The switch over to Intel’s 0.18-micron Coppermine core has occurred very quickly. It’s hard to believe that five months ago the Coppermine didn’t even exist and AMD’s Athlon was on its way to completely dominating the performance desktop processor segment. In comparison to the older Pentium III based on the 0.25-micron Katmai core, the Athlon had no problem completely wiping the floor with the chip.
On a clock for clock basis, as well as on an uneven playing field, the Athlon ended up ahead of the Pentium III in every single test we could throw at it including some tests specifically optimized for the Pentium III’s SSE instructions. Things looked very promising for AMD and their newly born Athlon, and at the same time, things weren’t looking good at all for Intel who had had a very easy time competing with the K6-X line of processors from AMD.
Ideally, Intel was to release their new Pentium III with a full speed on-die L2 cache as well as a number of other enhancements on October 25, 1999 alongside their new desktop chipset platform, the i820. Unfortunately, the launch didn’t go exactly as planned, and although the new Pentium III ended up making its way out the door on that day, it’s partner, the i820, didn’t make it. It wouldn’t be until later in Q4 when the i820 chipset would actually see the light of day, and even then it was plagued with a relatively poor welcoming from motherboard manufacturers simply because the incredibly high costs of RDRAM, the i820’s only natively supported memory type, kept it from being a viable alternative to the BX platform.
In addition to the lack of a good platform to run the processor on at its launch, Intel was plagued by supply issues which resulted in a complete lack of Pentium III CPUs in the usual channels for the entire month of February of this year. According to Intel, these problems weren’t related to yield, but rather a simple case of the demand exceeding the supply of parts. The processors that were available didn’t exhibit any signs of a poor yield, especially considering the success we, as well as many other users, enjoyed with overclocking the 500E and 550E processors to speeds of 750 and 825MHz in some cases.
The combination of an unattractive motherboard platform with poor availability left Intel in a position they’re not used to, and gave AMD quite a big opportunity. AMD exploited that opportunity earlier this week with the release of the world’s first air-cooled x86 processor operating at a frequency of 1000MHz, or 1GHz. Luckily, Intel was able to respond to AMD’s recent processor launch with a release of their own.
It’s time to welcome the newest addition to the Pentium III family, just 5 months after the release of the 733MHz parts, the 1GHz CPUs are finally here.