Intel Pentium III

by Anand Lal Shimpi on February 22, 1999 10:20 PM EST

A Cool New Look - SECC2

Intel made a mistake with the introduction of the first Pentium II's Single Edge Contact Cartridge (SECC), the mistake was made in an attempt to eliminate the competition by introducing a new standard into the market (sound familiar? MMX…). By enclosing the entire Pentium II processor in a plastic casing, and by making the printed circuit board (PCB) the Pentium II was placed on so large, the costs of producing a single Pentium II processor almost prevented the technology from being introduced into the sub-$1000 PC market. Intel threw together a quick fix for this problem by introducing the Celeron processor, which removed the plastic casing around the Pentium II. This "naked" design also allowed for direct contact to be made between the processor and the heatsink/fan combo which helped improve cooling issues the higher frequency processors introduced. Intel's final admission of their mistake came with the introduction of the socketed Celeron processor that completely removed the processor card design and reverted back to the days of Socket-7 Pentium processors. Intel insisted that this move back to socketed interfaces was for the low-end processors to drive costs down for the newly established sub-$600 PC markets.

To keep costs down on the Slot-1 Pentium II/III processors that Intel had been claiming were so "superior" in their slot design the company decided to introduce a new standard for the slot-1 cartridge, SECC2. By removing the front half of the SECC packaging, and allowing the processor's heatsink to make contact with the processor itself, Intel is able to cut costs, as well as improve cooling efficiency. SECC2 will be standard on all Pentium III processors, and it has been available, albeit in limited quantities, on Pentium II processors.

The Pentium III is also a complete implementation of Intel's new Organic Land Grid Array packaging process, a deviation from the standard Plastic Land Grid Array packaging which is much larger in comparison.


Click to Enlarge

The OLGA package of the Pentium III can also be seen, in limited quantities, on newer Pentium II processors, such as some Pentium II 450 units.

Cracking Down on the Bad Guys

Alongside the release of the new Pentium III Intel introduced two highly controversial features into their latest processor line, the first of which being Frequency Locking. As we're already familiar with, clock locking, or the limiting of the available clock multiplier pins on a CPU to a single setting (i.e. 4.0x clock multiplier on the Pentium II 400) was a feature Intel introduced into the Pentium II/Celeron line of processors back in 1998 in order to eliminate both the overclocking and remarking of Intel processors. Since Intel has had such an extremely high yield on their processors, some unscrupulous vendors were actually selling overclocked processors and remarking them as their overclocked counterparts and making quite a killing off of the sales. The problem with this, from Intel's perspective, was that when the consumer finds out that they've been had, the first in line to receive a nice little blaming would be Intel, provided that the vendor mysteriously "disappeared." Intel did not want any sort of defacing of their name in this manner, and in order to combat remarkers, they introduced a number of measures to reduce the quantity of remarked chips floating around on the market.

This still didn't stand in the way of Intel as remarkers quickly found a way around the clock locking mechanisms driving Intel to a more rash method of combating the problem, frequency locking. The Pentium III will be the first frequency locked processor from Intel, meaning that the processors will only operate within a certain range of clock frequencies before shutting themselves down. Since no clock generator can produce a solid 450MHz or 500MHz frequency, Intel has built some variation into their frequency locking technology, allowing a Pentium III 500 to operate within a few MHz above or below the 500MHz mark (i.e. 495MHz - 505MHz). Although Intel would not specify the exact tolerance the Pentium III processors would provide for, nor would they discuss the details of how they happen to be achieving the frequency locking on the processors themselves, it is obvious that Intel is trying their best to kill two birds with one stone here by eliminating overclocking and remarking. Let's just hope, for our sake, that we can find a way around these limitations.

Revolutionary or Revolving? Controversy Continues

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