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Well, over three months have already passed since 25 October, when Intel announced its new Intel Pentium III processorson the Coppermine core, and now their youngest models are spreading all over the shop shelves. The new CPUs differed fromthe older Katmai ones first of all by L2 cache, which moved from the processor card inside the core. It meant that there wasno need in processor card and a socketed Intel Pentium III wasn't something impossible any more. So, Intel used this brilliantopportunity and started manufacturing FC-PGA (Flip Chip Pin Grid Array) version of its Pentium III for Socket 370.

Before trying to analyze the possible consequences this may have for us, ordinary users, let's recall the past of Pentium II,namely how it got into the processor cartridge. In 1998, Intel introduced the first processor of the 6th generation - Pentium Pro.However, this processor was designed for Socket 8 and there was no cartridge at all. Nevertheless, one of the main peculiarities ofthis CPU was L2 cache integrated into its package, which worked at full processor frequency. In fact, according to thetechnological level of those days (0.35 micron) this L2 cache had to be made on a separate silicon chip and was then placedinto the same processor package. On the one hand, it resulted into a considerable performance gain, because at that time L2cache was one of the greatest bottlenecks for data transfer operations. But on the other hand, this approach caused a lot ofdifficulties with manufacturing and testing of the ready products. The effect didn't keep waiting for long: Intel Pentium Proturned out extremely expensive and the price almost didn't drop at all. Therefore, Intel had to start working on some ways-outand managed to solve the problem. The solution offered looked as follows: external microchips with Level 2 cache were installedonto a processor card. Although they had to re-equip their factory in Ireland after that and the new processor cards were assembledand packed into cartridges over there, they still managed to significantly reduce the manufacturing expenses. Instead of two siliconchips the processor contained only one, the cache memory and the processor core were tested separately. Besides, the problem ofprocessor cooling was solved because the surface to be cooled was much larger this time.

Today the technology has made an impressive step forward and developed up to 0.18 micron, which allows L2 cache to be placed ondie. The processor cartridge, which helped to get rid of quite a lot of problems, has now turned into a problem itself. Really,there is absolutely no need in external microchips, and hence in the card, the processor core chip was fastened to. So, Intelcould cut down the processor manufacturing expenses and offer the users a cheaper product. That is why the appearance of FC-PGAprocessors was both technologically and economically justified.

   

So, FC-PGA Intel Pentium III is none other than the same Slot 1 Intel Pentium III but without a cartridge. Due to the factthat Intel is now using OLGA (Organic Land Grid Array) to pack the processor chips, the fan is pressed directly to the die, whichprovides the necessary cooling. And to install its new FC-PGA processors Intel chose a widely spread Socket 370, which we all knowas used with Celeron CPUs.

So, summing up what we have just discussed with the things described in our Intel Coppermine Review, we should mention thefollowing concerning FC-PGA processors:

  • Coppermine processor core, 0.18 micron technology, 28 million transistors. Die size - 106sq.mm;
  • Models supporting the following frequencies were announced: 500, 533, 550, 600, 650, 700, 733 and 750MHz (system busfrequency - 100 or 133MHz);
  • Advanced Transfer Level 2 integrated on-die Cache with the size of 256KB working at the full processor frequency;
  • 32KB L1 cache (16KB for data and 16KB for instructions);
  • SSE SIMD-instructions and serial number;
  • Vcore - 1.6V.

This is the official data. In reality, only 500MHz FC-PGA Pentium III (with 100MHz FSB) is already available now, and theshipping of 550MHz models is postponed until mid February. As for the rest, there future is still very vague and unclear. Onthe one hand, they exist but on the other, they don't. :-)

We would like to particularly dwell on 256KB Advanced Transfer Cache. It not only works at full core frequency as by Celeron(by old Intel Pentium III on Katmai core the cache worked at half core frequency), it also has a 256Kbit bus, four times widerthan that of Celeron and Katmai. This bus provides direct contact between this cache and the CPU. Besides, L2 cache latency ofCoppermine is even lower than L2 cache latency of Celeron and old Intel Pentium III. All these enhancements as well as AdvancedSystem Buffering (additional buffering of memory operations) resulted into faster data transfer by processors on Coppermine corecompared to their predecessors. Check our Intel Coppermine Review for more details.

