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Intel charts course for Pentium II

Pentium II chips will run at 333 MHz and 400 MHz next year, while a "Slot 2" design will be used in high-end servers and workstations.

Intel (INTC) today detailed the road map for the Pentium II processor, which includes new Pentium IIs running at 333 MHz when they debut in 1998 and chips running as fast as 400 MHz later in the year.

Intel will also begin to use new Pentium II designs to aggressively implement a strategy to increase a computer's overall performance, not just that of the processor.

Intel will have two basic system designs for the Pentium II processor. In addition to the current "Slot 1" design, Intel will add a new "Slot 2" design, which was previously undisclosed. The Slot 2 design will improve the computer's overall performance.

Intel's Pentium II Road map
Late 97
•  Pentium MMX chips to become more prevalent in sub-$1000 computers.
Early to First Half 98
•  Deschutes, a smaller Pentium II made on a new production process, to be released.
•  Pentium II to hit 333 MHz; Bus speed to increase to 100 MHz.
•  Pentium II for notebook computers released.

The chipmaker will also introduce a Pentium II cartridge design for notebook PCs in 1998.

All Pentium IIs come in a rectangular cartridge that plugs into a slot--thus the Slot 1 and 2 designation. The cartridge design allows Intel to deliver the Pentium II in a relatively inexpensive package that also includes high-speed cache memory, critical for keeping the Pentium II running as fast as possible. The older Pentium and Pentium Pro processors come in a square package with pins, looking much like a high-tech pin cushion, which plug into tiny holes.

Slot 1 is the design currently used in Pentium II-based PCs, which use an aging 66-MHz system bus. But Intel will increase the bus speed on these systems to 100 MHz in 1998, as reported on August 7 by CNET's NEWS.COM. This is important for improving a computer's overall system speed because the processor uses the system bus to talk to other components in a PC. Performance bottlenecks can occur when fast 400-MHz Pentium II processors slow down to talk to a 66-MHz bus.

Slot 2, which will come out in mid-1998, is the design "for midrange and higher-end server and workstation products. The same market that the Pentium Pro processor is selling into today," said an Intel spokesperson.

The critical difference between Slot 1 and Slot 2 will be that the latter will be the first Pentium II design to support multiprocessor servers capable of using four processors--a market currently addressed only by Intel's older Pentium Pro processor.

Many large businesses want machines with the added processing power offered by such machines but have been limited to buying systems using the older Pentium Pro processor, which will be slowly phased out next year.

Another important, though somewhat esoteric, difference is that the processor will be able to communicate with the high-speed cache memory at the same speed as the processor, dramatically boosting processor performance in comparison with current Pentium II processors using the Slot 1 design. Currently, the processor and cache talk at half the speed of the processor. Slot 2 will also have a 100-MHz bus as standard, while Slot 1 designs in 1998 will come in both 66- and 100-MHz bus-speeds.

Processors that are expected to plug in to the 100-MHz Slot 1 and Slot 2 designs will initially run as fast as 400 MHz, Intel said. Intel will also bring out a faster version of the Slot 1 Pentium II running at 333 MHz. This will plug into the older 66-MHz bus.

Finally, Intel will also bring out a smaller Pentium II cartridge for notebook PCs. These cartridges will be used in ultra-thin notebooks, analogous to IBM's 560 notebook PC.

(Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network)