Pentium III To Offer Hidden Boosts

Intel Corp. is breaking new manufacturing ground with its forthcoming Pentium III processors with an advanced process that should yield low-cost chips that require less power.

The Pentium III, due in March, will eventually be built using the 0.18-micron manufacturing process, superseding the 0.25-micron process, said officials at the Santa Clara, Calif., company.

Moving from 0.25 micron to 0.18 micron will improve performance and lower power requirements from the 0.25-micron Pentium II's 1.8-volt core voltage to 1.5 volts for desktops and 1.1 volts for mobile PCs, said Mark Bohr, an Intel fellow and director of the company's process architecture and integration technology and manufacturing group.

Initial Pentium III chips will still be built on the 0.25-micron manufacturing process. The company will begin production on 0.18-micron versions of the processor in the first half of this year. It expects to deliver in the third quarter the first Pentium III chips based on the 0.18-micron process. Those initial chips will be designed for notebooks but will be followed by desktop, workstation and server versions.

Although the 0.25-micron Pentium IIIs initially will be offered at 450MHz and 500MHz, Intel (INTC) will push its 0.18-micron Pentium IIIs to about 800MHz eventually.

New 32-bit and 64-bit processors on the drawing board will push speeds to 1GHz, said Bohr.

Stiff competition

Intel is bringing its 0.18-micron process online ahead of schedule, according to company officials, but several of its competitors are not far behind. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Motorola Inc. plan to disclose details of their new chips at the 1999 International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 15.

At the conference, AMD will discuss the K7, a 500MHz chip that is expected to debut in the second quarter. Motorola will talk about a 450MHz 7W PowerPC chip equipped with its AltiVec instruction and copper interconnects, according to conference organizers.

While others, such as Motorola, are moving to copper, Intel plans to continue using aluminum interconnects on its 0.18-micron Pentium III chips.

"We chose aluminum because it can provide high-performance interconnects and [because of manufacturing reasons]," Bohr said. "We recognize the theoretical advantage to copper. It's not yet mature and not yet competitive [costwise and performancewise] with aluminum."

Intel will offer a first look at the Pentium III and its new Streaming SIMD Instructions, formerly known as Katmai New Instructions, at a "preview day" in San Jose on Feb. 17. The event will bring together software developers and major PC OEMs such as Dell Computer Corp. to show new desktop PCs and productivity software based on the chip. The PCs will be priced at around $2,000, Intel officials said.

Source:  PC Week


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