The Celery Report: Overclocking the Celeronby Russ Stringham on January 2, 1999 3:02 PM EST
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There are some rare occasions in life when a confluence of events occurs that serves to provide a sum benefit that far exceeds the total of its components. Or, as a friend of mine is fond of saying: Sometimes great ideas arent released, they escape!
This is the case with Intel Celeron CPU.
Intel is a giant company and, as such, is sometimes a bit slow to react to emerging trends. Along comes AMD, first out of the starting gate with a 233Mhz CPU (the K6) and the knowledge that there was a huge untapped opportunity in the sub-$1000 PC market.
But, simply having a great product at a great price is not always enough. It was the willingness of some of the big players, such as IBM, to move to AMDs product line that really got the ball rolling for AMD. Suddenly, Intel woke up one morning to find that this upstart (not really, AMD has been in business 30 years) had taken a big bite out of the CPU market.
What to do? Like the car maker who finds that luxury automobile sales have slowed, and comes out with a stripped-down economy model, Intel produced the Celeron. The Celeron is Intels attempt, and a rather successful one, to get back in to the "economy" PC business.
This is the first in a series of reports on the success, or lack of, in overclocking the Celeron CPU. It will appear on a regular basis as long as these pups can be stretched to the performance limits. This first report will be longer than most, as I will be covering some basics and background that wont be necessary in future installments.
And, in this initial installment, I will be revealing some very interesting information that, to the best of my knowledge, has not been published anywhere on the web. More on that later
You Master Celeroners (hey, I think I may have coined a phrase there!), can feel free to skip this section. Well cover a little history, some basics about the CPU as well as the genesis of this historic tweaker opportunity.
As most of you know, the Pentium 2 series of processors are a slot design encased in a plastic cartridge, containing off-die, half-processor speed Level 2 cache on board. This is a rather expensive CPU to produce. In order to cut costs and be competitive in the burgeoning "Cheap PC" market, Intel removed a few frills from this design and came up with the Celeron. Among the changes: No plastic cartridge and no L2 cache; in other words, a stripped down P2. Further details of the release of this CPU can be found in Anand's Excellent report.
The original "cacheless" CPU came in a 266Mhz as well as 300Mhz variety and was almost universally derided as a "crippled" chip. It was quickly nicknamed the Celery as a way for the "Techno-Sophisticates" to show their disdain for the product. I was among those who laughed at this CPU and what I thought was a lame attempt by Intel to get back in the game. I couldnt help flashing back to the 486SX days and feeling that they were, once again, trying to play us for suckers.
Well, as usually happens, the Geeks of the world united and began tweaking this new product. It was soon discovered that the lack of L2 cache resulted in an interesting phenomenon. These chips took to overclocking better than any previous CPU in history!
I can remember my sense of achievement at discovering that many of the AMD 5x86-133 CPUs (the ADZ stepping) could be successfully overclocked to 160Mhz (4x40). Yet, this is only a 20% performance increase. Shortly after the introduction of the 266Mhz Celeron reports were coming in from all corners of success at 400Mhz. This is a jump of better than 50%!
While I was certainly interested in this kind of performance, my natural bias against Intel caused me to dismiss this as a fluke and nothing to get too excited about. Personally, and as a reseller, Ive been a long-time staunch supporter of the "alternative" chipmakers; as a matter of fact, I hadnt had an Intel CPU in my own system since my 386 days.
So, to my later regret, I was slow to recognize the potential, both for performance and profit.