However, FC-PGA processors are slightly different from their Slot 1 fellows. First, they work at lower core voltage, namelyat 1.6V (Slot 1 Coppermine works at 1.65V). And second, 500 and 550MHz FC-PGA Pentium III doesn't support SMP configurations(multiprocessor configurations). Nevertheless, this drawback refers only to two youngest models: starting from 600MHz FC-PGACoppermine will support SMP, too.

Therefore, FC-PGA Pentium III is in fact absolutely the same thing as Slot 1 Coppermine with that only difference that it ischeaper to produce. That is why Intel's desire to cease Slot 1 CPUs manufacturing doesn't strike as surprising at all.

However, there is a black sheep in every flock, and FC-PGA is not an exception. It still has a very significant disadvantage.FC-PGA Pentium III doesn't work on old Socket 370 mainboards. Let us be more specific here. Well, the following requirements haveto be fulfilled for every FC-PGA processor to work properly on a particular mainboard:

  • System BIOS should support Intel Coppermine
  • The mainboard should allow 1.6V core voltage. Far not all the boards can boast the appropriate voltage regulators
  • The key point. The mainboard should meet new design requirements. The matter is that FC-PGA processorsuse some new contacts, reserved by Socket 370 Celeron. That's why FC-PGA Pentium III doesn't work on old mainboardswithout these contacts, while with new mainboards supporting FC-PGA Pentium III you can also use Celeron processors.

As for the last item, the state of things here looks as follows. The documentation for the developers of i810, i810E and i820based mainboards from the very beginning contained all the necessary instructions concerning new contacts for the processor socket.While there was nothing like that in the similar documentation for i440BX/ZX based mainboards manufactured when no one could eventhink of any Coppermines. As a result, most i440BX/ZX based mainboards with Socket 370 do not support FC-PGA processors. However,new guidelines for i440BX/ZX have already appeared and according to them new Socket 370 mainboards on i440BX/ZX do support FC-PGA.As far as VIA chipsets are concerned, the situation here is also not simple. Anyway, in order to be hundred percent sure that yourmainboard supports FC-PGA Pentium III, you'd better check with the manufacturer.

Some mainboard manufacturers were so kind to provide us with the info on their Socket 370 products supporting FC-PGA processors.Here is the list of these mainboards:

Manufacturer Mainboards supporting FC-PGA Intel Pentium III
ABIT WX6e
ASUS CUWE (from rev. 1.08), CUWE-AM (from rev. 1.02), CUWE-B (from rev. 1.03), CUWE-RM (from rev. 1.01)
Chaintech 6WEX, 6WEX2, 6WIV (from rev. E), 6WIV1, 6WFV, 6WPV (from rev. D), 6AIA4, 6SFV
Gigabyte GA-6CX7, GA-6CXC7, GA-6WXM7-E, GA-6WMMC7-E, GA-6WMM7, GA-6WMZ7, GA-6WFZ7-E, GA-6WOZ7, GA-6VX7+, GA-6VA7+, GA-6VX7-4X, GA-VM7-4X, GA-6SMZ7, GA-6BX7
Iwill DCC133, WA133-S, VD133 Pro
Supermicro 370SED, 370SEA, 370SWT, 370SCD
Transcend TS-UWH31 (from rev. E), TS-UWL31 (from rev. E), TS-ABX31A, TS-AVD3, TS-AVE3, TS-AWE3, TS-ACD3

