Intel's New Weapon: The Coppermine

Coppermine's New Enhancements

What's the new stuff about Coppermine? Well, first of all it's important to note that Coppermine is not a completely new design. Rather than that it's the probably last enhancement of a CPU that was launched some 5 years ago as 'Pentium Pro'. Coppermine is an improved Pentium III-processor and most of it is based on its predecessor. I'd also like to note that the code name 'Coppermine' does NOT imply that this new processor is built using IBM's new copper-technology. The metal layers used in Coppermine are still aluminum (or 'aluminium' for all Europeans). The new stuff is the following:

256 kB of integrated, on-die second level (L2) cache, running at core clock

  • Effect A:

  • This fact alone makes the new Pentium III a 'one-chip'-solution, so that the good old 'single edge cartridge', filled with CPU-core, L2-cache controller and L2-cache chip, is technically no longer needed anymore. You will still find Coppermine for Slot1 because Intel wants it so, but the new Coppermine-based Pentium III processors can reside just as well in a housing for Socket370. Intel calls those chips FC-PGA370, where 'FC' stands for 'flip-chip. Today's release includes only Pentium III 500E and Pentium III 550E in this kind of form factor, but in the future Slot1 will go away and the majority of Coppermines will reside in the FC-PGA packaging.
  • Effect B:

  • The L2-cache of Coppermine may be only half the size of the L2-cache of its predecessor, but it's running at double the speed and is thus rather faster than slower than before.

Manufactured in .18µ-technology

  • Effect A:

  • The Coppermine silicon-chip is very small, although it hosts no less than 28.1 million transistors. As a matter of fact it's with 106 mm2 even smaller than the Katmai-chip, which only hosts a third of the amount of transistors on 128 mm2. This means that it takes less silicon to produce Coppermine and thus the productions costs go down too.
  • Effect B:

  • Coppermine requires less power and can be clocked higher. It can run at a voltage between 1.1-1.7 V and it needs less than a third of the power consumed by AMD's Athlon processor. Thus Coppermine is not only a 'pretty cool' CPU, it is also perfect for mobile computing, where power consumption is very important. Coppermine's highest clock speed that Intel releases today is 733 MHz and thus higher than AMD's highest clocked Athlon at 700 MHz.

Coppermine's New Enhancements, Continued

'Advanced Transfer Cache'
Behind this new name, invented by Intel's marketing department, you find the real reason why Coppermine is performing so much better than its predecessor. The integrated 256 kB-L2 cache is not only running at clock speed now, it became a lot of nice little enhancements that really make the difference.

  • Effect A:

  • First of all, the L2-cache is now connected to the core via a 256 bit wide data path , which is 4 times as wide as Katmai's 64 bit wide data path to its external half-speed L2-cache. Therefore Coppermine can transfer 32 Byte L2-cache data every two clocks, resulting in a whopping 11.2 GB/s data bandwidth between the core and the L2-cache.
  • Effect B:

  • The L2-cache associativity was increased to 8-way , which is supposed to improve performance by 3-6%.
  • Effect C:

  • The L2-cache latency was reduced to a quarter of what it used to be in Katmai (code name of the previous Pentium III). The reduced latency is lowering the penalty of L1-misses (that's when the core has to look up the data in the L2-cache or in main memory) and it makes the impact of snoops (that's when the core checks if the L2-cache data has been altered) less time consuming.

'Advanced System Buffering'
This is another marketing term for some more enhancements in Coppermine.

  • Effect:

  • 6 fill buffers vs. former 4 fill buffers, 8 bus queue entries vs. former 4 and 4 write-back buffers vs. former one make sure that Coppermine can take better advantage of the 133 MHz front side bus clock. More buffers allow more outstanding FSB operations and they again reduce latency of those operations.

The SpeedStep Technology for mobile systems

Behind this new name you'll find Intel's 'Geyserville'-technology.

  • Effect:

  • SpeedStep runs the mobile Coppermine at full speed and full voltage when the notebook is plugged into an external power source and reduces clock speed and voltage for a lower power consumption (but also lower performance) when the notebook operates from its battery.