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EDITORIAL - THE LATEST AND GREATEST
Updated: 7/16/02

Well, this article was originally written on January 19, 2000 and it's now July 16, 2002, 2 1/2 years later. I am still using my trusty 500 MHz AMD K6-2 processor and EpoX MVP3G-M Super7 Motherboard.  Not since the birth of the microprocessor (I go back to nearly that far) have I used the same processor for so long.  I have, however, upgraded the hard disk to a 30 GByte, 7,200 RPM Maxtor (that made a difference), the 128 MBytes of SDRAM memory to 256 MBytes (that helped a little), FrontPage, which I use all day long, from 2000 to 2002 (helped a little when publishing my web site, but wasn't really worth the price), and my monitor from 15 inch to 17 inch (made my life a lot better).  There is a new 1,600 MHz AMD Athon XP 1900+ processor (a good performance/cost choice now-a-days), Abit KX7-33R motherboard,  Themaltake Valcano 6, 256 MBytes of Crucial DDR PC2700 memory, and an Antec SX840 case with a 400 Watt power supply sitting on my workbench waiting to be transformed into my new computer.  I know this will produce a noticeably faster computer, which will increase my efficiency. However from building and benchmarking computers for customers, I know that the result may not be quite as stunning as some upgrades have been in the past.  I've been very busy lately.  Even so, in the past, I would dropped everything and installed a hardware upgrade or a new version of software.  These parts have been sitting on my workbench for weeks; the case has been here months.  That is what is wrong with the PC industry and the technology sector.  Too many incremental changes with lots of hype.  No real pizzazz, no gotta have it now punch!  Larry

The original article...

This all started as a review of VIA Technologies' Cyrix MII processor and turned into an editorial on a pet peeve of mine...

As a prelude, and to take a look at an alternative product in the "entry level"  processor market, we review VIA's challenge to the AMD K6-2 processor, the 300 Mhz Cyrix M II.  300 Mhz?  Mega Hertz, Smidge Hertz... Performance is not always directly measured  by the CPU clock speed.  As we will see, this processor is faster than a 400 Mhz K6-2.

300 Mhz M II, 400 Mhz K6-2?  Why am I writing about 300 and 400 Mhz processors?  700 and 800 Mhz CPU's are the rage.  To answer that question, let me digress a little right here...

700 and 800 Mhz processors aren't for everyone or even most people, if they are smart.  They cost far too much and most us can get along just fine without them.  And, believe it or not, there are actually people who use computers for things besides games.  In my experience, computers with 650 Mhz processors appear a little bit faster (have a little more "snap") to the average user than those with a 400 Mhz CPU, not a whole lot faster as one might infer from the CPU clock frequencies.  They certainly, by far, don't produce the same impression of speed increase that a 400 Mhz processor has when compared to 150 Mhz processor.  There is not a linear relationship between the CPU clock speed and perceived speed of a computer.  It starts to flatten around 350 Mhz and noticeably flattens after 450 Mhz.  The CPU is spending a lot of time waiting for something to happen.  There is not much gain per dollar spent.

700 and 800 Mhz processors are part of the Mhz, Gigabyte, "superpipelined, nine-issue superscalar," etc. "numbers" game being played by manufacture's of computer products to entice uninformed people into buying products with capabilities they don't need or don't make a real, perceived difference in use.  Today, most people do not need 27 GByte, ATA/66 hard disk drives, 19-inch monitors (sit closer), graphics boards with an AGP 4X bus and more than four MBytes (yes, 4 MBytes) of video memory, 133 Mhz memory, 1.2 GHertz SOHO network switches instead of Hubs, 58X CD-ROMs, sound cards with digital outputs, 5-speaker sound systems, software that automatically makes hyperlinks out of anything that looks like it might be one, etc., etc.  And, more so lately, the realities of most of these highfalutin numbers/terms do not measure-up to the buyer's expectations of benefit--disappointment is abound.  In this numbers game more is not noticeably better, just more alluring and expensive, a technological sales ploy.

Also, computer technology has advanced for many years at a rate that makes most anything computer bought today obsolete within three years (at the five year point you will wish you had sold it when it was three years old).  No matter how much you spend, you cannot buy a computer (or processor) which won't be obsolete/out of production in three years.

So, lets change the term "entry level," which is a misnomer used in marketing to make us feel cheap and obliged to spend more for more than we need, to "smart level."  K6-2's, Celerons, and M II's are "smart level" purchases.  They do the job within a reasonable price.  Smart and reasonably frugal people can patiently wait for today's worthwhile latest and greatest to fall to reasonable prices.  In the computer field, the wait usually isn't very long.

Larry

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