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Tech Industry

3 new Intel chips due

Intel will roll out the controversial Celeron and Pentium IIs running at 350 MHz and 400 MHz, Wednesday in San Francisco.

Intel (INTC) will roll out Celeron, a controversial processor aimed at sub-$1,000 PCs and set-top boxes, this coming Wednesday at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

Simultaneously, Intel will unveil two high-end Pentium II chips running at 350 MHz and 400 MHz.

A flurry of new systems will accompany the introductions. Approximately 40 computer vendors will be on hand to demonstrate computers based around the new processors, Intel said in a statement.

Celeron, which will run at 266 MHz, has been panned in early reviews by chip analysts, who say the chip will not perform as well as earlier top-performance Pentium MMX chips. The shortcoming owes to the fact that the initial version of Celeron does not contain a secondary "L2 cache" memory chip.

The extra L2 cache chip, which boosts performance, was one of the innovations Intel put into the "P6" architecture, the foundation of the Pentium II processor.

Sources in the computer industry channel have said that computer vendor support for the first Celeron chip is tepid. In fact, some vendors, such as Dell Computer, will wait to bring out Celeron-based systems in some lines.

Vendors may be waiting a faster version. The next Celeron chip, code-named Mendocino, will contain the critical cache memory and likely bring performance back up to par. It comes out toward the end of the year. In the meantime, competitor AMD hopes to exploit the performance gap left open by the first Celeron.

NEC Computer Systems will come out with $800 corporate systems based on Celeron, but tellingly, IBM is expected to emphasize Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) K6-based systems for low-end consumer machines and Pentium MMX boxes for the sub-$800 business market.

Most vendors, including Compaq, are likely to announce Celeron computers, though they will not promote these systems strongly. "It's not something vendors are going to flock too," said Kevin Hause, an analyst at International Data Corporation.

Meanwhile, the other chips being announced by Intel will constitute a speed upgrade from today's top speed of 333 MHz. Each will also contain technology which boosts the speed at which the Pentium II talks to other components in the system. Current Pentium II chips use a 66-MHz system "bus." New designs will use a faster 100-MHz bus.

Dell will announce new Optiplex business systems which use the new versions of the chip and the faster bus, according to a Dell spokesperson.

Sources have said that the 400-MHz Pentium II will cost approximately $800 in volume while the 350-MHz version will sell for $609.

A 450-MHz version of the chip will come out in July, according to sources.

Paul Otellini, executive vice president of Intel's Architecture Business Group, will conduct the proceedings, which begin at 10 a.m.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.