Intel Corporation on Monday unleashed an unprecedented 15 new Pentium III and Xeon microprocessors, all of which use a smaller and faster 0.18-micron manufacturing process. And because of a new type of cache in some versions, the new processors--code-named "Coppermine"--will run up to 25% faster than previous generation Pentium IIIs with the same clock speed. The company says that each of these new processors is now available in volume.

"We are delivering a wave of design-enhanced, 0.18-micron processors to all segments of Internet computing: desktop, mobile, workstation and server," said Paul Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Business Group. "The breadth of today's announcement -- in combination with the new levels of performance -- is unprecedented in our company's history."

Among the new chips are the first mobile Pentium III microprocessors, which are available in speeds of 400, 450, and 500 MHz. The mobile Pentium III represents a significant improvement over existing mobile Pentium II and Celeron CPUs by offering a 100 MHz system bus (vs. 66 MHz for the other chips), twice the L2 cache, and smaller sizes for better power consumption and speed.

Desktop systems will be enhanced by Intel's new Pentium III processors, which run the gamut from 500 MHz to 733 MHz. The company has literally introduced eight new desktop CPUs, including versions at 500, 533, 550, 600, 650, 667, 700, and 733 MHz. Two of the new chips, the 500 and 550 MHz models, are also available in an innovative new "flip-chip" packaging, which results in a smaller CPU for new types of non-PC devices.

For the workstation market, Intel has introduced 600, 667, and 733 MHz Pentium III Xeon microprocessors, which will ship with in systems with the new i840 chipset. Such systems will sport a 133 MHz system bus, 64-bit PCI support, 4x AGP, and dual Direct RDRAM memory for up to 2GB of RAM. For servers, Intel has high-end 600, 667, and 733 MHz Pentium III Xeon chips which feature 256 KB of on-board L2 cache, which runs at the same speed as the microprocessor. Intel calls this new cache "Advanced Transfer Cache," and Intel says it speeds performance up to 25% over previous Pentium III processors at the same clock speed.

Pricing on the new chips seems designed to deflate sales of AMD's Athlon processor, the previous speed champ. A Pentium III 733 (133 MHz bus) will cost about $775, while a Pentium III 700 (100 MHz bus) will set customers back $754. The lowest-end new chip, the 500 MHz version, will cost approximately $240. One thing is certain: Intel's new chips are sure to crowd and confuse the market. In addition to competing with the Athlon, they will stand side by side with previous-generation Pentium IIIs, Pentium IIs, and Celeron systems. On the other hand, these new chips finally make an argument for upgrading that Pentium II system