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Pentium II to hit 366 MHz

But not until the fourth quarter of 1998, an analyst says. Server chips could hit 366 MHz, desktops 300 MHz, and notebooks 266 MHz.

Next year will bring 366-MHz Pentium II chips, according to an analyst with MicroDesign Resources.

The well-known semiconductor industry research firm expects Intel (INTC) to have the "Deschutes" processor running as fast as 366 MHz for use in PC servers and 300 MHz for desktop computers by the fourth quarter of 1998. Deschutes is the code name for the next-generation Pentium II processor.

Chip competition 1997-1998  
Clock speed
Intel Pentium II 233-266 MHz
AMD K6 180-300 MHz
Cyrix M2 180-225 MHz
Intel Deschutes (Pentium II) * 266-366 MHz
* Release expected in 1998
Notebook computers using a special version of Deschutes may run as fast as 266 MHz in 1998, said Michael Slater, lead analyst for MicroDesign and editor of the Microprocessor Report. Slater gave his predictions in a presentation at WinHEC this week.

The Deschutes chip is expected to ship in 1998 running at speeds higher than the Pentium II, which has also been referred to as the "Klamath" processor. The Pentium II is expected to debut in May with 233- and 266-MHz versions.

The Pentium II, currently shipping to manufacturers in sample quantities, comes on a small module which holds the chip and the cache memory. Cache is very high-speed memory that boosts performance of the chip. The Deschutes processor will have the same basic design, but will pack the chip circuitry closer together, allowing higher speeds and lower power consumption.

A high-end PC server system due by late 1998 will have two to four 366-MHz Deschutes processors and will cost anywhere from $4,500 on up. Each processor will have 1MB of cache to increase performance, Slater predicts. By comparison, Pentium Pro processors used in current server designs have a maximum of 512 KB cache each.

The systems are also expected to have up to 56GB of RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) storage using Ultra-SCSI connection technology. RAID is a technology used to provide backup protection for vital data.

The combination of Deschutes and the Windows NT operating system will make for a potent combination that will continue to challenge servers based on processors such as Digital's Alpha RISC and Hewlett-Packard's PA-RISC, which run the Unix architecture.

A typical business desktop in late 1998 might have a 300-MHz Deschutes processor at a system price of around $2,500, Slater said. The desktop would also include 48MB of DRAM (dynamic RAM), a 4GB hard drive, and AGP support for high-speed 3D graphics. Systems are also likely to include 2X DVD-ROM drives.

However some analysts question what a business user is going to do with a 300-MHz Deschutes on their desktop.

"I don't know how business users are going to take advantage of all those MIPS (millions of instructions per second)," said Nathan Brookewood, an analyst for Dataquest, a market research firm. The question arises because typical users run productivity applications that don't require a great deal of processing power, such as word processing, email, and spreadsheets, with some Web browsing thrown in.

Microsoft has also talked about its vision of what a PC will look like in 1998 at WinHEC. In the corporate environment a highly networked, managed, and automated system is being touted, while Microsoft is pushing for a convergence of consumer electronics with the PC in home systems.

According to Microsoft a basic "PC 98" consumer system would feature a minimum 200-MHz Pentium-class processor with MMX, DVD-ROM player, TV capability, and in some cases a connection to a digital satellite system.

PC 98 design guidelines intend to connect PCs to consumer electronic devices and make the PC more like "idiot-proof" products such as TVs. Entertainment PCs may also run the next version of Windows 95, code-named Memphis. Slater thinks a 266-MHz Pentium II will be offered in $2,000 systems by the end of 1998.

Mobile notebooks for professionals will get a performance boost in late 1998. The "profesional" notebook is typically used for multimedia presentations for business executives and engineers who require desktop performance in a notebook form factor.

Slater expects high performance notebooks to have a 266-MHz Deschutes, 48MB of DRAM, 256K cache and a 4GB hard drive at prices of $4,000 and above. Thirteen-inch active matrix screens will become more prevalent, and some companies will also offer DVD-ROM drives. Current notebooks are limited to a 166-MHz Pentium processor with MMX, and most designs have 12.1-inch active matrix screens in the same price range.

Users probably won't have to bother with inserting a PC Card modem in to these machines to get network access. The Deschutes processor will have enough processing power to allow software-only 56-kbps modems. A software modem doesn't require additional chips to send and receive data, instead using the leftover processing capacity of CPUs, which is underused in many applications.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.