Following AMD, Intel clocks in with gigahertz screamer –

Keeping the heat on in the gigahertz processor race, Intel Corp. announced availability of its long anticipated 1GHz Pentium III. This comes two days after rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) said that it is shipping its 1GHz Athlon processor.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel is touting its new processor as the "world's highest performance microprocessor for PCs." The 1GHz processor is available in limited quantities. It is expected to be offered in high-end PCs aimed at applications such as digital photography, music, video editing and games.

The potential performance of the new chips from both AMD and Intel may be gauged based on previous versions. "Based on what we know at the 800MHz level it looks to us like the Pentium III will outperform Athlon on a broad bunch of benchmarks," said Keith Diefendorff, editor-in-chief of The Microprocessor Report, published by Micro Design Resources of Sunnyvale, Calif. Diefendorff notes that the AMD chip could well surpass the Intel chip on some benchmarks.

"The Intel chip has a larger on-chip cache. That's a pretty big performance win for them," said Diefendorff. "But the Intel processor does not blow the AMD chip out of the water."

In terms of microarchitecture (how the chip handles instructions), said Diefendorff, the Athlon may be superior. But, a drawback at this juncture, he said, is that the chip set associated with Intel's Pentium III is faster than anything available to accompany the AMD processor. He also noted that Intel has aggressively undercut AMD in pricing, although he expected AMD would match Intel's pricing in time.

The Pentium III processor 1 GHz in SECC2 packaging is priced at $990 in 1,000-unit quantities, and is said to be available now in limited quantities. AMD is currently shipping its 1GHz AMD Athlon processors priced at $1,299 in 1,000 unit quantities.

Several computer makers have quickly announced PCs that use the new Intel processor.

Quick to endorse the chip was Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co. HP's Pavilion 1G PC, priced at US$3,499, is expected to be available next week in the U.S. Meanwhile, Dell Computer Corp. said that it will ship its Special Edition Dell Dimension desktop, priced at $5,999, although the company didn't specify when shipments would begin.

With reporting by Nancy Weil, IDG News Service, Boston Bureau

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