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Intel counters AMD with "Tualatin" chips

Delivering a counterpunch to rival Advanced Micro Devices and its new 1GHz Athlon 4 chip, Intel is set to launch new mobile Pentium III chips this July.

Delivering a counterpunch to rival Advanced Micro Devices and its new 1GHz Athlon 4 chip, Intel will launch five new mobile Pentium III chips this July, sources said.

The chips--code-named Tualatin (pronounced "TWO-ala-tin")--will be the first new and faster Pentium III chips in more than a year, boasting clock speeds of up to 1.13GHz, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans.

The fastest new mobile Pentium IIIs will compete with AMD's Athlon 4 chip--announced Monday--a mobile version of the Athlon that runs at speeds as high as 1GHz.

The five Tualatin chips will run at clock speeds of 866MHz, 933MHz, 1GHz, 1.06GHz and 1.13GHz.

The new chips give Intel two other things it needs to compete in the mobile market: lower power consumption and possibly improved manufacturing yields.

The Tualatin "answers the competition on all fronts," said Mike Feibus, principal analyst at Mercury Research. "I don't see it as a knockout punch, but I do see it as an effective counter" to competitors.

The chips are being built using the company's new 0.13-micron manufacturing process.

The transition from the current 0.18-micron process to the new process provides a number of advantages. It allows for the increases in clock speed while reducing the physical size of the chip, letting Intel manufacture a greater number of chips per single silicon wafer. At the same time, the chips will consume less power.

The five new Pentium IIIs will sport a 133MHz front side bus--the data pipeline that connects the chip to other PC components, such as memory--and are also expected to feature improvements including a larger 512KB Level 2 cache and a new version of Intel's SpeedStep notebook battery-saving technology.

SpeedStep, in its current form, allows a mobile Pentium III to scale back in clock speed and voltage to save power when a notebook switches to batteries. This second version of SpeedStep will take that further, allowing the chip to switch between the chip's lowest clock speed and lowest voltage setting to its maximum voltage and clock speed settings.

"This improves on what we've done" in the past, said Don MacDonald, director of marketing for Intel's mobile products group.

Though he wouldn't comment on clock speeds or the timing of Intel's Tualatin launch, MacDonald said the chipmaker's goal is to continue to dominate the market for mobile chips.

"We are committed to having the highest-performance and the lowest-power" mobile processors, MacDonald said. "There's a road map of (Tualatin-based mobile) products coming out throughout the year.

"The advantage is two ways, depending on how you spin some dials," he said, referring to the ability to increase clock speed or to decrease power consumption on slower Pentium III chips.

As a result, Intel also plans to launch low-power versions of the Tualatin Pentium III chips later this year for smaller-sized notebooks. The chips will stick to the same or lower power consumption as the current line of low-power Pentium III processors but will offer higher clock speeds.

Meta Group says both of Intel's new products--the Tualatin mobile Pentium III chips, to be introduced in July, and the "Internet chip," which integrates a processor core, flash memory, and DSP--as positive developments.

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These lower-power chips will aim to fend off Transmeta's progress with its Crusoe processor in small-sized notebooks, such as the recently announced Toshiba Libretto L1.

After the launch of the Tualatin mobile chips, Intel plans a host of other processors based on the new Pentium III design. The chipmaker will also launch new Pentium III desktop and Xeon server processors based on Tualatin. The desktop Pentium III chips are expected at speeds of 1.13GHz and 1.2GHz. However, Intel is not expected to aggressively market Tualatin Pentium III chips for the desktop.

A new chipset will also accompany the Tualatin mobile chips. The chipset, code-named Almador-M (for "mobile"), offers improvements intended to complement the new processors, including support for PC133 memory. It also offers a 133MHz bus.

Intel will, over time, move all of its chips to the new 0.13-micron process. The chipmaker will, for example, move the desktop Pentium 4 chip to 0.13 micron in the fourth quarter. A mobile version of the Pentium 4 will ship in the first half of 2002.

The name "Tualatin" comes from the Tualatin river, located near Intel's Hillsboro, Ore., facilities, where the new chips were designed and are being manufactured in small quantities.