At 333 MHz, Celeron chip gives low-end Compaq PC some gusto

Pros and cons:
+  Solid, basic PC performance
+  Compact chassis
–  No monitor or CD-ROM drive at this price

Intel Corp.’s Celeron processor, a stripped-down Pentium II, never made it to the
GCN Lab in its original 266- and 300-MHz versions because most computer makers had already
found its performance inferior.

The new 333-MHz Celeron with 128M of Level 2 cache is distinctly different. On
GCNdex32™ math benchmarks, it even managed to outdo its Pentium II big brother. A
Celeron PC makes an excellent low-cost replacement for old 486 and Pentium systems that
aren’t year 2000-ready.

Compaq Computer Corp. sent the lab the first Celeron-powered Deskpro EN in the
company’s Small Form Factor chassis, whose 14' by 12'-inch footprint was dwarfed by
a 17-inch monitor. Though compact, the interior remained easily accessible, and Compaq did
a good job of integrating a Fast Ethernet card, sound and speakers.

The 333-MHz Celeron CPU turned in floating-point math benchmark scores 6.1 percent
higher than those of the average 333-MHz Pentium II. Integer math scores ran about 1
percent higher.

Video and hard drive access benchmarks do not depend heavily on the processor, however.
The Deskpro EN’s graphics accelerator and hard drive had more to do with those
scores, although the processor’s Level 2 cache may have contributed a little to 2-D
video and hard drive performance. A standard Pentium II has four times as much Level 2
cache as a Celeron, and I suspect that may have hurt the EN’s scores somewhat in
those categories.

Hard drive performance was slightly better than that of the Compaq Deskpro 600 with a
333-MHz Pentium II chip, which the lab reviewed early this year [GCN, Jan. 26, Page 1].

The GCNdex32 suite does not test for computer-aided design or geographic information
system processing. Although a Celeron PC works well for office applications, e-mail and
browsing, its smaller L2 cache will make CAD and GIS a little slower than on a Pentium II.

If most of your users keep three or four applications open all the time, switching
between them and doing database work or number-crunching to boot, a Celeron will prove
inadequate. Get a Pentium II for such users.

Another consideration: Computer manufacturers are unlikely to put their fastest video
cards or largest hard drives in low-end Celeron systems.

But low end equates to low price. The Deskpro EN Series SFF C333/3.2/W5 costs
government buyers $1,069. That includes 32M of RAM, a 3.2G hard drive, Microsoft Windows
95, sound, AGPX2 graphics with 2M video memory, a keyboard and mouse, and a 10/100-Mbps
integrated network interface card, not to mention Compaq’s excellent Intelligent
Manageability tools. The government price does not include a monitor or CD-ROM drive,
although Compaq’s Web site shows them with the system.

If you’ve been hesitating about Celeron, hesitate no more.

Buy it for basic PC users who desperately need an upgrade but don’t put too much
strain on hardware.  


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