The Intel Celeron has been with us for over two years now, and throughout that time, it hasn’t changed much at all. First introduced in 1998, based off of what was known as the Covington core, the original Celeron had no L2 cache. The next incarnation of the Celeron featured Intel’s first on-die L2 cache, with 128KB of it to be exact; this was the Mendocino core that carried us through 1999.
The next update to the Celeron core came in March of last year, with the Coppermine128 core. This core didn’t improve performance noticeably, it simply added SSE support since it was essentially a Coppermine Pentium III core with half of its L2 cache disabled (256KB / 2 = 128KB).
While the processor may have gained new instructions and went from being built on a 0.25-micron process to Intel’s most advanced 0.18-micron process, it has generally remained true to its original form.
Although the Celeron hasn’t changed much since its induction into the value PC market segment, the applications that it’s forced to run have changed. If you’ll remember, back in 1998 and 1999 the performance difference between a Celeron and a Pentium II/III wasn’t too great at all. Clock for clock, the Celeron was at most 10% slower than its older brother. However, as time moved on, that performance gap grew considerably.
It is now common knowledge why the Celeron is performing considerably lower than the Pentium III, Athlon and Duron processors. The Celeron’s clock speed has gone from an introductory 266MHz to just recently hitting 766MHz; however, all this time, the Celeron’s Front Side Bus has been stuck at 66MHz and in most cases, the memory bus is stuck at the same 66MHz as well.
What does this mean? Well, the processor can continue to crunch numbers as it gets faster internally, but its connection to the “outside world” (memory, hard disks, graphics card, etc…) occurs through what is known as the Front Side Bus (FSB). In the case of the Celeron 766, the CPU was operating at 11.5 times the speed of the FSB. Regardless of how fast the CPU is, if the data can’t get to it as fast as it is processing it you’re going to be bottlenecked, which is the symptom that the Celeron was exhibiting.
In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that the Duron was simply trampling all over the Celeron in the performance benchmarks, Intel’s Celeron was still outselling AMD’s Duron. The fact of the matter was that, independent of its performance, the Celeron had something the Duron didn’t have – a value platform that OEMs and system integrators could use in sub-$1000 systems. This value platform was the i810E; with its integrated video and audio, it made the perfect companion for the Celeron.
Until recently, the Duron didn’t have a similar claim to fame, thus limiting its success in the retail market. The enthusiast community recognized that the Celeron was crippled by its 66MHz FSB and appreciated that the Duron could be used as a value solution offering high-end performance. With the release of the VIA KM133 chipset and the SiS 730S, the Duron is given the same opportunity to succeed at the Celeron, and thus can finally threaten the Celeron’s retail sales.
In response, as we predicted in our recent roadmap articles, Intel is giving the Celeron what it has desperately needed, a 100MHz FSB. This makes the Celeron 766 the last 66MHz FSB Celeron, and the Celeron 800 the first 100MHz FSB Celeron, which is being announced today.