In a sense this was a tough article to write, as there just isn’t much exciting about the latest Pentium 3 CPU from Intel, other than higher CPU clock speeds. With new technology being introduced seemingly every day, it’s hard to test and write about something that isn’t new and exciting. On the other hand it made testing quite easy since the test system was a no brainer to setup and solid as a rock. But then, isn’t that what we want from a tool like a computer? It is also quite fast, as you’ll see when you look at the benchmarks below. It’s right on par with an AMD Athlon system using a CPU of the same speed and DDR SDRAM vs. the PC133 SDRAM used with the Pentium 3 and the Soyo TISU. Gee, almost every thing we want! About the only thing you can complain about (other than not being the latest hot new technology) would be the price. Even then the price isn’t all that bad – just compare it to CPUs half its speed from last year to put it in perspective. But if you compare it to the current AMD Athlon it does look a tad on the expensive side.
So what the heck is the new Tualatin core? Hard to tell for sure, since Intel just isn’t promoting any of the changes to the core. What Intel has done is drop the die size down to .13 micron, which allows for a lower core voltage, and that offers a few advantages, including more CPU’s can be produced on a wafer, less current draw along with less heat out-put, and CPU’s can run at higher speeds. Intel has also added Data Prefetch Logic to enhance the performance a bit, though not significantly. The packaging is also new (FC-PGA2), which not only looks different with a metal heat spreader on top (the CPU core is embedded in it from what I understand) but also requires a new (or revised) chipset for support. It still is a Socket 370 CPU, but pop a Tualatin core CPU into a Mainboard that doesn’t support it and it likely will not even boot. One interesting thing is that the product life should be quite short, as the Intel P4 will replace the P3 as the desktop CPU while the Tualatin (or a derivative) will fill the Celeron spot in the product line.
As noted above, the Tualatin core Pentium 3 needs a new chipset, so Intel, Ali and VIA have all revised their current Socket 370 chipsets to work with the new CPU. Intel did supply the Pentium 3 1.2GHz CPU I used for testing along with one of their Mainboards, but I instead decided to test out the new Soyo TISU that uses the Intel 815EP chipset. This gave me a chance to evaluate a new version of a Mainboard I’ve been working with for quite some time, and also allowed me to test with a product I am familiar with.
The Soyo TISU is a pretty basic but full-featured Mainboard equipped with a Socket 370 FC-PGA2 socket and the Intel 815EP chipset. It has six PCI busmaster slots, one AGP slot and a CNR slot (finding a CNR modem and/or NIC is still very difficult). A standard ATX I/O panel is used with PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, 2 USB ports, 2 Ser. & 1 Par. ports, game port, sound in and out along with a mic. jacks. The Sigmatel AC97 sound chip is used, there are headers on the Mainboard for a second pair of USB ports, CD sound in, WOL, Smart Card reader and an IrDA transceiver. A heatsink is used on the Northbridge (but no fan) and a header is provided for both the CPU and case fan that provides the normal fan speed sensing. Mainboard layout is pretty much normal with nothing really getting in the way or being positioned poorly. Three DIMM sockets are provided for SDRAM and either PC100 or PC133 can be used (set in the BIOS or use the SPD to set the memory speed). But like any other Intel 815 chipset, three DIMM’s can be used if they are single sided, while only two double sided DIMM’s can be used. Memory runs at 100MHz if a 66 or 100MHz FSB CPU is used, while using a 133MHz FSB CPU allows it to be run at either 100 or 133MHz. Any current or past FC-PGA or FC-PGA2 CPU can be used since 66, 100 and 133MHz FSB settings are supported. Soyo uses a jumper to clear the CMOS, set the CNR MR mode to primary or secondary and a DIP switch to enable or disable the AC97 sound (so you can fit a sound card of your choice & not have to worry about the integrated causing any conflicts). System monitoring is supports (temps, voltages, fan speeds) and a utility is provided to monitor under Windows. Suspend to RAM (STR) is also supported along with Power Failure Resume and the ability to boot from any drive by a simple key sequence during boot-up.
Be the first to discuss this article!