CPU Performance Overview Q1/1999

Celeron Now Threatening Pentium II Sales

So it turns out that Celeron can affect the sales of Pentium II considerably, because the performance difference between Celeron 400 and Pentium II 400 is pretty small, Celeron 366 is even almost identically as fast as the much more expensive Pentium II 350. Intel does of course not want that. The restriction of Celeron to the 66 MHz front side bus is already one action that Intel took to make Celeron look inferior. The next thing is the platform for Celeron. As long as you get the still available Celeron for Slot1, you can stick it into the same platform as Pentium II. However, this will make a Celeron system unnecessarily expensive, because after all you don't need the 100 MHz FSB offered by a BX-board platform, unless you should try overclocking it. Intel wants us to stick Celeron into the Socket370-platforms and those platforms don't really come with BX-chipset, or at least there are not supposed to. Socket370 boards are available in a lot of different flavors. The vast majority is using the good old 440LX AGP-chipset, which is cheap and offering a good performance for 66 MHz FSB-systems as well as the full range of features that are expected of a professional system. Intel wants us to use the new 440ZX chipset though, which is a castrated version of 440BX. It supports only 2 DIMM slots, less PCI slots and no ECC for the memory. Since it is the smaller brother of BX, it would be eligible to run at up to 100 MHz FSB, but Intel claims the opposite by marking the latest ZX-chips with 'ZX-66'. The experienced of us know that in reality ZX can do 100 MHz FSB just as fine as any Celeron could, but Intel doesn't want that, to save the Pentium II sales.

Overclock Protection

It seems as if it is becoming reality now, the new Celerons are supposed to be double overclock protected. It is already a matter of fact that Celeron will only ship with a multiplier lock, many of the new Socket370-boards don't even have any jumpers, dip switches or BIOS settings for the clock multiplier anymore, because the new Celeron only runs with one. Additional to that, Intel is obviously now or very soon putting a PLL-circuit on the chip, which makes sure that Celerons do only run as 66 MHz front side bus. This will give you zero chance of overclocking anymore, so that all the nice 75 or 83 MHz FSB-settings on the new Socket370 boards are probably supposed to stay unused forever.


The upcoming Quake arena could change a lot, it will be the first 3D action game with multi-processing support. So far the vast majority of people couldn't be bothered about dual-CPU systems, because only some specialist software as e.g. 3D rendering or CAD applications were able to take advantage of it. Multi-processing is also not supported by Windows 95 or Windows 98, so you would have to get Linux, BeOS or Windows NT to enjoy the blessings of parallel processing. Now, since Id announced that Quake Arena will support multi-CPU-systems, the interest in dual-processor-systems has grown considerably. Celeron is not supposed to support multi-processing, and whilst you can get around that in case of a Slot1-Celeron with some serious soldering and drilling, you can finally forget it with the Celeron for Socket370. We still don't know how much advantage Quake Arena will take of dual-CPU systems, but this game could be one of the very few reasons why spending a lot more money for a Pentium II rather than a Celeron system.

Upgrade Path

The other reason why a Pentium II or at least a Slot1-system could be of advantage is the possible upgrade path to Pentium III. Intel will release Pentium III 500 at the end of February and the new 'streaming SIMD instructions' (former 'KNI') are supposed to give it an edge over Pentium II in 3D gaming, video processing and other nice areas. Even if 'Coppermine', the 0.18 micron Pentium III with on-die L2-cache that's planned for Q3/1999, should go back to a socket-solution, it will hardly be Socket370. Intel won't be crazy enough to do this, they will define a new socket, so that the Socket370-platform owners will only be able to upgrade to the then upcoming Celeron for 100 MHz FSB.

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