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-- by Jim Forbes
It won't be long before a true personal workstation with performance rivaling that of machines used to generate computer-animated graphics is sitting on your desktop. Expected to be released in early fall, the new systems will use Intel 300MHz Pentium II MMX processors; they'll come standard with 64MB or more of RAM. They'll also sport a new Intel chipset and new high-performance video adapters loaded with video memory.
We previewed a prototype system, the NEC PowerMate mini-tower equipped with a 300MHz Intel Pentium II, 64MB of RAM (expandable to 256MB), a PCI-based Number Nine video controller with 8MB of memory and an IBM-made 3.2GB (nominal) IDE hard drive running Windows NT.
The core logic used on the motherboard for this system was Intel's 440FX chipset, but most PC makers are waiting for Intel to release its new 440LX chipset, designed specifically for the Pentium II processor. The 440LX also adds new capabilities, such as support for faster memory, full direct memory access (DMA) and Intel's forthcoming Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP)
In our tests of the PowerMate (our first test of a 300MHz Pentium II machine), Intel's new Pentium II processor cranked out 630MIPS. That's an improvement of 12 and 28 percent, respectively, over scores for 266MHz and 233MHz Pentiums. (Most 266MHz and 233MHz Pentium II systems running NT produced about 558MIPS and 491MIPS, respectively, when we tested them.) Like other new Pentium II systems, the new 300MHz processor is provided in Intel's Slot One package, which places 512KB of level 2 cache on the processor's bus.
The other benchmarks for the PowerMate reflect either the speed of the processor or other new technology, such as the Number Nine video card. The cached disk throughput of 186MB per second was an excellent score, as was the 69Mpixels per second video throughput.
The application benchmark scores for NEC's 300MHz PowerMate prototype were scorching. This machine averaged only 9.26 minutes to run our Photoshop/DeBabelizer/MMX script at 800x600 pixels and a color depth of 16 bits; when we increased the resolution to 1024x768 at 24 bits per pixel, the time increased to a mere 10.33 minutes. Both scores are new landmarks in our testing. The results of our new Excel and Word benchmarks were, respectively, 76 and 41 seconds, also new records.
NEC's 300MHz PowerMate is a demonstration unit, not a shipping product. The company is expected to launch a version of this machine in the fall at a cost of about $4,000.
Intel's new 440LX chipset is expected as you read this. At about the same time, Intel should begin shipping its new 300MHz Pentium II in volume. Once the new chipset and processor are widely available, 300MHz Pentium II desktop machines should begin appearing at retailers.