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Intel's P6 Lite on the horizon

Intel is preparing a new breed of chips for super-fast consumer PCs and personal workstations to be priced around $3,500.

A new breed of consumer PCs based on an upcoming super-high-speed "P6 Lite" processor from Intel should be available next year for about $3,500, sources close to the company told CNET.

The P6 Lite is expected to debut in early 1997 as Intel's next-generation high-performance Pentium processor for consumer PCs. Based on an advanced RISC-like design--like the Pentium Pro processors--the chip will run at a hyperfast speed of 233 MHz. It will also include the recently announced MMX multimedia extensions for running sophisticated graphics and audio directly from the motherboard instead of from expensive add-on multimedia boards.

Intel intends to keep the price of the new chip down by removing the expensive "Level 2" cache memory that the current Pentium Pros include, hence the "lite" moniker. According to sources familiar with Intel's preliminary pricing, the 233 MHz P6 Lite will be tagged just below $800 for systems manufacturers, while a 200-MHz version will cost $550. This range is calculated to let vendors sell their P6 Lite systems starting at about $3,500.

Intel has also set preliminary pricing for its coming P55C processors, the first chip to use the MMX extensions due in the fourth quarter. The MMX-enhanced P55C Pentium processor will cost about $340 for a 166-MHz version and $470 for a 200-MHz version, sources said. When it introduced the MMX technology in early March, Intel said it expects systems based on the P55C to come in at roughly $3,000.

To make room for the P6 Lite and P55C models, Intel is planning to cut prices even more for its Pentium and Pentium Pro processors and will probably spark a round of system price cuts reflecting the lower manufacturing costs.

The widely used 133-MHz Pentium will fall from its current price tag of $320 to about $260 in May, then to about $215 in August. The popular 120-MHz processor will tumble from $250 to about $188 in May, then to $134 in August, the sources said. These new prices will push PCs based on these chips out of the mid-range and into the low end in the second half of the year.

Other price cuts include:
--the $632 166-MHz Pentium to just under $500 in May and then to about $420 in August
--the $428 150-MHz Pentium from to about $360 in May and $290 in August
--the $1,000 200-MHz Pentium Pro processor with 256K of cache memory to about $700 in May, then to about $560 in August
--the $1,530 200-MHz Pentium Pro with 512K of cache memory, which is targeted at server systems, to $1,200 in May.

Lastly, sources said Intel is also planning to introduce a 200-MHz Pentium later this year priced at just below $600. The sources expect the cost to sink quickly thereafter to about $500, sources said.

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