebook chips in rapid succession, and the vendors have been handling it," Giusto says. "They can probably handle this as well."

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