Intel launched five new processor variants and escalated its pricing war with chief rival AMD last week.
The Celeron processor is now available in 366MHz and 400MHz flavours, in both slot and socket formats. These are the first processors to use the PPGA (Plastic Pin Grid Array) package, which has previously been referred to as Socket 370.
All Celeron processors feature 128Kb of second-level cache integrated onto the processor core.
Intel also introduced the 450MHz Xeon chip, in three versions using 512Kb, 1Mb and 2Mb of second-level cache.
In an effort to steal some thunder from the Celeron announcement, AMD aggressively slashed the price of its K6 processors over the Christmas period. Pricing of the K6-2/400 was cut by #36, bringing it down to #105.
Intel responded by introducing the new 400MHz Celeron at a bargain basement price of #95. Prices of the 300MHz and 333MHz Celerons were cut in early December prompting accusations from Cyrix of stock dumping as Intel prepared to introduce the new socket format to market.
Further controversy arose when benchmarks showed the new Celeron chips to offer practically identical performance to the far more expensive PII processors running at equivalent speeds. This is due to the Celeron's integrated level two cache running at core speed, whereas the PII external cache runs more slowly.
An Intel spokesman told PC Week: "We've found that the PII's are about 5% faster than the Celerons on average. We see Celeron PCs as commodity items, being bought by people we don't expect to upgrade them.
The PII machines are more likely to be bought by corporate users who want to standardise on something which they'll be able to upgrade."
Intel is preparing to launch its next generation of processor, based on the Katmai instruction set, in late February.
The new chip will be called the Pentium III.
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