Intel puts x86 crown on the line

Intel puts x86 crown on the line
Steve Bush and Richard Ball When Intel launches its Pentium III tomorrow (Thursday) it will, for the first time, be introducing a device having no major architectural changes from a previous generation. It also looks likely that AMD will take the PC performance lead with K7, its next generation processor due out this summer. “From what Intel has said about Katmai, I expect K7 to have a higher performance,” said Steve Hesley, a member of AMD’s K7 processor design team. Hesley was speaking at the ISSCC conference in San Francisco where both AMD and Intel revealed circuit details from their latest processors. K7 is a true seventh generation core from AMD, with improved execution and a 200MHz bus. Katmai is Intel’s codename for Pentium III (pictured), which recently entered production. The core and bus structure have not changed from Pentium II, the only significant change being the addition of single instruction, multiple data (SIMD) extensions for floating point numbers. If an application doesn’t use floating point, then Pentium III will be no faster than Pentium II at the same clock speed. By diversifying its product line into three streams – Celeron, Pentium II and Xeon – Intel has put less effort into producing a new generation x86 core. This could lose Intel its status as x86 performance leader. If so, it is unlikely to be regained until late 2000 when Willamette, Intel’s seventh generation processor, arrives. Any performance debate between the two companies is currently a war of words as neither company can be persuaded to reveal meaningful specification figures. This week in Palm Springs Intel will be demonstrating a Pentium III running at 1GHz. This is double the official launch speeds of 450 and 500MHz.


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