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CPU Scaling Analysis, Part 2: Intel Pentium III Scaling and Upgrading

The Pentium III is not dead! I am not sure how long Intel will keep this processor alive, but right now it looks like we will still have the pleasure for many months.

If we forget former problems (i.e. the fiasco with the 1.13 GHz version and persistent delivery delays of Pentium III models last year) we should be aware of the fact that the P3 Coppermine is still an excellent chip. Like most other Intel CPUs, it is highly overclockable (only by raising the FSB speed) and capable of running in multi-processor environments. Besides that, the variety of available platforms is quite impressive: There are chipsets with integrated graphics, with SDRAM or DDR support, RAID, dual CPU motherboards etc.

More important is that millions of users around the world are already working with Pentium III systems and possibly intertested in an upgrade. Here's a short list with my personal recommendations:

  • RAM! At current SDRAM prices, 128 MB of additional memory is relatively inexpensive and will ensure that your system runs as fast as possible. Less access to the swap file and better system usability are just two of the direct benefits of an increase in RAM. Also, your system will be ready for Microsoft's next generation operating and office systems.
  • For which tasks do you normally use your computer? After studying the benchmark results (also see the Athlon scaling article ) we should be happy that the product cycle for microprocessors is basically slowing down. There are only few applications available for home use which would require a processor at > 1 GHz. Having a system which runs at "only" 500 MHz might already sound shabby for some of you, but let me tell you that you won't even notice an upgrade to e.g. 800 MHz if you are just using Word and MSIE.
  • Gamers - do not overrate the benefits of a GHz processor! Every model at 500-700 MHz will perform well for some time, and those between 700 and 1000 MHz should last you for at least 12 months. Remember, the key to more 3D-performance is a faster graphics card! Stay tuned for our final GeForce 3 review as well!
  • What about your hard drive? If you are using a model that is two years old or older, you might consider getting a new one, not only for larger capacity, but also for better performance. New hard drives are considerably faster than old ones. You will definitely feel the difference each time you boot Windows!
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