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Intel Celeron

Intel Celeron A: Image courtesy of Intel Corporation

Intel launched the Celeron processor in April 1998 as a response to the growth of the sub 1000 PC market. This was something Intel did not wish to see as virtually all of this market was controlled by products such as AMD's K6 and Cyrix's MII. These PC's were showing many new PC owners that they need not spend over 1000 to get a PC which offered a fast processor coupled to a fully featured PC (ie, sound card, decent monitor, etc). The sub 1000 PC was no longer the preserve of last years technology, it was up to date and more importantly winning customers away from Intel in the home market.

Intel could respond to this threat in two ways, it could close its eyes and wish that AMD and Cyrix would go away, or it could take the battle to its rivals. Hence the scene was set for Intel's biggest volt face of recent years, it was going to make a budget processor.

Intel Celeron part 1, the Covington

The original Celeron was launched amid much press (and public) derision in April 1998. It was essentially a Pentium II (Deschutes core) with all of the level 2 cache and plastic casing removed. This was chiefly to reduce costs. Wheras removing the casing was probably a good idea in the opinion of the author as it enabled more efficient cooling of the hot running P6 core, the removal of the level 2 cache was a disaster. This chip ran at speeds of 266 & 300 MHz.

Modern Processors are dependant upon level 2 cache memory as a means of increasing power at a relatively low cost. The removal of the Pentium II's 512Kb of cache with the Celeron, turned a very fast chip into a rather slow one indeed. The Celeron struggled to even match benchmark scores of the by then obsolete Pentium MMX 200. This meant that it was by no means a match for its rivals who were by this time offering levels of power to match the Pentium II.

We have used a Celeron 266 very briefly and can say that it is a very disappointing chip indeed. It felt slower than the K6 200 and under Windows 98 it was an appalling performer indeed. It offered no advantage over its fifth generation predecessor and this was very public knowledge. Things though were not entirely gloomy for the Celeron as it did have the Pentium II's superb floating point capability which enabled it to gain a small degree of respectability in the gaming community.

The only ray of hope for this processor was that it gained a very high reputation amongst the "overclocking" community. With the removal of the chip's level 2 cache, the Deschutes core of this chip enabled it to reach some very fast speeds indeed. Tales of overclocking to 400 MHz are around and this enabled some to get very cheap PII 333 power in the summer of 1998.

Thing's can only get better

Even at the launch of the Celeron in April 1998, the original cachless Celeron was only going to be made for a limited time, its replacement, the Mendocino was only just around the corner. To see what this did for the Celeron, read on.

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