The Fastest of the Fast

Dell Dimension XPS T700r

Peripherals Plus AMD Athlon 700

Intel's new Pentium III processors, commonly known by their Copper-mine code name, have finally made their way into commercially available desktop systems after long delays and product shortages. Dell Computer has released several Dimension XPS T Series machines which utilise these processors, and this month we looked at the 700MHz Intel PIII Dimension XPS T700r and compared it to a 700MHz AMD Athlon machine from Peripherals Plus.

The Dell Dimension range is aimed at the home/home office market. Our review machine came configured with 128MB of SDRAM (64MB comes standard), a DVD-ROM drive (48x CD-ROM comes standard), a 32MB GeForce256 graphics adapter (a TNT2 M64 is standard), 13.6GB of storage space, an SB Live Value sound card, 56Kbps modem, 17in Dell monitor and Altec Lansing speakers. The cost is $4250, excluding freight expenses. In the AMD corner, the Peripherals Plus machine was a fully featured behemoth, which also utilised GeForce256 graphics, 128MB of SDRAM, a 13.6GB hard drive, Creative Vibra 128 sound card and internal 56Kbps modem, but shipped with an Acer CD burner as well as a DVD player, for $4095.

We subjected the two 700MHz machines to a rigorous workout from PC WorldBench 98 and 3DMark 99 Max. The Coppermine machine used the older 440BX chipset with a 100MHz front side bus speed; this is the fastest machine to pass through our doors, and should be even faster once a new platform is released for it. PC WorldBench was run under Windows 98 and the T700r registered a score of 288, approximately 3 per cent faster than the Peripherals Plus Athlon 700, which achieved a score of 278.

Blazingly quick business performance wasn't the machine's only strong suit. Equipped with a GeForce256 graphics accelerator that had its processor running at 150MHz and memory running at 183MHz, the T700r also had some awesome frame rates up its sleeve, sneaking 122 frames per second out of Quake II at a resolution of 1024 x 768. At the same resolution, KingPin scored 83 gruesome frames per second, and in 3DMark 99 Max, the machine scored 6253 3D marks and 10454 CPU 3D marks. These results must surely qualify this machine as a gamers' delight.

Several new features are behind the Coppermine's great performance, the first of which is the manufacturing procedure. Intel has begun producing these chips with its new 0.18 micron fabrication process, as opposed to the older 0.25 micron process. This benefits performance because the chip is physically smaller and therefore requires a lower voltage, which in turn reduces the amount of heat that is generated. The less heat a chip produces, the faster it can go, so Intel should be releasing faster versions of the Coppermine in the near future (at the time of writing, Intel's fastest processor was the 733MHz version of the Coppermine, which has not yet appeared in production machines). Cache memory is also a major factor when it comes to performance. Business applications which greatly utilise cache memory benefit from the Coppermine's 256KB of on-board cache memory which, although it is smaller than the 512KB often associated with Pentium III processors, is a lot faster because it is integrated onto the same die as the processor itself. This means that the cache memory is running at the same speed as the processor. On older Pentium IIIs this cache is located on a separate die to the processor and, as a result, only runs at half the speed of the processor. While this processor still utilises the Slot 1 mechanical interface, Intel will be releasing the Coppermine processors in a socket connection that will be called Flip Chip Pin Grid Array (FCPGA), which should bring down the cost of the chips.

Compared to the Dell machine, the Peripherals Plus AMD 700 featured a lower-clocked Leadtek GeForce256 graphics adapter, and in turn recorded lower frame rates in both Quake II and KingPin, scoring 88 and 66 frames per second, respectively. (Nvidia has since released GeForce drivers especially for Athlon users and these can be downloaded through the link provided on AMD's Web site.) In 3DMark 99 Max, 4862 3D marks were recorded, while the Athlon outscored the Coppermine Pentium III by registering 11219 CPU 3D marks as opposed to 10454.

The AMD Athlon is manufactured using the 0.25 micron process and contains a 128KB Level 1 cache, which is also integrated on the actual chip die, and a 512KB second level cache which runs at half the processor speed. The Athlon's floating point design is superior to the Pentium III's, due to its fully pipelined design.

The Coppermine is the faster processor at the moment and Intel has once again regained the speed crown from AMD in our tests - although we have yet to see an AMD Athlon processor utilising the new 0.18 micron design (at the time of writing, AMD had just announced a 750MHz version of the Athlon built using 0.18 technology).

Dell Dimension XPS T700r

Configuration: Intel Pentium III 700MHz CPU, 128MB SDRAM, 13.6GB hard drive, 32MB Nvidia GeForce graphics adapter.

Extra features: 17in M770 monitor, 8x DVD drive, Harmon Kardon ACS-340 speakers, internal 56Kbps modem, Creative SB Live Value sound card, Microsoft Works Suite 99, McAfee Virus Scan.

Price: $4250

Warranty: 3 years/1 year on-site

Vendor: Dell

Phone: 1800 335 502


Peripherals Plus AMD Athlon 700

Configuration: AMD Athlon 700MHz CPU, 128MB SDRAM, 13.6GB hard drive, 32MB Leadtek WinFast GeForce graphics adapter.

Extra features: 17in Samsung monitor, Pioneer 10x DVD drive, Acer CD-RW 4 x 4 x 32, Aopen speakers, internal Dynalink 56Kbps modem, Creative Vibra 128 sound card, Lotus SmartSuite Millennium, Virtual Drive, Norton AntiVirus.

Price: $4095

Warranty: 3 years on-site

Vendor: Peripherals Plus

Phone: (02) 9630 3166


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