Time To Buy PIII cB0 Steppings

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I’ve waited a long time to write this 🙂

If you’ve been waiting to buy a Coppermine, your wait is just about over.

We have enough information from those of you who bought and tested cB0 stepping Coppermines to conclude that your odds on getting over 900Mhz (with the proper supporting equipment, of course; not everyone will be able to take a 600E and run it at 150Mhz or more) are very high. Not an absolute guarantee, but as high as you’ll get doing this.

Intel’s next price cut occurs this weekend, and some pricing is already beginning to reflect that cut.

A 650 should cost in the neighborhood of $220, a 700 around $270. Prices aren’t going to drop much more in the future to justify additional waits.

For your convenience, here are the s-specs you should be looking for. To make it even simpler, if it says SL3X? or SL4??; it’s a cB0 stepping:

S-specs for Coppermines with the new cB0 stepping:

100Mhz Processors

FC-PGA Processors  
S SpecSpeedRetail/OEM
SECC2 Processors  

While we still have don’t have an ideal motherboard situation, with the kind of tweaking we’ve talked about the last few weeks, performance on the motherboards we’ve talked about is now acceptable. While the Solano motherboard
may be a bit better, it will likely come with a heftier price tag with the optional-use video built in, and supply may be iffy.

Some words to the wise

You should get yourself an industrial-strength heatsink/fan with these processors. Those who have performed the feat have reported that temperatures are jumping up a lot once you get past 900Mhz, so good cooling is a very good idea.

If you are trying to do this with PC100 memory, or a beloved BX board, those could limit how far you can go.

The Via boards tend to get to 140+Mhz more consistently than the BX boards, but find it tough to get to 150Mhz or better.

Tip: When you look at our database to figure out how well others are doing with a chip you are interested in, also look at the attached comments too. If someone reached 1200Mhz with a water-cooled four-Peltier system, don’t assume you’re guaranteed the same with the standard Intel heatsink/fan.

Look for the average speed reported by people using the kind of cooling you plan on using, and figure that’s what you’re going to get. If you can do better, great, but at least you won’t be disappointed if your system won’t run as fast as the fastest.

AMD Alternatives

The Thunderbirds and Durons will debut on or about June 12th. If you are not going to overclock, these look to be a better buy than Coppermine/Celerons.

AMD Zone shows Duron benchmarks as published in a Chinese-language magazine. The chip performs within a smidgen of an “old” 700Mhz Athlon.

Motherboard availability/quality are the major issue here. A socketed derivative of the KX133, the KT133 is supposed to debut with the chips, but most of the usual motherboard suspects will release their versions a bit later on.

Take a look at The Register for more details, including initial pricing.

Overclockability will be an interesting issue. The KX133 motherboards do not seem to run reliably at more than 115Mhz, which limits overclocking from that angle.

However, the Register also reports that the days of “Golden Fingers” might be over, and that these chips will not have the semi-multiplier locks so far present on Athlons.

If that is the case, Intel could lose the overclocking crown to AMD the second half of the year, provided the AMDs can overclock to a reasonably decent degree. Somebody will have to get and test these chips to find out, but that’s a real possibility.

This doesn’t only apply to Durons, the 800Mhz Mhz Thunderbirds are supposed to debut in the neighborhood of $250. We may see some 1Ghz+ scores from those chips shortly.

A Slow Summer

After this peak of activity in June, things are going to slow down quite a bit.

You’ll see Solano and KT133 motherboards become available, a price cut here and there, but although Intel is mumbling about a 1200Mhz Coppermine; heat looks like a formidable challenge.

Some of the more adventurous have gotten speeds approaching 1200Mhz with major duty cooling solutions; but if you don’t plan on one of those, something in the neighborhood of 1Ghz is probably all you can expect from Coppermines the next couple months, and probably a little less rather than a little more.

The next major advancement we’ll see will be DDR memory and motherboards, but we’ll probably see those closer to the end of the summer than the beginning.

What I think we’ll see over the summer is the beginning of a slow shift towards AMD CPUs as the center of overclocking activity. If Durons can be overclocked to 850Mhz or better, it will probably be better than any Celeron outside of those just concerned with a Mhz number. Celerons will just be used by those on a budget upgrading older BX systems.

Willamette will be introduced around October, around the time copper-interconnects Thunderbird/Mustang/DDR systems become common, but then we have to watch the big boys fight RAM Wars and watch how that plays out before seeing which might be the next-generation star.

The Next Generation

We will shift by the fall to a new generation. Either a Thunderbird/DDR or Willamette system will require replacement of your core system (CPU, motherboard, memory). Sometime in 2001, we are likely to see AMD’s Sledgehammer and the first consumer 64-bit CPU, and the fight between that and whatever Intel comes up with will dwarf any Intel/AMD battles we’ve seen so far.

Now all we have to do is figure out what to do with all this power. 🙂

Email Ed


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