Intel launches its 933MHz Pentium III today, amid considerably less hype than surrounded the company's 1GHz chip announcement in March. But while the 933MHz chip might not pack the same emotional wallop as hitting a Gigahertz, Digit tests show it performs almost as well – and 933 MHz systems should cost less. Major vendors, including Dell, Compaq, Quantex and IBM are releasing new 933MHz systems today. HP plans to launch Pavilions powered by PIII-933s in coming weeks. Digit’s preliminary tests are on a 933-MHz Quantex PC with 128MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, a 12X DVD-ROM drive, a CD-RW drive, a 19-inch monitor, and Windows 98 Second Edition. The Quantex scored a 163 on PC WorldBench 2000, which is an insignificant percentage difference when compared to the 165 scored by the single 1GHz Intel PIII-based IBM Aptiva system that Digit tested. The close score, however, is significant because Intel is shipping the 1-GHz PIII in only limited release until the second half of this year, so availability is tight, and prices are high. Under these conditions, systems powered by a 933MHz CPU are a more widely available and more affordable alternative. The IBM Aptiva test system contains 128MB of RDRAM, a 40GB hard drive, Windows 98 SE. Obviously, this is just the first pass; tests of two systems from two vendors don't offer sweeping conclusions. That said, the Quantex system only slightly outperforms the average of four 866MHz PIII systems. That foursome, each with 128MB of memory, produced an averaged score of 158 compared to the 933MHz Quantex score of 163. The Quantex's score also barely nudges past the PC WorldBench 2000 score of 158, posted by three systems running AMD’s 1-GHz Athlon processor and 256MB of RAM. Prices on 1GHz Athlon systems have generally been lower than those of comparably configured 1GHz PIII systems. Despite the somewhat anticlimactic feel of the 933MHz announcement, vendors are confidant high-end buyers will embrace the new chip, even with the 1-GHz PIII looming. "The 1GHz was definitely a milestone," says Alan Patterson, Dimension product manager for Dell. But supply is still limited on the 1GHZ chip, he says. Consequently, the 933MHz PIII will be "the highest-performing processor available in mass quantities." Dell has been selling 1GHz systems "as fast as we can make them," Patterson says. But the 933-MHz systems will appeal to people who want ultrahigh performance at a lower price. Dell will offer the 933MHz PIII initially in its Dimension XPS B series, which features only Rambus memory, he says. Systems are configured to order, but Dell offers up two recommended configurations, both with Windows 98 SE. The first includes 128MB of RDRAM, a 40GB hard drive, a 12X DVD-ROM drive, an 8X/4X/32X CD-RW drive, a 19-inch monitor, and Microsoft Office 200 Professional. The second configuration ships with 128MB RDRAM, a 20GB hard drive, a 48X CD-ROM drive, a 17-inch monitor, and Microsoft Works. Compaq is offering a Presario 5900T system through its Web site and retail kiosks starting Wednesday, says Mark Vena, director of its consumer desktop product marketing division. In the meantime, the starter configuration for the 5900T includes the 933-MHz PIII, 64MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive, a CD-ROM drive that reads at up to 40x, and a 15-inch monitor. IBM is announcing a 933MHz Aptiva system, available exclusively through its Web site. The Aptiva 990 includes 128MB of SDRAM, a 40GB hard drive, a 4X/4X/32X CD-RW drive, and an 8X/40X DVD-ROM drive. Intel is also pushing vendors to use the 933MHz PIII with its dual-CPU 840 chip set. The 933MHz PIII is the last sub-1GHz desktop PIII Intel intends to release, Intel spokesperson George Alfs notes. But the Pentium III isn't topping out. Intel expects to increase production of 1GHz PIIIs in the second half of the year, and to release at least faster PIII, he says. After that comes the Willamette chip. "Willamette will be high end," he says, "and there's still plenty of room for more PIII performance." Intel also announced Wednesday its latest Xeon processor, also running at 933MHz.