The Results

Processor Performance Comparison - L2 Cache Enabled (all processors)

AMD K6 Cyrix 6x86MX Intel Pentium MMX Intel Pentium II "Deschutes" MMX Intel Pentium II - MMX
Business Winstone 97 51.6 56.3 49.9 49.9* 48.3*
High End Winstone 97 21.1 22.7 21.9 Not Run Not Run

* These tests had to be run at 66 x 2.5, at the 2.0x clock multiplier the Pentium II, by default, disables its L2 cache

Processor Performance Comparison - L2 Cache Disabled (Pentium II)

AMD K6 Cyrix 6x86MX Intel Pentium MMX Intel Pentium II "Deschutes" MMX Intel Pentium II - MMX
Business Winstone 97 51.6 56.3 49.9 41.9* 40.3*
High End Winstone 97 21.1 22.7 21.9 20.2* 19.0*

* Using the 2.0x clock multiplier the L2 cache of the Pentium II is disabled by default, this unfortunately cannot be avoided with the current design of the Pentium II.

Processor Performance Comparison - L2 Cache Disabled (all processors)

AMD K6 Cyrix 6x86MX Intel Pentium MMX Intel Pentium II "Deschutes" MMX Intel Pentium II - MMX
Business Winstone 97 37.9 46.7 34.5 39.8 36.0
High End Winstone 97 16.6 20.0 15.4 18.4 17.9
Winbench 98 - CPUMark 32 314 292 254 273 235
Winbench 98 - FPU Winmark 531 379 622 814 610
Quake 2 Timedemo Demo1 6.6 fps 7.1 fps 8.0 fps 9.3 fps 9.3 fps

Take a minute to digest the shock from those results ;)

The most peculiar result from this test is this, the Intel Pentium II, when using a 2.0x clock multiplier (regardless of which motherboard you run it on) disables its L2 cache, resulting in the 83.3MHz x 2.0 scores of the Pentium II being much lower, approximately 20% lower, due to the L2 cache being disabled.  Now when you clock the Pentium II at 66MHz x 2.5 (166MHz as well) the L2 cache is enabled, and the performance of the Pentium II is much greater...however still not as fast as the performance of the Pentium MMX, K6, or the 6x86MX.  But why does the Pentium II still reign as the fastest desktop processor?  We'll find out in a second.

Coming in first place in all of the tests was the Cyrix 6x86MX of all processors, the truly amazing part is that the 6x86MX received a higher High End Winstone 97 score than that of the Pentium MMX, Pentium II, and K6...the High End Winstone 97 tests make fairly heavy use of the processor's FPU, supposedly Cyrix's weak point...well, when the playing field was leveled Cyrix's weak point turned out to be much stronger of a device. 

In second place was the AMD K6 producing pretty decent scores, I should add that both the 6x86MX and K6 have 64KB of L1 cache...had they been limited to 32KB the tests may have been different...looks like it's time to make use of that L1 Cache Enabled/Disabled feature in the BIOS Setup.

The most surprising result was that of the Pentium II, at 166MHz it came in an absolute last place!  It just goes to show you that the Pentium II isn't necessarily a better processor than its competitors, its just that it runs at speeds the competition has yet to achieve.  Chances are when AMD and Cyrix catch up to the 300MHz mark, their processors will outperform Intel's Pentium II - 300, but by then Intel will have already made it past the cycle continues. 

Here's an interesting note, the Pentium II "Deschutes" underclocked to 166MHz like the rest of its competitors displayed a 6% increase in the High End Winstone 97 score, and a 4% increase in the Business Winstone 97 score...quite interesting indeed.  Is the Pentium II - 333 a little more than just a Pentium II with a higher clock speed?

Taking away the L2 cache of all the processors does produce some more interesting and expected results, at the top, the Cyrix 6x86MX reigns as the Business Application King...followed by the Deschutes, the K6, the Pentium II, and finally the Pentium MMX.  The High End Applications are also dominated by the Cyrix 6x86MX, but does that mean that the 6x86MX has an excellent FPU?  Absolutely not.  Take a look at the FPU Winmark scores, the King of the High End Applications seems to drop to be the peasant when looking at the FPU Winmark scores, the Pentium II Deschutes maintains a 204 point lead over the Pentium II which is 12 points under the performance of the Pentium MMX, the second place leader.

