Just when you thought a 200MHz Pentium processor was all the power you'd ever need, Intel has released a new CPU class with added performance that is sure to keep the upgrade market bubbling for some time.
Dubbed the Intel Pentium Processor with MMX Technology, the new chip promises to boost performance of specially developed multimedia software, while also offering an average increase of 20 per cent on overall processing speed. It does so by diverging from the standard architecture of the current x86 family, adding the capacity to process 57 new instructions and increasing on-board cache from 16K to 32K. The new instructions allow MMX CPUs to process multiple data elements in parallel, thus enabling large multimedia applications to run faster. High-speed rendering of 2-D and 3-D graphics, video windows at 640 by 480 pixels, 3-D audio and faster decompression and encryption are some of the benefits touted by Intel.
The downside is that to take advantage of the enhanced multimedia processing power, MMX processors users will need to buy software specifically written for the chips, to be made identifiable by a revised "Intel Inside" logo. Intel says MMX specific software will perform on average 60 per cent better on an MMX CPU than ordinary processors, but some MMX software will not run on non-MMX processors. A number of MMX titles from various software developers are already available.
Pentium MMX chips are available in 166MHz and 200MHz versions for desktops and 150MHz and 166MHz versions for mobiles. A Pentium Pro version of the MMX chip, code-named Klamath, is expected to appear within six months, while an Overdrive upgrade processor should appear in the second half of this year.