As vendors race to market with new 450 and 500 MHz Pentium III systems, it may be a good time to remember that the real gains of this microprocessor won't be seen until this fall when Intel unleashes the next generation Pentium III, code-named "Coppermine." Aside from faster clock-speeds (Coppermine Pentium IIIs expected to debut at 600 MHz or better), these next-generation systems will also feature a modified internal architecture that is expected to distance them further from the current generation of Pentium II and III systems.
The key here is the removal of the 512 KB L2 external cache, which currently runs at half the speed of the processor. Instead, Coppermine Pentium III chips will employ a 256 KB L2 internal cache that runs at the full speed of the processor. And the Coppermine chips will employ a smaller (and thus, potentially, faster and cooler) 0.18 micron process, compared to the 0.25 micron process used today. Thus, a Coppermine Pentium III should run at least 10% faster than a same-speed first-generation Pentium III.
Another big change expected in September is the addition of a new motherboard chipset that will take better advantage of the Pentium III than today's chipset, which is unchanged from that used with the Pentium II. Intel's 820 chipset will replace today's SDRAM memory support with a new, and faster, type of memory called Rambus. Also, 4X AGP video will replace the 2X (or even 1X) AGP used today. And the icing on the cake is a jump in bus speed from 100 MHz to 133 MHz.
Best of all, Coppermine Pentium III systems are expected to be priced below the premium now being charged for current Pentium III boxes.
As is usually the case, those jumping on the bandwagon of new technology (in this case, the first generation Pentium III) will be rewarded with higher prices and negligible performance gains. Only when the second-generation Coppermine Pentium IIIs ship this fall will we see the jump in performance--and lower prices--we expected