200-MHz Pentiums faster? Not so you'd notice

Does a 24-MHz advance in Pentium clock speed mean dramatically better performance?


The answer is no. A brand-new 200-MHz Pentium PC will give you about 8 percent better
performance than a 166-MHz Pentium, and most users won't see much difference.


The GCN Lab tested Dell Computer Corp.'s Optiplex GXMT 5200 and EPS Technologies Inc.'s
Evolution GXL 200, both looking the same and configured almost the same as their
previously tested 166-MHz counterparts [GCN, April 29, Page 1].


Inside, the Dell and EPS units had the same or similar video cards and other
components, although this time EPS did not send a SCSI-2 hard drive and provided 256K
cache instead of 512K. That slowed the Evolution GXL 200 dramatically on application
tests; it was almost 30 percent slower across the board.


Judging by clock speed alone, you might expect a Pentium 200 to operate 20 percent
faster than a 166. Not so. The Optiplex GXMT 5200 completed macros and other benchmark
processes in applications like Microsoft Corp.'s Word and Lotus Development Corp.'s
Freelance only about 8 percent faster.


The lab's GCNdex32 benchmarks showed an average boost of around 6 percent. But that
average was deceiving.


On GCNdex integer math tests, the performance gain was about 35 percent. But on
floating-point math--important for advanced graphics--the gain was about one-fourth less
than that.


The GCNdex video scores were about 13 percent better. The video benchmark includes some
vector drawing similar to that in computer-aided design applications, with rigorous
floating-point processing.


Small-file access time improved on the 200-MHz PCs, as you might expect, because of the
heavy reliance on processor and caches. Large-file access was slightly slower than with
the 166-MHz models; larger files depend more on drive performance. The drop was
insignificant, although we'd expected a small gain.


Whether you order a Pentium 166 or a 200 in this buying season, you'll have reached the
top of the Pentium line. At least that's what Intel Corp. is saying. Except for adding
more x86 instructions to improve multimedia performance, Intel doesn't expect to take its
P5 chip beyond 200 MHz.


Intel's 200-MHz ceiling for the Pentium means that these PCs are going to live or die
based on how well their components work together. The EPS Evolution GXL 200 suffered
without a SCSI-2 drive. It was slower on every application benchmark--in some cases by as
much as a minute--than the Evolution GXL 166, which earned a Reviewer's Choice designation
in our April 29 issue.


However, the EPS and Dell systems were on a par, and we generally were impressed by
both. Dell's system arrived in an old 100-MHz Pentium minitower, but the company is
redesigning its Pentium line with the recyclable casings of its Pentium Pro line--perhaps
the easiest-opening case you'll find anywhere.


Now we're testing a brand-new Pentium Pro system, the 200-MHz Dell Optiplex GXpro 200.
As a reference, we ran the GCNdex32 on it and found some massive gains over the P5 chip,
except for the drive-dependent large-file access speed, as expected.


The Pentium Pro's faster floating-point operations blew away the Pentium on the video
benchmark--although the GXpro did have a Number Nine 4M PCI video card to boost its
performance.


Don't expect to buy a 200-MHz Pentium today or even next week. Most vendors and
resellers don't have a single model in stock. Dell has placed a six-week
""engineering hold'' on sales of Pentium 200s, explaining that Intel has not
delivered enough of the chips. Dell also is waiting for Windows 95 certification from
Microsoft Corp.


The Optiplex GXMT 5200 should appear on General Services Administration schedules later
this month. Pricing isn't available yet, but Pentium 200s probably will run about $200
more than similarly configured Pentium 166s. If you're expecting to install Windows NT 4.0
soon, look at the Pentium Pro 180, which is priced about the same as the Pentium 200 will
be.


GCN Lab assistant Theron Bunnell contributed to this review.


Dell Computer Corp., Austin, Texas; tel. 800-727-1100


http://www.dell.com/federal 


Overall grade: A-


[+] Good configuration with decent performance gain


[-] Not yet available


Evolution GXL 200


EPS Technologies Inc., Jefferson, S.D.; tel. 605-966-5586


http://www.epstech.com 


Overall grade: B+


[+] Video scores scream


[-] Outperformed on application benchmarks by Pentium 166 with wide SCSI-2
drive and more cache


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