The AMD K6 does begin to show off its shiny top in the CPU Mark 32 scores where it imposes a tiny lead over the second place 6x86MX.   What's even more interesting is that the 6x86MX actually beats the K6 in Quake 2 at 640 x 480 when looking at the Timedemo scores, although it is by a margin of 0.5 frames per second, it is still something.  Of course Intel rules Quake 2 here, with the Pentium MMX, Pentium II, and Deschutes processors occupying the top three remember that this is using Un-accelerated Quake 2, wonder how GL Quake 2 will be affected by this...sounds like another update to me

Intel's Latest

While Cyrix is quite far from reaching even the 266MHz marker, AMD is about to break the 300MHz barrier this half of the year (can't be too specific now can I ;)...) so Intel, being the reigning champ and industry giant has moved to release a new revision of their Pentium II.  This version of the Pentium II is a special low power processor, operating at around 2.5V [core] and running cool courtesy of its 0.25 micron manufacturing process (the current Pentium II uses a 0.35 micron process and runs at a 2.8v core), this Pentium II has slowly been dubbed the "Deschutes."

Deschutes is actually the name of a river close to an Intel Manufacturing plant as I am told, and although very little is known about the river, the exact opposite is true for the processor.  On January 26, 1998, Intel will officially release the very first "Deschutes" class of Pentium II processors, the Pentium II - 333.  This 333MHz processor will continue to run at a bus speed of 66.6MHz, while its L2 cache will run at 166.6MHz, and it will be based on a 0.25 micron manufacturing process which will allow it to run much cooler than previous Pentium II units.  Now, approximately a week before Intel's release of the Pentium II - 333, a few of these mystery processors are finding their way into the hands of Value Added Resellers from un-identified sources.  It is interesting to note that on the label of these prematurely released Pentium II - 333's, the world "Philippines" is printed next to the processor's serial number.  In any case, the Pentium II - 333 offers one thing the Pentium II - 300 couldn't...the ability to see into the future.   What can we expect from a 400MHz Pentium II whose L2 cache is running at approximately 200MHz?  Will we notice a huge increase in performance?  Once again, let's put our theories to the test...this time using ABIT's LX6 as the test bed.

Dey Shoots and Dey Scores

The title of this section, taken from a frequent visitor to the Anand's Hardware Tech Page Bulletin Board (hope ya don't mind ;)...)   is fairly self explanatory...let's take a look at the scores Intel's Pentium II "Deschutes" 333 produced when using ABIT's LX6:

CPU Clock/L2 Clock/Bus Clock Business Winstone 97 High End Winstone 97
333/166/66 67.2 34.9
375/188/75 70.1 36.7
414/207/92 73.8 38.9
416/208/83 73.9 38.9

Not a bad future we've got here...the ABIT LX6's BIOS detected the Pentium II - 333 as being a Pentium PRO processor, while other motherboards either do the same or detect it as a Deschutes processor.  AOpen AX6L users should download the newest revision of the AX6L BIOS in order to make use of the 333MHz Pentium II, otherwise upon the Power On Self Test (POST) your processor will be detected as a "-MMX 857MHz" and the system will halt.  Other motherboards which don't support the 5.0x clock multiplier required by the Pentium II - 333 are out of luck however...sorry guys.

So what if you're the fastest at 166? Let's see you top 400

Does anyone really care that the Cyrix 6x86MX is the fastest out of the processors reviewed here at 166MHz?  Its pretty obvious that people do care, but the important thing to realize here is that although the 6x86MX at 166MHz kills the Pentium II...move up to 300MHz and see who's on top.  None other than Intel with their Pentium II, simply because they have no competition at that high of a clock rate.  AMD is just now releasing their 266MHz processor which can be overclocked to 300MHz, however Intel's Pentium II is sitting pretty up there at 300 and 333 for now. 

Cyrix is having problems getting their chips to run at speeds above 200MHz properly, not to mention breaking the 300MHz barrier.  AMD has the technology and the skill to compete with Intel at those clock speeds however they can't seem to produce/release enough chips to do so effectively (not yet at least...let's see how well that K6-3D performs).  So although at 166MHz the Pentium II comes out last, consider that at 300MHz the Pentium II's L2 cache is running at 150MHz, and at 416MHz with the Deschutes its L2 cache is running at 208MHz!  So long as Intel can keep a healthy gap between the clock rate of their processors and that of the competition, they will remain on top regardless of what benchmarks may say, because for the most part people are concerned with the clock speed their processor is running at (which is the wrong idea in the first place).  Its the classic "mine's faster" childish attitude, however in this case Intel is using it against the market which is crippling the competition that has yet to achieve actual clock speeds of that caliber. 

