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CPU News July 1997

Intel Continued

Shrinking the Pentium II die to a .25 micron size will soon raise the clock speed and lower the power consumption of new Pentium II CPUs. This .025 micron Pentium II is already known under the code name 'Deschutes '. The current CPUs with clock rates of 233 up to 300 MHz will continue using the .35 micron die. Intel seems positive to have a 333 MHz Deschutes out this year still and 366, 400, 433, 466 up to even 500 MHz in the first half of next year. I guess that's the reason why Intel spokesmen are so optimistic, because since the Pentium II is scaling so nicely over the clock speed (due to the level 2 cache running at 1/2 or 1 times the clock speed) the performance levels of a 500 MHz high end Pentium II will give Intel's competitors quite a bit of a head ache. The Deschutes will come in two different flavours , first the 'mainstream ' version that is also limited to 512 MB of main memory, later on a special server version that will be able to cache up to 2 GB.

The high end Pentium II for 'the other slot' will be designed to run at 100 MHz bus speed in the first place, although there will be the chance to run it at 66 MHz bus as well.

One little word to the next Intel Pentium II / Pentium Pro chipset, the 440LX. You probably know that the most important new features of this chipset will be SDRAM support, AGP support and Ultra DMA support. This chipset will be launched pretty soon on August 26, 1998. Intel isn't very happy however, because Microsoft is pretty late with its release of 'Memphis' (Windows 98) and Windows NT 5.0, which will be the first operating systems to support AGP. There seems to be a simular problem with Microsoft's I2O support in their OS versions, so that Intel currently has enough reasons to be a little moody with Microsoft. This is also giving problems to me as a hardware tester, since I need an AGP enabled OS for my AGP testing in the very near future. I have to stick to beta versions, which obviously don't necessarily show the whole performance advantage. Some AGP testing I did a few weeks ago couldn't show any enhancement from AGP at all, due to alpha drivers of the cards and other software odds as well as a 440LX chipset revision level of only 'A1'. The stepping 'A2' is out now and the next testing will hopefully be more revealing. I'll keep you posted.
The following chipsets will be the 440BX and 440NX. Both are supposed to run at 100 MHz bus clock, using SDRAM. The 440NX chipset will be for servers and will replace the 450GX chipset. It will support quad or more CPUs and will hence run with the new high end Pentium II.

One last word about nDRAM, Intel's future RAM technology, developed together with and basing on Rambus RAM. This RAM will probably come out together with the 'Merced', Intel's future 64bit CPU, developed in cooperation with Hewlett Packard, that'll run at up to 1 GHz. Hence no nDRAM much before the end of the century.

AMD

Although I've got a very friendly contact with AMD, news about a future CPU are currently zero. However I at least don't get my bag searched when entering or leaving their building as happening at Intel in Santa Clara. The news I do have however aren't too bad as well. You might know about VIA's upcoming new chipset called Apollo VP3, which will include AGP support for Socket 7. AMD is also working on their own AMD640AGP chipset, which doesn't seem much behind VIA. Hence we shouldn't have to wait too long after August 26 to welcome AGP to Socket 7 boards. Boards with the AMD640 chipset are starting to ship very soon too, I've already seen one so far, but I'm not yet allowed to publish about it.

AMD's fab in Austin seems to work fine now, so that AMD will eventually be able satisfying the market with their K6 CPUs. They are also working very hard on the first shrink to .25 micron, which will lower the voltage and hence the power consumption of the K6 as well as finally enable the manufacturing of 266 MHz or even faster K6 CPUs.

One very interesting thing got almost forgotten in the last months, which is AMD's plans of the high performance 100 MHz bus. From the information that I've got it looks as if AMD will release this new technology long before Intel (440BX and 440NX, both Q1 1998). I look forward to testing a 100 MHz bus speed board pretty soon.

Although Intel's plans sound pretty scary, AMD doesn't seem to be impressed at all. I'm pretty sure that AMD has got an answer to the 500 MHz Pentium II, however so far they are keeping extremely quiet.