computers age, applications take longer to open and games
run slower - it's a given. If you want to address this sluggishness,
there are two main paths to take: either buy a new PC or upgrade
your existing PC. While buying a new computer is relatively
easy (except on your wallet), upgrading your existing one
can present many challenges.
If you decide to go the upgrade path, what component(s) should
you replace? Videocard? CPU? Memory? Hard drive? The choices
can be daunting.
If you decide to upgrade your CPU, your motherboard/chipset
will play a major role in determining what options are available
to you. For
those motherboards that contain an AMD Athlon or Duron processor,
there is a good chance it contains a Socket A interface. In
that case, you should be able to choose an off the shelf processor
as an upgrade (though your motherboard may require a BIOS
upgrade). However, if your motherboard contains an Intel processor,
things get a little more complicated because Intel has gone
through a few CPU interfaces in recent years.
company called PowerLeap aims to make the CPU upgrading path
a bit easier with their line of CPU adapters. Their latest
and greatest offering is the PL-iP3/T
CPU Upgrade which provides modern Intel upgrades for older
Slot 1 motherboards. The PL-iP3/T supports the latest .13
micron Intel "Tualatin" processors, including the 1.0, 1.2,
and 1.4 GHz Celeron with 256K L2 cache and 1.2, 1.26, and
1.4 GHz Pentium-III with up to 512K L2 cache. For this review,
the Slot 1/1.4GHz version was tested.
with copper heatsink; review unit had aluminum heatsink).
first thing I noticed was the size of the Aluminum heatsink/fan
combo. Usually large heatsinks are welcomed, but in my case
it barely fit. In fact, as seen in the picture below, the
CPU fan blew directly into my memory modules. More than half
the fan was blocked by the memory.
placing the PowerLeap CPU into the Slot was difficult, it
didn't match the trouble I had getting the system to properly
recognize the processor. The
older the motherboard, the more opportunity there is for problems.
PowerLeap recommends that you have the latest motherboard
BIOS installed before attempting to install their CPU. It
took a lot of BIOS tinkering and a few emails to their tech
support before getting the system stable. Even after that,
PowerLeap's own software said it was a 1.3GHz processor utilizing
a 14X multiplier and a 100MHz FSB! How's that for math?
Crucial PC133 (CAS 3)
first set of benchmarks were run with SiSoftware's Sandra
2002, which uses synthetic tests to determine performance.
Though not a "real world" application, Sandra is
still a very useful tool because it can isolate individual
subsystems - in this case the CPU and memory.
The theoretical performance increase of the PowerLeap adapter
over the P3-600 is 1400/600=233%.
Arith (Dhrystone ALU)
Arith (Whetstone FPU)
the results above, it is clear that the CPU is performing
as advertised. All the CPU test results show that the 1.4GHz
PowerLeap upgrade is approximately 233% faster than the P3-600.
However, the memory tests didn't fare so well. For example,
the Integer memory tests only showed a 11% improvement.
Mark 2001 SE
Mark 2002 CPU
Mark 2002 Mem
Mark 2002 HD
results above further confirm the SiSoft analysis - the CPU
itself scales nicely, but the gains don't necessarily carry
over to the other subsystems. The 3D Mark score only showed
a 45% increase and there was no difference in hard drive performance.
SiSoft and Mad Onion results highlight a caveat with this
kind of upgrade - a PC is only as good as its weakest link.
Placing a supercharged engine in an aging PC may not give
you the intended results. With the exception of the configuration
difficulties, the CPU ran as expected. However, the CPU is
just one component of the system. A CPU upgrade won't improve
the Hard Drive performance. Also, memory performance does
not scale with the increase in CPU speed.
who might buy this kind of upgrade? Given the current pricing
of RAM, if you have a lot of RAM with a fairly new motherboard
and hard drive, then a CPU upgrade like the PowerLeap adapter
may be an relatively inexpensive way ($170
from PowerLeap) to extend the live of your system. With
Hyper-Threading CPU's from Intel and Hammer CPU's from AMD
on the way, getting another 6-8 months out of your current
PC may be all you need. However, if you have an older system
with aging components, it is probably better to save your
money until you have enough for a new machine (or a barebones
system if you want to do things yourself!).
The ironic thing with this upgrade is that it might not be
for the casual PC hobbyist because of the configuration issues.
However, those who know the most about PC's probably wouldn't
bother with this upgrade path.
quite difficult to configure
necessarily improve performance of older components