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Intel Pentium III FAQ

by Bob Wright
1999/12/12

Intel Pentium III Processor FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions

  1. At what speeds is the boxed Pentium III processor available?
  2. Do the Pentium III processors incorporate all the features of the Pentium II processor?
  3. What new features does the Pentium III processor offer?
  4. Can the Intel Processor Serial Number be disabled?
  5. What are internet Streaming SIMD Extensions?
  6. Why did Intel change the name of Katmai New Instructions?
  7. What operating systems take advantage of internet Streaming SIMD Extensions?
  8. Why doesn't Windows correctly identify the Pentium III processor?
  9. What if my PC's operating system is not optimized for internet Streaming SIMD Extensions?
  10. Why didn't Intel call these new instructions MMX-2?
  11. Will software optimized for the Pentium III processor be available at the processor's launch?
  12. What are Intel's plans for this new technology in servers and workstations?
  13. What are the advantages of an in-package L2 cache?
  14. What are the advantages of the 100-MHz system bus?
  15. Do Pentium III processors with the 100-MHz system bus run on any motherboard?
  16. Can I upgrade my existing Pentium II processor or Intel Celeron processor-based system to the Pentium III processor?
  17. What is a retention mechanism and why is it needed?
  18. Which Intel motherboards support the Pentium III processor?
  19. Can Pentium III processors with 100-MHz system bus use any SDRAM?
  20. What is the amount of main system memory that can be addressed by the L2 cache on Pentium III processors?
  21. How do fan heatsinks on Pentium III processors draw power?
  22. What is Dynamic Execution?
  23. What is Dual Independent Bus (DIB) Architecture?
  24. Is the Pentium III processor a 64-bit processor?
  25. Will dual processing be easy with the Pentium III processor?


Q: At what speeds is the boxed Pentium III processor available?

A: The Pentium III processor-Intel's highest performing desktop processor to date-is available in speeds of 500 MHz and 450 MHz. The bus speed on both processors is 100 MHz. The 512 KB L2 cache operates at half the processor core speed (225 MHz for the Pentium III processor at 450 MHz and 250 MHz for the Pentium III processor at 500 MHz).


Q: Do the Pentium III processors incorporate all the features of the Pentium II processor?

A: Yes. The Pentium III processor, Intel's most advanced, most powerful processor for desktop PCs, integrates the best attributes of the P6 microarchitecture processors, including Dynamic Execution, dual independent bus architecture, a multi-transaction system bus and Intel MMX media enhancement technology-all
on the industry proven 100-MHz system bus and the Intel 440BX chipset.


Q: What new features does the Pentium III processor offer?

A: The Pentium III processor includes internet Streaming SIMD Extensions, 70 new instructions enabling advanced imaging, 3D, streaming audio and video, and speech recognition applications. In addition, it includes the Intel processor serial number, the first of Intel's planned building blocks for PC security. The processor
serial number serves as an "ID tag" for the processor, allowing the system to be identified by networks and applications.


Q: Can the Intel Processor Serial Number be disabled?

A: Yes. The processor serial number can be disabled either by using your motherboard BIOS or by using the processor serial number control utility, provided free of charge by Intel.


Q: What are internet Streaming SIMD Extensions?

A: Internet Streaming SIMD Extensions, formerly referred to as Katmai New Instructions, is a set of instructions that will be supported by the Pentium III processor, as well as subsequent Intel processors. Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) extensions significantly accelerate floating-point calculations used in 3D graphics applications. Besides 3D graphics improvements, the extensions also include additional integer and cache control instructions that improve other aspects of performance for video, imaging and communications applications.


Q: Why did Intel change the name of Katmai New Instructions?

A: Katmai New Instructions was an internal code name used at Intel until the official terminology was announced.


Q: What operating systems take advantage of internet Streaming SIMD Extensions?

A: Windows* 2000 (formerly known as Windows NT* 5.0) includes native support for internet Streaming SIMD Extensions. Windows 98 contains native support, as well. DirectX* 6.1 enables any application that uses DirectX to experience a performance gain from internet Streaming SIMD Extensions. Two critical elements for full optimization on Windows NT 4.0 are the installation of Service Pack 4 and the internet Streaming SIMD
Extensions Driver for Windows NT 4.0. The Intel developed driver is available on support.intel.com. Other operating systems, such as UNIX* and NetWare*, require the latest service releases from the software vendors to take advantage of internet Streaming SIMD Extensions.


Q: Why doesn't Windows correctly identify the Pentium III processor?

