Gecko's CPU Library

Intel Pentium III (Tualatin) processors

Introduction: July 2001


The Pentium III brand refered to Intel's 32-bit x86 desktop and mobile microprocessors (with the sixth-generation Intel P6 microarchitecture) introduced on February 26, 1999. The initial Katmai Pentium III contained 9.5 million transistors. The brand's initial processors were very similar to the earlier CPUs branded Pentium II. The most notable difference was the addition of the SSE instruction set (to accelerate media processing and 3D graphics), and the introduction of a controversial serial number embedded in the chip during the manufacturing process.

Similarly to the Pentium II it superseded, the Pentium III was also accompanied by the Celeron brand for lower-end CPU versions, and the Xeon for high-end (server and workstation) derivatives. The Pentium III was eventually superseded by the Pentium 4, but its Tualatin core also served as the basis for the Pentium M CPUs, which used many ideas from the Intel P6 microarchitecture. Subsequently, it was the P-M microarchitecture of Pentium M branded CPUs, and not the NetBurst found in Pentium 4 processors, that formed the basis for Intel's energy-efficient Intel Core microarchitecture of CPUs branded Core 2, Pentium Dual-Core, Celeron (Core), and Xeon.

The Pentium III was the first Intel processor to break 1GFLOPS, with a theoretical performance of 2GFLOPS.

The Tualatin core

The third revision, Tualatin (80530), was a trial for Intel's new 0.13 m process. Pentium III Tualatins were released during 2001 until early 2002 at speeds of 1.0, 1.13, 1.2, 1.26, 1.33 and 1.4GHz. Tualatin performed quite well, especially in variations which had 512KB L2 cache (called the Pentium III-S). The Pentium III-S variant was mainly intended for servers, especially those where power consumption mattered, i.e., thin blade servers.

The Tualatin also formed the basis for the highly popular Pentium III-M mobile processor, which became Intel's front-line mobile chip (the Pentium 4 drew a lot more power, and so was not well-suited for this role) for the next two years. The chip offered a good balance between power consumption and performance, thus finding a place in both performance notebooks and the "thin and light" category.

Tualatin-based Pentium III CPUs were visually distinguished from Coppermine-based processors by the metal integrated heatspreader (IHS) fixed on top of the package. However, the very last models of Coppermine Pentium IIIs also featured the IHS - the heatspreader was what distinguishes the FC-PGA2 package from the FC-PGA - both were for Socket-370 motherboards.

Before the addition of the heatspreader, it was sometimes difficult to install a heatsink on a Pentium III. One had to be careful to not put force on the core at an angle because doing so would cause the edges and corners of the core to crack and could destroy the CPU. It was also sometimes difficult to achieve a flat mating of the CPU and heatsink surfaces, a factor of critical importance to good heat transfer. This became increasingly challenging with the socket 370 CPUs, compared with their Slot 1 predecessors, because of the force required to mount a socket-based cooler and the narrower, 2-sided mounting mechanism (Slot 1 featured 4-point mounting). As such, and because the 0.13 m Tualatin had an even smaller core surface area than the 0.18 m Coppermine, Intel installed the metal heatspreader on Tualatin and all future desktop processors.

The Tualatin core was named after the Tualatin Valley and Tualatin River in Oregon, where Intel had large manufacturing and design facilities.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.