Intel has reversed its Celeron strategy, after users and vendors failed to show much enthusiasm for the low-performance chip.
The company last week announced it will ship a 300MHz version of the Celeron next month, in a bid to offset reports of poor performance. It will also put Level 2 cache back into the chip in future releases - a complete U-turn on the company's initial strategy, which was to release cheap Pentium II chips by just removing the cache altogether.
The 300MHz model will still not come with any Level 2 cache. According to most reviews, the Celeron's performance is very poor compared to similarly priced processors from AMD and Cyrix, and is mainly good for games such as Quake 2 that rely heavily on the Floating Point Unit (see PC Week, 28 April).
The 300MHz version will help to increase performance slightly, and it is likely that the original 266MHz version will drop in price when the new chip ships. Although he would not confirm this, an Intel spokesman said that is "typically what's happened in the past" when a new processor is released.
Joe D'Elia, senior analyst at Dataquest, said that the 266MHz and 300MHz versions were simply "placeholders" for the 333MHz version, codenamed "Mendocino" and expected to arrive in early 1999. This chip, although branded Celeron, will actually contain a different core to the Pentium II on which the present Celeron is based.
D'Elia explained that the original Celeron was a stripped-down version of the Pentium II chip, basically the same but with the Level 2 cache removed. Mendocino will be a revised core, using 128Kb of Level 2 cache built into the chip itself, and running at the processor's core frequency.
Current Pentium IIs use a Level 2 cache running at half-core frequency.
"This should put Mendocino on a par with a 300MHz K6 3D+," said D'Elia, referring to the chip AMD expects to release at the end of the year. "Intel should be able to pitch Mendocino at a good price point, and AMD's pricing may be higher."
The K6's advantage would be its set of proprietary 3D extensions, which have been adopted by IDT/Centaur and Cyrix.
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