Intel Pentium III E "Coppermine" (Slot-1)by Anand Lal Shimpi on October 25, 1999 7:21 PM EST
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The Athlon is no longer king of the hill neither is the Pentium III E. Overall, the Athlon is still the faster chip on a clock for clock basis. It is also the cheaper chip on a clock for clock basis, at least for now. So what do we recommend in this case?
The i820 platform, when it does in fact launch will be quite pricey at first. This is the first signal to stay away from 820 for now at least until RDRAM drops in price and the platform begins to enter the mainstream market. If you absolutely must have a 133MHz FSB Pentium III E (600EB, 667, 733) then the Apollo Pro 133A is a viable option as it also adds support for AGP 4X and when used with VC-SDRAM it can offer overall performance very close to that of the i820 platform.
This leaves two options for Intel based chipset solutions, the old 440BX and the 810E. This also leaves us with warning number two: stay away from the i810E platform as a solution for the Pentium III E. The i810E platform is best suited for the Celeron or other low-cost processors and not the Pentium III E. Just because the i810E supports the 133MHz FSB does not mean that you should pursue it as a possible home for your new Pentium IIIE. But then again, most of you already knew that.
The BX platform seems like its going to be around for a little while longer. The big OEMs have already made their minds and are willing to stick with the BX platform as long as i820 isnt available and they may continue to support the chipset even after the release of i820. This scares Intel quite a bit, because they need the mainstream acceptance of their 820 chipset in order to push RDRAM forward. So what is the end result? Three words: BX chipset shortages. After the release of the i820 dont expect Intel to be too happy about selling BX chipsets to manufacturers so you can expect the BX to either disappear or increase in cost after the release of the i820.
But what about all of the users that already have BX motherboards? You all are in luck. The Pentium III E provides a direct upgrade path for i440BX users without compromising performance. If, for one reason or another, your Pentium III 600 just isnt cutting it, or it is time to upgrade from that Celeron 450A combo you purchased a while back, the Pentium III E is available in 5 different 100MHz FSB clock speeds that will work just fine on most BX boards (500/550/600/650/700MHz) and the performance is very respectable. This is probably the most intelligent upgrade path for users looking to purchase the Pentium III E, especially if you already have a BX motherboard. The numbers speak for themselves, the i820 platform does not make a huge performance difference with the Pentium III E (although it is noticeable) and is thus not a requirement for getting good performance out of the processor.
Now what about the Athlon? The Athlon 600 is still my pick for the best performing chip at a fairly reasonable price. It has no problem outperforming most of Intels solutions and if you pick up a modified Athlon 600 (we will be reviewing some of these modification options next week) the chances are very good that youll be able to hit at least 650MHz (700MHz wont be too far out of your reach either). But if you already have a BX setup, should you upgrade to the Athlon? Unfortunately the answer is no. The quality of the motherboards available for the Athlon is definitely sub par and if you need a performance upgrade now and already have a BX motherboard, your best bet is to pick up a BIOS upgrade that enables support for the Coppermine core and pick up a Pentium III E.
If youre building a new computer and the decision comes down to Athlon or Pentium III E, the choice is as close to 50/50 as possible thus leaving it up to you. On the one hand, the Athlon is the faster (clock for clock) and based on much more sophisticated architecture. And on the other hand the Pentium III E has much better motherboard support (even with the BX) and runs considerably cooler.
Its a tough decision to make but it is good to see that both companies are pushing the bar of competition higher and higher. The match is over for this year, neither manufacturer will push for any new product releases before 2000. The ball is in AMDs court now, will they be the first to break the 800MHz barrier in 2000? What AMD needs now is to make the move to 0.18-micron as soon as they can to help them push the limits of the Athlons architecture. It is possible that AMD will be the first to hit 1GHz but can they keep up with the rate of growth Intel is planning to offer with their 0.18-micron CPUs?
For now it is good to know that we as consumers have two very good options when looking to purchase a desktop computer, the final decision, as always, is up to you. Were just here to make the ride a little more interesting ;)