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Year 2000 Review

Intel continued.

The low-point of summer 2000 for Intel came with the release and recall of the 1.13 GHz Pentium III processor. Released as part of the on-going clock-speed war with rival chip maker AMD, the 1.13 GHz Pentium III offered performance on a par with 1 and 1.1 GHz Athlon processors in many respects. The problem came with systems failing to boot, or failing after prolonged usage indicating a heat related problem with the CPU. After nearly five years of production, the speed limitations of the hugely successful P6 family were beginning to become apparent.

Autumn 2000 saw things begin to look brighter for Intel as supplies of both Pentium III and Celeron processors began to return to something resembling normality. This coupled to the growing stature of the i815e chipset saw many system integrators being able to offer purely Intel based systems to their customers that didn’t depend upon either the ageing BX or integrated i810 chipsets. Despite this, autumn 2000 saw another previously Intel only OEM fall to AMD in the form of UK based supplier Tiny Computers. The only major supplier who remained loyal to Intel was the mighty Dell.

November 2000 saw the release of the latest chapter in the Intel saga, in the form of the seventh generation Pentium 4 processor. Unlike Intel processor releases of recent years, the Pentium 4 was the first new architecture release since the P6 appeared with the Pentium Pro back in 1995. Breaking with the recent Intel tradition of dubbing architecture designs with a “P” number, Intel decided to brand its new architecture with the name “NetBurst”. This name obviously alludes to Intel’s ambitions as a major player alongside Cisco and Nortel as one of the major Internet hardware providers.

Despite the innovative naming convention adopted by Intel for the Pentium 4, the new “NetBurst” architecture featured a host of new innovations such as “Hyper-pipelined technology” (A 20-stage pipeline to you and me), a “Quad-pumped” 400 MHz bus (four 100 MHz FSB channels) and SSE 2 instructions. What is apparent about the Pentium 4 is that it is designed to run at extremely high clock-speeds (in excess to 2-3 Ghz), and partly explains its rather disappointing performance at the launch speed of 1.5 GHz. Many reviews found the Pentium 4 to have difficulty in out-performing a 1 GHz Pentium III at speeds of 1.5 Ghz.

Overall Intel may want to forget 2000, especially in view of its problems concerning supply of chips and the onslaught from rival firms such as AMD and VIA. What 2000 may well be ultimately remember for is the release of a new architecture in the form of the Pentium 4. Like 1995, not many found the release of the Pentium Pro hugely relevant, but the Pentium 4 well may prove to be as successful a chip design as the P6 has been for the past five years.

The players: Intel.


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Review Posted 31st December 2000

© Copyright, Anthony Barrett 1999/2000.