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-- by Jonathan Blackwood
When Intel comes knocking with its new Pentium II processor, it's going to be asking system manufacturers for a lot: A lot of money for the chip; a brand new, Slot 1 chip connector; a whole new motherboard design to accommodate the new connector, along with a host of power regulation issues; and a design that simply won't fit into a notebook system. And don't even think about a Pentium II OverDrive chip that would fit into existing Socket 7 systems.
The new Slot 1 design is supposed to allow for easy upgrades. It's also meant to forestall obsolescence by letting you replace the entire processor module in one easy step. But the processor, together with heat sink and voltage regulation, is about the size of a pocket calculator and more than an inch thick. It slips into its socket vertically, much as a SIMM memory module does. And the motherboard design doesn't yet support Intel's own Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) technology. The Pentium II motherboards we saw for this review had to make do with the plain old PCI bus, which lacks the bandwidth necessary for AGP's 256MB-per-second transfer rate at 1X, much less the 1GBps rate promised in a year or two.
Intel is asking a lot from its users as well. Think back to that old 486 system you bought. If you got it prior to the release of local bus technology, your PC quickly became obsolete. The issue, then and now, was the introduction of a new bus offering dramatically expanded video bandwidth that had to be designed into the motherboard and chipset. The situation is slightly different now. Mainstream 3D business applications are still scarce, so it will probably be years before business users find AGP as irresistible as local bus, making premature obsolescence less likely. For these users, Intel isn't asking so much after all.