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Faster Celeron PCs due this month

HP, IBM, Packard Bell NEC, and others will come out with 333-MHz low-cost systems and also 450-MHz business PCs later this month.

A slew of new PCs will emerge on August 24 when Intel releases two new versions of the low-cost Celeron processor and a 450-MHz Pentium II.

IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Packard Bell NEC, and others will release--or at least announce--new consumer and business systems ranging in price from around $1,100 to $2,400, depending on the processor, according to sources familiar with these companies.

HP will adopt the integrated versions of Celeron, code-named "Mendocino," into its Brio line of small business computers once the chips are out, said Eric Chaniot, product manager for Brio. HP today released a $799 Brio with a 266-MHz Celeron chip. Mendocino will likely find its way into the new "microtower" form factor computers, he added.

The new Celerons will spearhead Intel's effort to take back market share in the sub-$1,000 segment, where the Santa Clara-based giant has been losing ground to AMD. In June, AMD accounted for over half of all sub-$1,000 PCs in retail, according to PC Data. As a rule, AMD chips are priced 25 percent below "equivalent" Pentium II chips, making them attractive for PC vendors looking to deliver inexpensive systems to consumers.

Running at 300 MHz and 333 MHz, the new Celerons will also improve upon the performance of the first Celeron chips. The Mendocino chips will contain 128K of integrated "cache" memory. Pentium II-core chips like the Celeron were designed to work with this secondary memory, but Intel removed the cache to reduce cost, a move which led to a degradation in performance.

The upcoming Celerons will further be the first Pentium II-level chips to have an integrated cache. In standard Pentium II processors, a 512K secondary cache sits alongside the processor, but is not integrated into the same piece of silicon. Integration is expected to lead to better performance. An integrated Pentium II with 256K of secondary cache, code-named Dixon, is expected early next year.

The new Celerons will be designated by a capital "A" to distinguish them from ordinary cache-less Celerons.

The 300-MHz Celeron A is expected to cost $139 in volume while the 333-MHz Celeron A is expected to cost $179, according to Ashok Kumar, semiconductor analyst with Piper Jaffray. Retail prices will likely be higher.

Meanwhile, the 450-MHz Pentium II is expected to cost $665 in volume, according to other sources. Intel earlier said that it would release the new chips for the "back to school" time frame. Computer executives and analysts have said that the event will take place on August 24.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.