Lately my Gateway (http://www.gateway.com/home/)100MHz
Pentium purchased in September 1995 had been showing it's age.
With all the multimedia programs I was getting into even 64MB
of RAM did not help. I had been teetering back and forth for
sometime trying to decide on upgrading my P5-100 or going for
a full blown new computer with a 450 or 500 MHz processor complete
with all the latest bells and whistles. It's the age old computer
dilemma of when is the right time to buy knowing you will be
obsolete as soon as you buy. My reasoning goes something like:
"Prices keep falling on computers and computer components,
so the longer I delay, the more computer I can get for my money."
This is coupled with: "Do I want to deny myself all these
great multimedia programs available for free on the Internet
because of my slow processor speed?" I decided to take a
middle ground approach. If I could upgrade my processor enough
to handle most multimedia programs (meaning above 200MHz) at
a cheap enough price (meaning less than $100) it would be worth
it to delay getting a brand new computer. The other aspect of
this is if I could upgrade my processor speed enough I could
always network the old computer to a new one later without it
being too much of a drag on the new system.
In mid July CompUSA (http://www.compusa.com)
had a "Power Buy" sale on a PNY Technologies
233MHz 3D Processor Upgrade for $99.99 with a $30 mail-in rebate.
This upgrade chip includes both the MMX and 3D-Now instruction
sets. The $70 final price certainly appealed to me but would
the thing really improve my system was the question. Back in
the Spring CompUSA had a similar sale on the Evergreen MX
for $60 after rebate. I almost bought into that until I did some
research on the Internet. The MX Pro-200 did not include the
3D-Now technology and did not significantly improve floating
point operations. I got the impression from reading user comments
that the MX-Pro 200 was okay but no great shakes in improvement.
One of the best places to go for finding out how good products
really are is Deja.com (http://www.deja.com/).
Type in your item name and Deja will search all the newsgroups
and give you a listing of headers for comments from people that
actually own the item or have used it. Recognizing that there
might be some bias Deja also includes a posting history for the
individuals so you can check other comments they have made. You
can easily track the threads of message headers and then form
you own opinion. Another area I check (besides the manufacturer's
own web site) is the hardware web sites. A number of them are
listed on the SCPCUG Hardware Links page (http://www.scpcug.com/hardlink.html).
If it's a well known item, you can usually find a review by somebody,
somewhere on the Internet. That's where you get to practice using
Search Engines. Check the SCPCUG Search Engine Links page
for a variety of Search Engines to get you started.
My research on the PNY QuickChip 233MHz yielded little from
the PNY site. I was quite surprised their site was so out-of-date.
They talked about a QuickChip 200MHz and 200MHz 3D (http://www.pny.com/tech/quickchipprocessor/index.cfm)
but the QuickChip 233MHz 3D was not even mentioned. I went to
which incidentally is a "must check" on prices when
you are in a buying mood. They have some of the best prices on
the Internet. Anyway, Buy.com did not even show a QuickChip 233MHz.
By now I was beginning to wonder if CompUSA had a typo error.
I went to CNET Shopper (http://www.shopper.com/)
and did a search. Only four companies had a listing for the QuickChip
233MHz. Prices varied from $146 to $115 so at least now I knew
it existed and that CompUSA's price was by far the lowest. I
also had found in my search a review of the history of the Winchip.
Although PNY sells this QuickChip 233MHz 3D upgrade the actual
chip is a IDT WinChip (http://www.winchip.com/index2.html).
The review by JC's PC News'n'Links (http://www.jc-news.com/pc/article.cgi?Centaur/W2_Review)
while not focusing specifically on the 233MHz gave me enough
insight to take the gamble and buy it.
The QuickChip 233MHz comes with a 15 minute VHS videotape,
18-page Installation Guide, and 3.5" floppy disk. Eight
minutes of the video shows you how to install the upgrade for
a Pentium processor and seven minutes cover the same for a 486
processor upgrade with their QuickChip 133MHz upgrade. The video
shows you visually basically the same information contained in
the Installation Guide. The floppy contains a utility for checking
your processor speed before and after the installation. It is
very basic and just confirms for you that indeed you are running
at the upgrade speed after installation. Better utilities are
available for free on the Internet.
Before I did the installation I used several programs to benchmark
my 100MHz processor. I could then rerun them after the installation
to see if I had indeed improved. I used Norton Utilities
SiSoft Sandra (http://www.sisoftware.demon.co.uk/sandra/),
and CliBench (http://hotfiles.zdnet.com/cgi-bin/texis/swlib/hotfiles/info.html?fcode=000IE1&b=).
