Intel is preparing to release three versions of its newest processor late this month: The Pentium Xeon, essentially a high-end Pentium II with faster cache than the regular Pentium II, will begin shipping on June 29th in high-priced systems from a variety of vendors. The systems will be high priced because the CPUs themselves are quite expensive. Initially shipping at a speed of 400 MHz, there will be three versions of the Xeon: one with 512K L2 cache, one with 1 MB of L2 cache, and one with 2 MB. Unlike the Pentium II, the L2 cache in the Pentium II Xeon runs at the full speed of the processor, giving enormous performances gains. But the speed increase comes at a dear price: the chips will cost $1050, $2650, and $4400 respectively, much higher than Intel's previous high-end chip, the Pentium II 400, which cost $770 when it debuted last month.

Systems using the Xeon are expected to debut in the $5000-$15,000 range, far higher than normal Pentium II systems. A 450 MHz version of the Xeon will debut later this year.

As is typical with Intel product launches, existing chips will get a new lower price, though the price cuts this time around aren't that steep. The Pentium II 400, for example, will fall from $770 to $675. The slowest Pentium II, running at 266 MHz, will fall from $230 to $185