Budget PC's: Looks can be Deceivingby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 6, 1998 11:16 AM EST
- Posted in
Competition Brings Out the Best
Intel was ready to drop the 486 line after the 100MHz DX4 processor was announced, had it not been for a few companies the 486 platform would have probably come to a premature end at around 66MHz, making way for the new '586' chips. Those companies, led by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), managed to make a noticeable dent in Intel's share of the market. Soon enough, the 486 reached new speeds never thought possible, first it was the Enhanced 486 series which extended the life of the 100MHz 486 further than originally thought possible, next came the 486 DX4/120 and then the overclocker's dream, the AMD 5x86-133 which was nothing more than a 133MHz 486. The 5x86-133 from AMD, and the 5x86-120 from Cyrix, while remaining a full generation behind that of the Pentium processors, managed to redefine the term Budget PC's as they offered performance comparable to that of the more expensive next generation processors. Much like the way AMD's K6-2 is breathing life back into the Socket-7 platform while Intel has already abandoned it, the 5x86 processor was designed to breathe life back into the Socket-3 (486) market...and that it accomplished for a lengthy period of time.
If it weren't for the efforts of companies like AMD and Cyrix, we wouldn't have the demand for a low-cost/high-performing PC that exists in the market today.
Meeting the Demands
Being the good sports that they are, Intel was forced to meet the demands of the users, officially, the most important thing in the market ;) This is where the Intel Celeron comes into play, aimed at putting the final nails in the Socket-7 coffin, the Slot-1 interface of the Intel Celeron was ultimately designed to extinguish any remaining competition on the low end from AMD or Cyrix. With Cyrix essentially out of the gaming picture due to their poor FPU performance, AMD was pretty much Intel's only competition on the low end, a small yet fierce competitor to the microprocessor giant. Officially, the intention of the move to the Slot-1 architecture was to reduce upgrade pains, increase efficiency, and take advantage of future technologies more easily. Intel has since realized that their costs for manufacturing a large Slot based processor are just too much to remain competitive on the low end, especially with AMD's Socket-7 K6-2 alternative is not only cheaper than the Celeron but can compete directly with Intel's top of the line, Pentium II processor. Because of this, Intel will be moving the Celeron's interface back to a Socket design in 1999, currently referred to as the "370-pin Socket", (sounds much like the naming of the Socket interfaces on Alpha motherboards) Intel has admitted that they need to drive costs down even lower to compete on the Budget PC end of the market.
The Celeron's poor Business Application performance opened the way for Cyrix to step in with their latest Socket-7 processor, the M-II, which excels under Business Applications for a very low cost and at a very low clock speed in comparison to the rest of the Socket-7 processors out today. The AMD/Cyrix duo, combined with the increasing threat from IDT with their Winchip seems to have extended the life of the Socket-7 motherboard beyond all initial predictions. Chances to take advantage of a dying yet high performing platform such as Socket-7 don't come around every day, so the Socket-7 platform now becomes, not only a high performing solution, but also the foundation for a redefined Budget PC.