Compaq Deskpro EP gets modest boost from 440BX

As PC makers
climb on the BX bus, don't expect an express ride--at least not yet.

Intel Corp.'s new 440BX chip set runs the system bus at 100 MHz; the 440LX chip set in
previous PCs and servers ran at 66 MHz. An extra 34 MHz of bandwidth between processor and
memory does improve performance, but less dramatically than you might think.

Intel's 400-MHz Pentium II processor also adds oomph, but again, not as much as you
might think. On GCNdex32TM math benchmarks, 400-MHz Pentium II performance rose
about 10 1/2 percent over that of a 333-MHz Pentium II.

The GCN Lab compared the benchmarks for the new 400-MHz Deskpro EP from Compaq Computer
Corp. with the scores earned by the 333-MHz Deskpro 6333/4200 [GCN, Jan. 26, Page
1]. The Deskpro 6333/4200 had performed about 11 percent faster than an earlier 300-MHz
Pentium II.

Why is the performance delta about the same when the clock rate difference is almost
double? Intel fabricated the 400-MHz and 333-MHz chips using a 0.25-micron process; the
300-MHz chip was etched at 0.35-micron width. The 0.25-micron process makes a cooler,
faster processor, but within the same-process family, improvement is less striking.

In moving from 333 MHz to 400 MHz, Intel simply pumped up the clock rate, pushing
processes into the Pentium II faster.

The bus, when toggled between 66 MHz and 100 MHz, improved performance by only about 1
or 2 percent on most benchmarks, Compaq officials said. Also, most standard applications
do not yet take advantage of the faster bus.

Exact improvement depends on the configuration as a whole. For example, the new
Deskpro's hard-drive access scores jumped almost 16 percent. But video performance dropped
because the new Deskpro's Accelerated Graphics Port card had half as much video memory as
the older one's PCI card.

Incidentally, the GCN Lab examined a preproduction unit.

More compelling than the Deskpro EP's performance was its chassis. Though harder to
open than its predecessors, the Deskpro EP is more versatile. It can work as either a
desktop or a minitower. Other manufacturers offer this option, but none makes external bay
devices as easy to rotate.

All in all, the new Deskpro is a worthy successor to previous lines.

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