Chip analyst Michael Slater, in his traditional round up of the microprocessor market at Winhec, criticised Intel for charging widely differing prices for virtually identical chips.
Intel has been cranking up the performance and slashing the price of its entry level Celeron processor line under pressure from competition in the sub-$1,000 PC segment, said Slater. But at the same time, it has attempted to safeguard the price of its Pentium II and Pentium III lines, he said.
This is leading to pricing anomalies, according to Slater. For instance, the 400 MHz Pentium II is more than twice the price of the Celeron chip with the same clock speed, which sells for $133. ?And yet there?s probably a five to eight per cent difference in performance,? said Slater, who is principal analyst at Micro Design Resources.
However, most PC vendors tend to configure their Pentium II models with faster hard drives and graphics subsystems than their Celeron systems, creating the impression of a larger performance gap, Slater added.
?I see the Pentium II today as the processor for people who aren?t paying attention. If cost matters at all, they should be buying Celerons,? said Slater.
Slater pointed out that for typical business applications, Intel?s most expensive desktop processor ? the 500 MHz Pentium III ? is only about 1.5 times faster than its cheapest processor, the 300 MHz Celeron 300A.
And yet, the Pentium III, with its $696 sticker, is more than ten times as expensive as the Celeron 300A, which sells for $63 in quantities of 1,000.
All current Intel desktop processors are based on the same core, but differ in clock speed, bus speed and the quantity and speed of level 2 cache.
The Pentium III does include a new instruction set, SSE (Streaming SIMD Extensions), that speeds up certain operations such as 3D graphics. But applications that do not make use of the new instructions, will perform roughly the same on Pentium II and Pentium III.
?The Pentium III we really think of more as a Pentium II Plus, it?s not really a new processor core,? said Slater.
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