CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Tech Industry

Pentium Pro's last gasp

Intel next week is expected to announce what will probably be the last version of the Pentium Pro processor.

Intel (INTC) next week is expected to announce what will probably be the last version of the Pentium Pro processor.

The Pentium Pro, introduced back in October 1995 as a chip for expensive PC workstation and server computers, never really came down from this lofty market niche to the average PC user's desktop.

And it appears it likely never will. In its last iteration, the Pentium Pro will appeal only to the highest of high-end server users before it is finally completely replaced by the equally capable but cheaper Pentium II processor in 1998.

The new version of the Pentium Pro will get more cache memory--a critical requirement for multiprocessor servers and workstations. Speedy cache memory keeps the processor fed with data. Since processors run much faster than standard DRAM memory can feed them data, high-speed cache memory is used to make sure the processor is not "starving" for data.

The new Pentium Pro will now have 1MB of built-in cache memory, twice that of current versions. The clock speed is not expected to change, staying at 200 MHz. It will be targeted at pricey four-processor-capable servers, a market the Pentium II processor is not yet ready for. The Pentium II currently can only be used in one- or two-processor servers. Also, the Pentium II now only comes with half the amount of cache of the new Pentium Pro.

The new Pentium Pro chip itself will be pricey, too. It is expected to cost well over $1,000 and possibly closer to $2,000. By comparison, the fastest Pentium II chip is now below $800.

The Pentium Pro's price alone will limit its use, according to an industry source familiar with the announcement. Full-featured, four-processor Pentium Pro systems are priced at well over $10,000 in most cases.

As to the fate of the Pentium Pro, "It will be pushed into the high end. By the middle of next year there won't be too many Pentium Pros shipping, I imagine," said Linely Gwennap, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report, an industry newsletter.

Various versions of the Pentium Pro will also continue to see limited use by PC manufacturers who continue to sell older models with the processor.

But the death knell for the Pentium Pro is rooted in the fact that the Pentium II is already much like a Pentium Pro in that it has the same basic internal architecture. Moreover, it outdoes the Pentium Pro in two critical ways: First, the Pentium II has Intel's MMX multimedia capabilities, while the Pentium Pro does not. Second, in 1998 the Pentium II will find its way into PCs priced well below $2,000, a market the Pentium Pro never really entered.

By next year, the Pentium II will match the Pentium Pro in the last two critical areas--support for four-processor servers and cache memory technology--making the Pro ultimately unnecessary.

Currently, the Pentium II is used in high-end PCs, workstation computers, and low-end servers.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.