Intel unleashes new PII, Celeron chips

Intel Corp. last week unveiled its 450 MHz Pentium II processor and two low-cost Celeron processors running at speeds of 300A MHz and 333 MHz. Other vendors have responded to these releases with a flood of new server, workstation and desktop products that will be on government procurement vehicles just in time for the height of the buying season.

Intel expects the 450 MHz Pentium II processor to be used in what the company calls "mainstream performance PCs" as well as entry-level servers and workstations. The 450 MHz Pentium II uses the 440BX AGP chipset, which enables the processor to communicate with system components at 100 MHz.

The 450 MHz Pentium II can be used in a dual-processor capacity; it features 512K of Level 2 (L2) cache, which runs at 225 MHz. The 450 MHz Pentium II runs up to 10 percent faster than the 400 MHz Pentium II, according to Intel's own tests.

The 333 MHz and 300A MHz Celeron processors now have 128K of integrated L2 cache. Previous versions of the Celeron had no cache at all. According to Intel's tests, the 333 MHz and 300A MHz Celeron processors are up to 38 percent and 25 percent faster than the standard 300 MHz Celeron, respectively. The Celeron's chipset is the 440EX, which features a system bus speed of 66 MHz, lower power consumption and on-die cache, which enables L2 cache to run at the processor's speed.

Celeron processors are aimed at the sub-$1,200 desktop PC market, where Intel is feeling pressured by low-cost chips from Cyrix Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Yet market reaction is mixed when it comes to the Celeron. "The perception is that you're getting a hobbled computer," said Bob Dornan, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc.

Industry analyst Robert Guerra said he believes a federal demand for Celeron-based products exists, but Celeron will not dominate the market.

While analysts are reserved, vendors are singing the praises of Celeron. "The Celeron is a well-positioned product, especially in areas that are price-sensitive," said Michael Takemura, Compaq Computer Corp.'s product marketing manger for desktops in North America. "The Celerons with cache [are] getting some very good, increased performance."

Compaq will announce systems using the new processors in the near future, and pricing will be available soon after that.

Leo Holland, the federal OptiPlex brand manager at Dell Computer Corp., said users with low computing requirements or those who do administrative work might be likely users of Celeron-based machines. He said some users may want to use Celeron-based machines to replace some types of thin-clients so that the systems function like a network PC.

Mike Wagner, Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.'s director of commercial desktops, was even more positive about the Celeron. "We think this new generation is really going to turn around and impress people," he said.

Wagner said Toshiba's Celeron-based desktops will start at about $949, and the 450 MHz Pentium IIs will start at about $2,199. Both will be available on the General Services Administration schedule, with shipping starting around Sept. 15. "We're expanding the range of options a customer can choose from in the Equium line," Wagner said.

Last week Gateway Inc. released 450 MHz systems that are expected to be on Gateway's GSA schedule soon. The Gateway ALR 7200 and Gateway ALR 8200 are the company's newest server options. Both come in dual-processor configurations, but the major difference between the entry-level 7200 and the midrange 8200 is expandability. Gateway also is offering workstations and standard client desktops built around the 450 MHz Pentium II processor.

Additionally, Gateway will be adding units to its G-Series and GP-Series based on the 333 MHz Celeron processor. A standard G-Series desktop configuration will feature a 333 MHz Celeron processor, 32M of RAM, a 6G hard drive, a DVD-ROM, a video card with 4M of VRAM and a 17-inch monitor. The GSA price for this configuration is expected to be just less than $1,600.

Dell also plans to release systems based on the new processors, and those systems will be available on Dell's GSA schedule.

Marvin Griffin, chief of the Air Force's technology insertion branch, said Dell and Micron Electronics Inc. are advertising that systems featuring the new processors soon will be available on their Desktop V supplement blanket purchasing agreements. Griffin said Dunn/IDP Corp. is the only vendor trying to add 450 MHz machines to its Desktop V contract.

Joanne Woytek, the SEWP manager and contracting officer's technical representative at NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement II contract office, said workstations and desktops featuring the new processors would be added to the SEWP II contract only if there is a customer need. But she added that "any server that is out there will be on SEWP II."

Intergraph Federal Systems expects to add 450 MHz Pentium II-based TD 260 desktops, TDZ 2000 GL2 ViZual workstations and InterServe 80 SL and 800 SL servers to its GSA schedule in the first week in September. Intergraph hopes to have the products available on its CAD-2 contracts soon after that. Intergraph is not planning on releasing any Celeron-based systems.


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