Intel's original Celeron wasn't the bonanza the company was hoping for, so they re-tooled it and re-released it this week with faster speeds and more powerful features. The new "Celeron A" processors, as they're called, offer 128 KB of L2 cache, finally bringing the performance of these low-end chips well above that of the Pentium MMX CPUs they were designed to replace. The new Celeron A processors are about 25% faster than comparable older Celerons, but they also come at higher clockspeeds: Intel introduced a 333 MHz version this week.

And the good news about the Celeron continues when talk turns to pricing. Intel is placing the Celeron A in the bargain basement, which should finally signal the end of the Pentium/Pentium MMX era. A 333 MHz Celeron A will cost about $190, compared to a 333 MHz Pentium II (which is only about 5% faster) at $315. And unlike the launch of the original Celeron, this time machine systems makers are jumping on board: Dell, Gateway, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and other top PC-makers are now offering new sub-$1500 and sub-$1000 Celeron systems.

In other Intel news, the company also released the 450 MHz Pentium II this week, which rounds out its high-end. Most system vendors are already selling 450 MHz workstations and servers, which run on a 100 MHz bus (the Celeron and pre-350 MHz PII's use a 66 MHz bus). Also out is a 300 MHz version of its mobile Pentium II CPU