In the Forums...
Posted: April 18, 2000
Written By: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
Got an old Pentium or Pentium class computer lying around the house that you have no upgrade path for? Maybe you are still using that old Pentium computer but are itching to actually be able to play some newer games on it? Or perhaps you are looking for a fast way to turn an old computer into a kickin’ game or network server? Well, search no longer – We may have the answer to your prayers – Evergreen’s AcceleraPCI CPU upgrade.
Here is a blow-by-blow of the most important features of this handy little processor upgrade.
- Supports the Intel Celeron (300 to 500 MHz) Processor Platform
- Compatible with most Pentium class systems with PCI ports
- Uses SODIMM SDRAM (Ed. Note: that’s the stuff they use in laptops)
- Supports both the 66 and 100 MHz bus speeds for later expansion
- Support for up to 256 MB of RAM
- Employs the 440ZX chipset north bridge
- Easy to Use PreQual software to determine system compatibility
Ease of Use
Here’s how a standard installation goes for the AcceleraPCI CPU upgrade goes. You pop in the PreQual software disk (you can also download it off the net to check your system before you buy) and run the program by rebooting the computer off of the floppy. Assuming that your system passes their test, you check and make sure the jumpers are set properly and that bus mastering is turned on for the PCI slot that you are going to be installing the card into. Then you open up the computer, insert and secure the AcceleraPCI card into the computer, close the computer up again, and boot up. After installing, your computer will boot up as normal and then it will initialize the AcceleraPCI card and off you go.
And, believe it or not, on the second computer we tried the card on, it worked flawlessly. And it was damn fast – personally we couldn’t tell the difference between it and one of the other two Celeron based systems we have in our lab. Before we get into performance, however, we’d like to mention that the PreQual software isn’t flawless. Very, very rarely it will say a system is compatible that really isn’t. This happened to us with the first computer we were working on, an HP Vectra P200 MMX. However, it worked just fine on the Gateway 2000 P75 system that we tried it out on – so all hope is not lost.
Honestly, the performance with this product was great. It was virtually indistinguishable from the other two Celeron systems. The unit we were provided with was a Celeron 466 MHz with 128 MB of SODIMM SDRAM and it worked just as well as any other 466 we’ve come across. Check out these screenshots to see what we're talking about:
These numbers are very close to a standard Celeron 466, and as such can be considered the same. There was no noticeable slowdown at all, which is somewhat surprising due to the fact that the processor is residing on the PCI bus.
The tech support guys at Evergreen, as we’ve said before, are excellent. With the first computer we attempted to use this product, there was some kind of weird chipset/card incompatibility that we couldn’t figure out (it ended up not working at all). And even after all of the conventional methods of getting the thing to work didn’t do squat, the company had a special BIOS version compiled for us to see if it was possible to get the AcceleraPCI working. Very cool.
Okay, this is the one downfall of this product. Their ‘standard’ setup for this product (Celeron 466 w/ 128 MB of SODIMM SDRAM) costs $499.00. However, because of the nature of this product, this kind of price is to be expected. Not only is it using the MOST expensive form of SDRAM on the market (SODIMM 64 MB sticks have to use 128 MB chip density so they take up less space), but it also has a decent amount of proprietary technology on the board that is going to be costly.
Another way to look at this is that even though the product is expensive, exactly what would it otherwise cost you to upgrade a Pentium-based CPU. My best estimate, assuming you could find a suitable AT Pentium II motherboard was about $350 dollars. Note from editor: You may even need to buy a new case to fit the motherboard. And if it's ATX..."
This assumes that you do all of the work yourself (it could take several hours and would most definitely require a reinstallation of Windows 9x) – if you pay your local computer guru to do it for you that could easily tack an extra $75-$100 dollars on that. And remember that any upgraded system will totally lack any kind of technical support. The ease of use factor here definitely comes into play – exactly how much do you value your time? Also, if you are doing more than one of these upgrades at once, the price can definitely become worth the convenience
This is a really cool little piece of technical genius that really can bring alive an old computer. Just adding this card to an old Pentium system can bring it up to a level where you could run a gaming server, and if you were to pair this with a Voodoo3 PCI it wouldn’t make a bad gaming rig either. And remember, that is all without having to reinstall Windows 98. If you are considering buying a new computer, or even just upgrading an old one for the kids (or the wife, or husband, or whatever), check this product out.
- Easy to use
- Nice Warranty
- Current model upgradeable to a 500 MHz Celeron w/ 256 MB of RAM
- The PreQual Software isn’t foolproof
- A bit costly