Intel Corporation will formally unveil its new Pentium Pro microprocessors next week. The new chips feature 1MB of integrated Level 2 cache, compared to the 256K and 512K found on current models. "Cache" is a dedicated bank of memory that acts as a temporary holding place for instructions being sent to the CPU. Level 2 Cache is found in the CPU itself. It works much faster than standard RAM, and generally, the bigger the cache, the faster the performance. According to the sources, the new CPU will only be found in systems using Intel's new 450GX chip set. It won't come cheap, either: the 256K model runs about $500 per processor while the 512K version costs a whopping $1000. This suggests a retail price of $1500-2000 per processor for the new chip.

While the Pentium Pro has been eclipsed lately in the press by the Pentium II, it is actually a far more capable chip, especially for true 32-bit operating systems such as Windows NT. Intel is expected to aim the new Pentium Pro squarely at multi-processor server systems, a market the Pentium II is woefully inadequate for. Intel will, however, release a new version of the Pentium II next year that requires yet another new motherboard design. It is expected to scale at least as well as the Pentium Pro. The new Pentium II, like the Pentium Pro, will use L2 cache at the same speed as the CPU, not at the speed of the bus, as the current Pentium II does.

Given Intel's future plans for the Pentium II, it is likely that this CPU is that last of the Pentium Pro line. Clock speeds of the Pentium Pro, currently topping out at 200MHz, are not expected to change while Intel has already announced 333MHz+ Pentium IIs that will debut next year.

"We will have Pentium II across the board in '98," said an Intel representative