Another way to make use of your FC-PGA Pentium III is to install it into Slot 1 mainboard via Slot1-to-Socket 370 converter.However, you should always bear in mind the differences in contacts layout between Celeron and Pentium III as well as lowervoltage required for Coppermine. That is why the general Slot 1-to-Socket 370 converter cards, plugged into Slot 1 mainboardwith FC-PGA processor, won't work. Nevertheless, some manufacturers, including ABIT, ASUS, Iwill and MSI, have already announcedspecial adapters supporting FC-PGA processors, too. However, they cannot be a panacea against all the problems. Besides that, themainboard should also be able to provide 1.6V and its BIOS should support Coppermine. In other words, FC-PGA Pentium III will workvia converter only on the mainboards supporting Slot 1 Coppermine.

Now let's touch upon such interesting issue as overclocking. Of course, like all other Intel CPUs, FC-PGA Pentium III has alocked clock multiplier. In particular, the multiplier equals 5 for a 500MHz model (intended for 100MHz FSB), which we had at ourdisposal. Nevertheless, FC-PGA Pentium III is expected to be very promising for overclocking taking into account the absence ofoverclocking unfriendly external L2 cache (the same as we saw by Celeron). Besides, these processors are manufactured with a finertechnology and hence they heat much less than their predecessors. All in all, we have every reason to expect good overclockingresults.

FC-PGA Pentium III should be overclocked by means of increasing the FSB frequency. Therefore, it is very important that ourIntel Pentium III 500E processor has a small multiplier, which allows increasing the FSB frequency significantly. It means thatif you increase the FSB frequency from the nominal 100MHz to 133MHz, the CPU frequency will get only 677MHz, which doesn't lookas something unachievable, especially keeping in mind that younger Celeron models can be overclocked by 1.5 times.

Besides, we should also take note of the fact that Slot 1 Intel Pentium III based on the same Coppermine core works atVcore equal to 1.65V, i.e. 0.05V higher than the voltage supported by FC-PGA. This suggests a very attractive idea: duringoverclocking we can easily increase Vcore by these 0.05V if necessary.

We managed to overclock our Intel Pentium III 500E processor up to 667MHz without much effort and even without any voltageincrease. However, when overclocking like that (increasing the system bus frequency up to 133MHz) you should always check thefollowing:

  • The system memory meets PC133 specification or supports 133MHz. Or the mainboard chipset allows reducing the memorybus working frequency relative to FSB frequency (VIA Apollo Pro 133/A).
  • The mainboard has AGP bus frequency divider equal to 1/2, or the graphics card can work at 89MHz AGP frequency.
  • The mainboard has PCI bus frequency divider equal to 1/4, or all PCI devices and the hard disk should work at 44MHz.

We overclocked our processor on the mainboard based on i440BX chipset. It was ABIT BE6 equipped with PC133 SDRAM andCreative 3D Blaster Annihilator, which proved just perfect at 89MHz AGP. By the way, all recently made Creative graphicscards on NVIDIA GeForce 256 and TNT2 Ultra chips don't face any problems working at 89MHz AGP. Besides, Matrox G400 and 3dfxVoodoo3 also work at this AGP frequency.

It's high time we passed to the performance. In our tests we aimed at comparing modern Socket 370 processors. This shouldhelp us to conclude how justified the use of FC-PGA Pentium III is, compared to the available Celeron processors, which are alsovery well overclockable. We tested Intel Celeron 333 and 366 overclocked with 100MHz FSB up to 500 and 550MHz correspondingly,Intel Celeron 500 and 533 working in nominal mode at 66MHz FSB and Intel Pentium III 500E at nominal frequencies and overclocked.We carried out the tests on two testing platforms based on i440BX and i810E chipsets.

The first testing system was configured as follows:

  • ABIT BE6 mainboard
  • Creative 3DBlaster Annihilator graphics card
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! sound card
  • IBM DJNA 372200 HDD
  • 128MB PC133 SDRAM by Micron (CAS3)

On the diagrams for each CPU tested we mentioned in brackets the system bus frequency. In 3D applications we tested at800x600@16bpp (if no special notes are given).