A: The brand name for the Pentium III processor was not released to software vendors until January 1999. For Microsoft products, this means that they were not able to incorporate the proper identification within any of their currently released operating systems. Note that this is a naming issue only, and is often the case with new processor brands. If the particular OS is optimized for the Pentium III processor (see above Question) it will currently still misidentify the processor even though you are still gaining all of the benefits of Internet Streaming SIMD Extensions.


Q: What if my PC's operating system is not optimized for internet Streaming SIMD Extensions?

A: The Pentium III processor is compatible with all existing application software and operating systems developed for the Intel Architecture. Software and operating systems will run better on the Pentium III processor and take full advantage of the higher clock speeds.

Q: Why didn't Intel call these new instructions MMX-2?

A: The benefits, not the technical features, of Intel's Pentium III processor are marketed to users. Therefore, Intel opted not to use a brand name for the underlying technology in the processor name and will not refer to internet Streaming SIMD Extensions in end-user communications. The processor contains new instructions-internet Streaming SIMD Extensions-that take multimedia to new levels of realism with enhancements for more vivid sound, crisper video and state-of-the-art 3D processing. The Pentium III processor provides the power for the next generation of Internet.



Q: Will software optimized for the Pentium III processor be available at the processor's launch?

A: Yes, a wide range of applications and Internet Web sites optimized for the Pentium III processor will be available at introduction and throughout 1999. Intel has been working broadly with members of the software community since 1997 to enable them to develop optimized applications for the Pentium III processor.


Q: What are Intel's plans for this new technology in servers and workstations?

A: Intel has also announced the Pentium III XeonTM processor for servers and workstations as the successor to the Pentium II Xeon processor. Pentium III Xeon processors are specifically designed to seamlessly deliver higher performance for mid-range and higher server and workstation applications.


Q: What are the advantages of an in-package L2 cache?

A: The tightly coupled design allows the Pentium III processor L2 cache bus to scale in speed with increasing processor frequency. This provides improved performance and headroom for all software. The L2 cache bus on the Pentium III processor 450 MHz operates at 225 MHz and at 250 MHz on the Pentium III processor 500 MHz. In comparison, the L2 cache used in Socket 7 designs is limited to the speed of the system bus and does not increase as processor frequency increases.


Q: What are the advantages of the 100-MHz system bus?

A: The 100-MHz system bus on Pentium III processors 500 MHz and 450 MHz increases system bandwidth over 66-MHz system buses to provide improved performance and headroom for all applications. The peak bandwidth of the 100-MHz system bus is 800 MB/sec, compared to only 528 MB/sec for a 66-MHz system
bus.

Q: Do Pentium III processors with the 100-MHz system bus run on any motherboard?

A: No, but a wide variety of motherboards do support the Pentium III processor. The Pentium III processor has very specific system requirements, including bus speed, retention mechanism, BIOS and electrical/power specifications. The motherboard must use a chipset that supports the 100-MHz system bus, such as the Intel
440BX AGPset. In addition, the Pentium III processor has greater electrical requirements than the Pentium II processor. The motherboard must be designed to meet the electrical current and voltage requirements for the Pentium III processor. Attempting to use the Pentium III processor in a motherboard not designed to meet the electrical specifications may result in motherboard damage due to excessive current draw.

Contact the motherboard manufacturer to verify proper support for the Pentium III processor. The Intel SE440BX-2 motherboard is designed to support the Pentium III processor. The original SE440BX motherboard does not meet the required electrical specifications for the Pentium III processor.


Q: Can I upgrade my existing Pentium II processor or Intel Celeron processor-based system to the Pentium III processor?

A: Possibly. The Pentium III processor has very specific system requirements, including bus speed, retention mechanism, BIOS and electrical/power specifications. Failure to meet these system requirements with the Pentium III processor may result in improper operation or system damage. Motherboards that support only the 66-MHz bus speed (using Intel 440FX, 440LX and 440EX chipsets) will not support the Pentium III processor.

Motherboards supporting the 100-MHz system bus (Intel 440BX AGPset) will reliably support only the Pentium III processor if the board has been designed to the correct electrical specifications. Attempting to install the Pentium III processor into a motherboard that does not meet the processor's electrical requirements may result in motherboard damage from excessive current draw. Contact the motherboard manufacturer to determine
support for the Pentium III processor.

The Pentium III processor also requires the correct BIOS features to support the processor. Even motherboards that electrically support the Pentium III processor may need a BIOS update for optimal operation. Using incorrect BIOS with the Pentium III processor may result in an unstable system or poor performance. Contact the motherboard manufacturer to determine the correct BIOS to support the Pentium III processor.

