Intel vs the K6-2

Q I am going to upgrade to a new system soon and was just wondering about AMD's new processor, the K6-2 300. I have read several articles on it, stating that it equals and sometimes exceeds the performance of a Pentium II 300 -- at half the cost.

I am very interested in getting a K6-2 instead of a PII, but the main thing that is stopping me at the moment is compatibility. I have heard some programs require Pentium processors -- is this true? Will all software run on the AMD?

Also I heard AMD's processors create a lot of heat: is this a problem?

- Nick Wiseman

A AMD's K5, K6 and the new K6-2 processors are fully compatible with the Pentium instruction set, and AMD has also incorporated MMX technology into its K6 and K6-2 processors. Debate rages as to whether AMD processors are superior to Intel's. However, AMD always prices its CPUs to beat Intel on the price/performance trade-off.

Traditionally, the Pentium and Pentium II processors tended to outperform all competition when it came to floating point performance (significant for games and multimedia). However, the AMD K6-2 has made considerable progress in this area. AMD has improved MMX performance (over the K6) and has introduced 3DNow! -- a special 3D instruction set that is rapidly gaining industry acceptance. Microsoft's DirectX 6 drivers will support 3DNow!, so the K6-2 may be the preferred processor for gamers. (I should point out that the exclamation mark in "3DNow!" is part of the brand name, and should not be taken as an indication that I am especially emphatic about this technology!)The main difference between the K6 and the Pentium II is that the K6 is Socket 7-compatible. This makes the K6 ideal as an upgrade processor. The Pentium II uses the new Slot 1 design, which may be awkward in the short term. However, Slot 1 may prevail in the long term and give you more choice when it comes to future processor upgrades.

In a new computer, extra heat is not an issue. When manufacturers build computers, they design and test them to handle the heat generated by the processor. However, when upgrading a processor, you should be aware of changed cooling requirements. Well-designed systems can use heat sinks instead of a cooling fan on the processor. While the heat sink is more reliable because there are no moving parts, a CPU fan provides better cooling and is therefore the preferred choice for an upgrade CPU. Also, you should check the layout of the computer to see that there is plenty of space above the CPU. If you upgrade the motherboard, the CPU location may change, putting it in a badly ventilated location.

I used to warn people against buying non-Intel-based computers -- not because of the processor, but because these systems were aimed at the bargain basement market. The price of the overall package was reduced by the use of cheaper components and the result tended to be systems with low reliability. However, given the growing industry respect for AMD processors, you can now buy quality computers with an AMD processor.

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