Intel will escalate its speed war with Advanced Micro Devices next week, when the giant chip maker is expected to announce not only a 750-MHz Pentium III CPU that matches AMD's latest Athlon, but also an 800-MHz Pentium III.
The debut occurs about three weeks in advance of Intel's original target date for announcing the 750-MHz PIII, and months ahead of the expected release of the 800-MHz PIII, sources said. Intel declined comment on the expected announcement.
AMD managed a similar feat when it announced its 750-MHz Athlon processor on November 29 -- nearly two weeks earlier than expected. That processor is currently the fastest in the market, having snatched the top spot from Intel's PIII-733 announced on October 25.
Intel demonstrated a prototype 800-MHz Pentium III system at the CeBit trade show in Germany last March. At the time, the company claimed the CPU was about 60 percent faster than its Pentium III Xeon, which had just come out.
But don't look for a PIII-800 system under the Christmas tree. Although sources say Intel is already shipping limited quantities of 750-MHz and 800-MHz CPUs to PC makers, it isn't likely that many of these high-speed PCs will be for sale before January.
These fast systems will define the new high end. For example, Compaq Computer is readying an addition to its Presario line powered by the Athlon-750. The Presario 5900Z will carry an estimated street price of $3456. It has 128MB of SDRAM, a 34GB hard drive, both DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives, an NVidia GeForce 256-based graphics card with 32MB of SDRAM, and a 19-inch monitor. More mainstream configurations, with smaller hard drives and monitors, are estimated to be priced around $2500.