Most Pentium III processors use a Single Edge Contact Cartridge 2 package (S.E.C.C. 2) that requires a specific type of processor retention mechanism. Most of the installed base of Pentium II processors uses the original S.E.C.C. package with its unique retention mechanism. The S.E.C.C. retention mechanism cannot be
used with the S.E.C.C. 2 processor package. Installing a Pentium III processor into an older system will likely require changing the retention mechanism. Failure to use the correct retention mechanism may result in processor, motherboard or system damage should the processor slip out of the slot connector. Changing retention mechanisms may require special tools and should be done only by trained professional technicians.


Q: What is a retention mechanism and why is it needed?

A: A retention mechanism is a mechanical support that attaches to the motherboard and secures the Pentium III processor in the 242-contact slot connector to prevent shock and vibration damage. Retention mechanisms are usually provided by the motherboard manufacturer. S.E.C.C.-based Pentium III processors require either S.E.C.C. retention mechanisms or Universal Retention Mechanisms (URMs). S.E.C.C.2-based Pentium III
processors require either S.E.P.P. retention mechanisms or URMs. Most boxed Pentium III processors will be in the S.E.C.C.2 form factor and most motherboard manufacturers ship URMs with their motherboards. Failure to use the correct retention mechanism may result in damage to the processor, motherboard or system should the processor slip out of the slot connector. Contact the motherboard manufacturer to determine which retention mechanism is included with your motherboard.

Q: Which Intel motherboards support the Pentium III processor?

A: The following Intel motherboards have been designed to support the Pentium III processor:

Intel SE440BX-2 Desktop
Intel RC440BX Desktop
Intel SR440BX Desktop
Intel N440BX Server
Intel T440BX Server
Intel L440GX+ Server


The Intel SE440BX motherboard does not meet the electrical specifications of the Pentium III processor. Attempting to use the Pentium III processor in the SE440BX motherboard may result in motherboard damage due to excessive current draw.


Q: Can Pentium III processors with 100-MHz system bus use any SDRAM?

A: The Intel 440BX chipset requires 100-MHz system memory. For more information on the memory requirements of a specific chipset that supports the Pentium III processor, refer to the chipset datasheet.


Q: What is the amount of main system memory that can be addressed by the L2 cache on Pentium III processors?

A: The L2 cache on the Pentium III processor is able to reference (or address) up to 4 Gigabytes (GB) of main system memory.

Q: How do fan heatsinks on Pentium III processors draw power?

A: Heatsink fans on boxed Pentium III processors draw power by a cable from a three-pin power header on the motherboard. If your motherboard does not have an appropriate power header, contact its manufacturer.


Q: What is Dynamic Execution?

A: Dynamic Execution is an innovative combination of three processing techniques designed to help the processor manipulate data more efficiently. These are multiple branch prediction, data flow analysis and speculative execution. Dynamic execution enables the processor to be more efficient by manipulating data
rather than simply processing a list of instructions.

Q: What is Dual Independent Bus (DIB) Architecture?

A: For the Pentium III processor, the term Dual Independent Bus comes from the two independent buses-the L2 cache bus and the processor-to-main-memory system bus. The Pentium III processor can use both buses simultaneously, moving as much as two times more data in and out of the Pentium III processor than a single-bus-architecture processor. In addition, the pipelined system bus enables simultaneous parallel transactions, instead of singular sequential transactions. Together, these architecture improvements offer up to three times the bandwidth performance over single-bus architecture. For example, the total bus bandwidth of the Pentium III processor 500 Mhz is 2,800-MB/sec, (2000 MB/sec for the L2 cache bus and 800 MB/sec for the system bus).

Q: Is the Pentium III processor a 64-bit processor?

A: No. As with all Intel processors since the Intel386TM processor, the Pentium III processor is a true 32-bit device. But like earlier Pentium processors, the new Pentium III processor has an external 64-bit bus to communicate more effectively with system memory. The wider external data path increases bandwidth between the Pentium III processor and the system, but the processor still uses 32-bit memory addressing and 32-bit
registers to process data internally.


Q: Will dual processing be easy with the Pentium III processor?

A: Yes. The symmetric multiprocessing bus, which includes full support for the MESI protocol, was designed to support up to two Pentium III processors connected in parallel. The Pentium III processor includes all the required logic, so no additional system logic is needed for dual processing. Simply by adding a second
242-contact slot connector to the motherboard, system designers can quickly and easily create dual Pentium III processor-based systems for use as entry-level servers or workstations.

 

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