My biggest problem with the installation was getting the old
100MHz processor's heatsink u-shape spring clamp off. This clamp
ran on top of the midsection of the heatsink and was held on
by lips on opposite sides of the processor's ZIF (Zero Insertion
Force) socket. Pressing on the clamp only started bending the
motherboard as there was no support directly underneath the ZIF
socket for the motherboard. I was afraid I was going to crack
the motherboard. The video showed easy removal of an old processor
with a fan rather than a heatsink. The PNY Installation Guide
and video said to refer to my computer owner's manual for guidance
if I had a heatsink clamp. So I got out my Gateway owner's manual.
It said, "Carefully remove the heatsink clamp from the top
of the processor". Big Help!
After much consultation with the wife, who quickly said "I
don't know", I decided to use a screw driver and wedged
the clamp out from under the lip on the side furthest from the
processor. Here I was pressing only against the edge of the ZIF
socket. Well when that clamp reached the edge of the lip, it's
spring action really cut loose. It flew up and hit the ceiling.
Maybe I should have been wearing safety glasses but the manuals
provided no warning. That was the hard part. Next I lifted the
ZIF socket lever and easily removed the 100MHz processor. The
new 233MHz processor with fan attached (rather than heatsink)
went in just as easy by aligning pin 1 of the processor with
the pin 1 notation on the motherboard. I closed the ZIF socket
lever and was finished except for connecting the fan power. PNY
provides you with the proper connectors to steal fan power from
one of your hard drives if you don't have a spare power cable.
You pull the power cable connector from your hard drive, insert
the fan power connector in its place and then plug the drive
power connector into another connector on the fan power cable.
In my case of replacing a 100MHz processor I did not even
have to change the system bus speed on the motherboard which
remained at 66MHz. For replacement of 75, 90, 120, or 150MHz
Pentiums the system bus speed must be changed on the motherboard
to 60MHz. This is no big deal and usually involves flipping a
So what happened when I booted up? The computer booted up
normally (maybe even a bit faster) except the bootup screen still
showed I had a Pentium 100MHz. I was warned about this. The reading
is from the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) and purely cosmetic.
When I tried opening a few programs I definitely noticed a much
quicker response. I ran the PNY Bench test off the supplied 3.5"
floppy. Sure enough, it said I was now running at 232MHz. I figured
that was within tolerance but why not use the opportunity to
check on the response time of PNY's Tech Support. I called the
toll free number and was on hold less than 5 minutes before a
technician answered. He confirmed that the 232MHz reading I received
was in tolerance. He said it could be 232, 233, or 234MHz depending
on my system's tolerances.
Okay, next a check with Norton Utilities System Benchmark.
My old 100MHz said I was 19.5 times faster than a 16MHz 386SX.
With the processor upgrade I was now 45 times faster. Wow! I
tried CliBench and it also confirmed I was running much faster.
CliBench runs several tests including Matrix Operations, Floating
Point Performance, Number Crunch Performance, etc. Without getting
into details my Total Performance increased 161 percent over
the Pentium 100MHz.
Finally I tried SiSoft Sandra's CPU Benchmark. It again confirmed
my increased performance.
This was the only program that correctly identified the new processor
as a IDT Winchip 232MHz 3D processor. Interestingly it claimed
my Pentium Performance Rating was equivalent to a Pentium 267MHz.
Bench tests are fine in that they set common standards so
comparison is possible between processors but I wanted to know
if the improvement was significant in the programs I use. One
program that I knew would show this up was my voice recognition
program Simply Speaking Gold (http://www.software.ibm.com/is/voicetype/us_gold.html).
I was not disappointed. Dictation processing was much quicker
than with the old chip.
I tried Real Networks RealProducer G2 (http://proforma.real.com/mario/tools/producer.html)
which creates RealMedia files. Here again the improvement was
very dramatic. I could now record video files with higher frame
rates than 5 frames per second with on-the-fly conversion into
RealMedia format. (Did I forget to mention the minimum requirement
for realtime compression of RealVideo was a Pentium 200MHz and
I had been using a Pentium 100MHz?)
The same held true for RealJukebox beta (http://www.real.com/products/realjukebox/index.html).
Before I could not encode a 2 min audio CD at 44Kbps stereo into
RealMedia format. I was limited to a setting of 32Kbps mono.
Of course the minimum requirement for RealJukebox was a Pentium
200MHz MMX so I was really pushing with my Pentium 100MHz. But
with the processor upgrade, no problem now!
Bottom line is the upgrade was well worth it. My days of processor
intense programs that previously ran in a limited fashion were
gone... that is until I start pushing the performance curve with
more complex programs again.
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