The Empire Strikes Back: Intel's Pentium II CPU

How I've Tested

Common for all tests was the following configuration :

  • 64 MB RAM
  • Matrox Millennium 4 MB, BIOS 2.5
  • Quantum Fireball 1280 for Windows 95 and DOS Tests
  • Seagate Cheetah ST34501W at DPT PM2144UW plus RC4040 w/32 MB EDO RAM for Windows NT Tests

The K6 ran on different boards depending on the test configuration :

  • Windows 95 (Build 950, Matrox Millennium Driver 3.41) and DOS Tests :
    • Asus TX97 with 512 kB cache and 12ns Corsair SDRAM for 66 MHz bus speed
  • Windows NT (Build 1381(Service Pack 2)., Matrox Millennium Driver 3.06) Tests :
    • FIC PA-2011 with 1 MB L2 cache and 10ns Toshiba SDRAM for 66 MHz bus speed

The Pentium MMX ran under the following conditions :

  • Windows 95 (Build 950, Matrox Millennium Driver 3.41), Windows NT (Build 1381(Service Pack 2). Matrox Millennium Driver 3.06) and DOS Tests :
    • Abit IT5H rev. 1.01 with 512 kB L2 cache and 50ns Micron EDO RAMfor 66 MHz bus speed

The Pentium Pro (256 kB L2 cache) ran on

  • Windows 95 (Build 950, Matrox Millennium Driver 3.41), Windows NT (Build 1381(Service Pack 2)., Matrox Millennium Driver 3.06) and DOS Tests :
    • Asus P/I-P65UP5 plus C/P6ND with 50ns Micron EDO RAM

The Pentium II (512 kB L2 cache) ran on

  • Windows 95 (Build 950, Matrox Millennium Driver 3.41), Windows NT (Build 1381(Service Pack 2)., Matrox Millennium Driver 3.06) and DOS Tests :
    • AOpen AX6F with 50ns Micron EDO RAM

All CPUs were tested on the motherboards that offered best performance for the particular CPU at the time of the test, later motherboards may offer better performance (e.g. Abit PX5 runs the K6 under WinNT at 71.2 and is hence the new leader for K6 boards under NT).

Winstone, Winbench and IMB ran for each operation system under 1024x768x65536x75. Each Winstone test was ran 3 times to get reliable results.


The world is back to normal. Intel’s managers can sleep quietly again. The Pentium II shows that Intel is still the leader in the CPU market. The Pentium II 233 is already quite powerful, but at 300 MHz, the Pentium II blows away every competitor and this although it’s still using the good old 66 MHz bus speed. It seems as if there’s quite a bit to expect still, since this test was run on a board with the well known 440FX Natoma chipset. AGP and SDRAM support will speed up the Pentium II systems even more and there will soon be the successor called ’Deschutes’, which is meant to run at 100 MHz bus speed and even higher clock speeds than 300 MHz. However my internal sources within AMD tell me that there is still a whole lot to expect from the K6, actually much more than anybody would think of. Hence I doubt that Intel will have any time to rest now, but they shouldn’t anyway, in case they are following their Emperor , ahem, CEO Andy Grove’s guide line : The paranoid will survive , or translated : Let’s get the Death Star finished, Lord Vader, so that we can smash these rebels ! ;-)

The question is now, what will happen in the computer market ? Will the Pentium II be a success ? I’m not able to look into the future, but I have quite a few doubts that the Pentium II will have a jump start. Its price is considerably higher than any other CPU and you have to add the price of a new motherboard that’s more expensive than a Socket 7 board as well. The Deschutes is meant to be released in about 9 months time and I haven’t come across any boards with the eagerly awaited 440LX or even 440BX chipset anywhere yet. I wonder if it is smart to pay $400 for a Pentium II board with the good old 440FX chipset, that won’t support AGP or SDRAM. If the 440LX chipset will come out soon is still unclear, but who is keen on spending another $400 in a few months time, to be able to take advantage of the AGP and SDRAM ? This is the reason why I think that it will take a while until the Pentium II will become really popular. Until then, AMD has enough time to sell its K6 and improve that chip so that it’s powerful enough to take on the Pentium II even at 300 MHz level. It could even be that the AMD chipset with AGP support will come out earlier than the Intel 440LX chipset. At this stage the K6 could be much more powerful than it’s now and then a lot of people will be very unhappy with their freshly achieved Pentium II boards and CPUs.

Anyhow, we will be much smarter in a few months time. For now one thing is clear : The Pentium II has won back the crown of the fastest CPU in PC systems. So if you want to have a top notch system now, you can enjoy spending a whole lot of money by getting a Pentium II system. We will see what the Rebel Alliance of AMD, Cyrix, IBM and Digital can hold against this. Will the Force be with them ... ?

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