The actual speed difference between an AMD K6/233 and a Pentium II - 333 in Windows 95 is negligible (note that this is comparing general Windows performance, copying of files, boot time, etc... however when it boils down to processing power used in games, applications, etc... the Pentium II - 333 has a clear advantage over the K6), certainly not worth the $700+ extra for the Pentium II (unless you don't have a budget of any sort)...unfortunately Intel uses their clock speed "advantage" to influence potential buyers into purchasing their products over the competition.  In the end it all comes down to making a few bucks, in this case, making a few billion bucks.  In the computer industry, and in many others, money is the deciding factor and making a profit has become more of a quest than that for knowledge.  It is sad that we have come to this, but in business very few large corporations have "kept it real" in that they abandon their original ways of thought and business in favor of more cost efficient methods, while it is better for the manufacturer it can be terror on the buyers...but soon enough a small company will come along and challenge the large monopoly, forcing it to change its ways, and the cycle most cases that is ;)

Slot-1...necessity or evil?

It seems like in almost any situation the "top dog" will always be criticized regardless of what he or she, or in this case, regardless of what the company does.  Intel, being the microprocessor giant must endure all of the attacks they are faced with simply because they are the largest microprocessor manufacturer in the world, although the personal intentions of many varies, the bottom line is that Intel does have their faults, however without them just imagine where we would be today. 

Intel pushed the market forward with the release of their "Triton" Line of Chipsets, they pushed the graphics industry beyond the limits with the release of their Accelerated Graphics Port Technology and recently they have taken a step into uncharted waters, with the release of their Slot-1 based Pentium II.  If you look at the Slot-1 design, it is simply a new way of connecting the CPU to the motherboard, which allows for the L2 cache to be placed off chip, but on a card that allows for it to be run at extremely high clock speeds while keeping costs at a minimum.  But if you look around the newsgroups,  websites (including this one), and discussion boards a common topic for discussion is the "evil" nature of Intel's decision to move to Slot-1...but is it really all that bad...or has it just been blown out of proportion?

When you look at a Pentium II motherboard, you immediately notice the odd-looking Slot on the motherboard in place of the conventional Socket design you are probably accustomed to...however if you shape the Pentium II's Slot-1 in the shape of a socket does it slowly lose its intimidation factor?  Sound insane to you?  Let's pursue this a little further...

If you were to walk into a auto-dealership, and while looking at a car the salesman walked over to you and presented you with another option...a car with the steering-wheel in the backseat, would you gladly accept the new change?   For most people, the answer would be no, simply because you aren't accustomed to it and frankly, a car with the steering-wheel in the backseat would look and feel quite odd to a driver with a few years of experience.  Let's extend this analogy to say that the new backseat steering-wheel was only offered, and patented by one single company, and you wouldn't be able to find it with any other car...however according to the company spokesperson, the backseat steering-wheel does offer a few advantages over the classic design.  Would you gladly accept the change now?  Probably not, because the weird new layout of the car is very intimidating, and something you aren't used to...history has once again shown us that it is human nature to fear the unknown as well as to fear that which is different.  We see it in our society daily, with matters such as race, religion, sex, and now, computers.

Remember that comment from above about shaping a Slot-1 into the form of a Socket?  Consider the Slot-1 nothing more than a Socket-8 (Pentium Pro Socket)...because that is pretty much all that the Slot-1 design is, just a Socket-8 in the form of a Slot.  Now does Slot-1 seem too incredibly evil?  Hardly anyone complains about Socket-8, simply because it looks very much like the Socket-7 IC's we're all used to, Intel is the only company to make processors for Socket-8...and they are the only company that makes processors for Slot-1 (as of now), so what's the big deal?

There have been rumors of Cyrix and AMD considering entering the Slot-1 market soon enough, AMD even displayed a K7 processor which made use of a similar Slot technology, what will it take to make everyone realize that Slot-1 isn't all that bad.  It is true that it doesn't have any support from companies other than Intel (CPU manufacturers that is), however think back to the debut of the Socket-5 for the Pentium.  Were AMD and Cyrix making processors for Socket-5 motherboards when the interface made its debut?  Of course not, it took Cyrix over a year to release a Socket-7 processor after the interface was released, and even after that it took AMD an additional 3 months to make their K5 a reality...does anyone complain now about the Socket-7 interface being "evil?" 

The law of the industry has always seemed to have been this: the leading company makes the first move, then its competitors follow, sort of like a game of chess.  Intel made the first move by migrating from the Socket-7 interface, so give the competition a chance to respond before jumping to conclusions about whether Slot-1 is a necessity or pure evil.  Has Intel done more harm than good for the industry?  That is open for debate, however in my mind Intel has done a fine job so far...will they be dethroned?  Eventually, yes, nothing can last forever, however who's lap that job happens to fall on is beyond the vision of most right now.  

That's all folks

What's next...let's see if we can get a non-x86 processor in this lineup and do a RISC vs CISC comparison...

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