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New Celerons straddle Pentium divide

Intel releases a pair of Celeron chips that are similar on the surface but different underneath. One is based on the Pentium 4 architecture, the other on Pentium III.

Intel released a pair of Celeron chips on Wednesday that are similar on the surface but different underneath.

The new 1.7GHz Celeron, as expected, is based on the architecture behind the Pentium 4, while the 1.4GHz Celeron is based on the architecture of the Pentium III, a company representative has confirmed.

While the chips will be marketed as part of the same family, they are quite different when it comes to internal computer architecture. The 1.7GHz comes with a 400MHz bus, the main data conduit between the processor and main memory, while the 1.4GHz comes with a 100MHz bus. Faster buses generally mean greater performance.

On the other hand, the 1.7GHz comes with a 128KB secondary cache, a small memory reservoir near the processor for rapid data access, while the 1.4GHz version comes with a 256KB cache. The 1.7GHz chip is also made on the 180-nanometer manufacturing process like the first Pentium 4 chips, while the 1.4GHz comes off the newer 130-nanometer manufacturing lines.

In the end, the 1.7GHz chip will slightly outperform the 1.4GHz chip on general office applications and provide more measurable improvements on multimedia applications, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at consulting firm Insight 64.

"It's faster, but not by a whole lot," he said.

Ironically, the 1.7GHz chip is less expensive, selling for $83 in 1,000-unit quantities, while the 1.4GHz goes for $89. The Intel representative said the pricing discrepancy exists to encourage PC makers to adopt the 1.7GHz chip, which is based on the newer processor architecture.

Although the chips were released Wednesday, Dell Computer, Gateway, IBM and other major manufacturers won't release new PCs with the new chip until Monday, when Intel releases a new chipset, the 845(g), with integrated graphics.

Integrated graphics cut the price of manufacturing PCs. As a result, the new chipset is expected to be one of Intel's most popular, according to, among others, Dean McCarron, an analyst at Mercury Research.