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Vendors have heavy plans for P6 Lite

PC vendors are already planning for new systems based on Intel's high-speed, low-cost P6 Lite processor.

PC vendors are already planning for new systems based on Intel's high-speed, low-cost P6 Lite processor that may be headed to retail stores early next year.

The P6 Lite is a multimedia-enhanced, low-cost version of Intel's Pentium Pro processor targeted at the consumer PC market, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. The pricing is calculated to PC vendors them sell their P6 Lite systems starting at about $3,000. A 233-MHz version of the P6 Lite, as well as a 200-MHz version, is expected to begin shipping in volume in early 1997. But users may get a glimpse of P6 Lite systems as early as this fall, according to sources.

The Pentium Pro currently on the market raises the performance curve over existing Pentium chips but is expensive to produce because the design includes additional internal real estate set aside for a whole second chip called the level-2 cache. The level-2 cache is still necessary to create fast systems, but with the P6 Lite, Intel intends to lower production costs by moving the big level-2 cache from inside the processor to low-rent areas outside the processor itself. With this trick, the P6 Lite will still reap much of the Pentium Pro's performance gains compared to Pentium designs but cost less.

To that end, Intel and PC vendors are already working to design low-priced systems that will cut the cost of using a P6 Lite and the accompanying cache in a PC by as much as half, sources said. These systems would put the P6 Lite and the external level-2 cache onto low-cost processor boards dubbed "COAST modules," sources said. These simply plug into a PC's motherboard, and the system vendor easily achieves low-cost, high-speed consumer PCs.

Intel is also plannning to increase the size of the traditionally small "level-one" cache to help performance on the P6 Lite.

Related story:
Intel's P6 Lite on horizon