As usual, we would like to offer you the performance in office applications first.

These results suggest the following conclusion: the system bus frequency has a very significant influence on theoverall system performance. Just take a look, how greatly Intel Celeron working at 500MHz frequency with 100MHz FSBsurpassed the ordinary Celeron working with 66MHz FSB. As for FC-PGA Pentium III 500, it performed even better thanCeleron 550 working at 100MHz. When overclocked by 33% (up to 667MHz), Intel Pentium III provides a gain in performanceof about 17%.

Besides the usual Winstone we decided to include a new SYSMark2000 by BAPCo into the list of our testing tools.This test defines the average performance of the system in the following applications: MetaCreations Bryce 4, AvidElastic Reality 3.1, Adobe Photoshop 5.5, Adobe Premiere 5.1, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 4.0, Corel CorelDRAW 9.0,Microsoft Excel 2000, Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred 4.0, Netscape Communicator 4.61, Corel Paradox 9.0, MicrosoftPowerPoint 2000 ? Microsoft Word 2000. The results obtained show how greatly the performance grows if the system bus frequencyis set over 100MHz, namely when overclocking Intel Pentium III 500E. It has to do with the fact that when we increase FSBfrequency in our test system based on i440BX, AGP and PCI bus frequencies also start growing. As for the performance ofIntel Pentium III 500E, it again appeared a bit higher than that of Celeron working at 550MHz.

And now let's take a look at FC-PGA Pentium III on Coppermine core in games:




In gaming applications the performance of Pentium III 500E proved higher than that of an overclocked Celeron working at550MHz. Of course, the support of SSE instructions, introduced in Pentium III and absent in Celeron, contributes to thisvictory. You may find it quite interesting but our Pentium III overclocked to 667MHz proved almost twice as fast as Celeron500. However, Celeron 500 can't boast a twice as low price as Pentium III 500, and as for Celeron 533 and Pentium III 500Ethe price difference there makes less than $30.

Here a lot depends on the system bus frequency. That's why Pentium III easily leaves 66MHz Celeron CPUs far behind. Whenits system bus is overclocked up to 133MHz, the performance gets 24% higher. As for the overclocked Celeron, even at 550MHzit fails to catch up with Pentium III 500E.

The situation is almost the same as in Quake3. Pentium III 500E performs close to Celeron overclocked to 550MHz. However,if you overclock our FC-PGA hero, you will gain about 30% performance.

Then we tested Intel Pentium III 500E on the system based on i810E chipset, which officially supports FC-PGA processorsand 133MHz processor bus. The distinguishing feature of i810E chipset is the integrated i752 graphics core, which shows notvery high performance in 3D. This system was configured like that:

  • Chaintech 6WSV2 mainboard
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! sound card
  • IBM DJNA 372200 HDD
  • 128MB PC100 SDRAM by SEC (CAS2)

Unfortunately, we failed to overclock Pentium III 500E on this system that is why all the data provided in testing resultsshow the processor performance only in nominal mode.

Since the system memory in i810E based systems always works at fixed frequency equal to 100MHz, the gap between the performanceof CPUs with various FSB frequencies gets smaller. However, Pentium III 500E is still cooler than Celeron 533 and leaves behindCeleron overclocked to 550MHz as well.

Pentium III 500E is again ahead of all.




Unfortunately, weak graphics core of i810E doesn't provide acceptable fps rate in modes with high level of detail. But theprocessor on the Coppermine core helps to slightly improve the gaming performance.

To our great disappointment, again the graphics core turns out the greatest drawback. It is the main thing that made allthe processors perform on practically the same level. Nevertheless, Pentium III 500E still managed to be 1fps better than itscompetitors! :-)

Conclusions

FC-PGA Pentium III represents a new very promising direction. Socket 370 remains the only processor socket for Intel CPUsuntil the launching of Willamette in the end of the year, which will use its own Socket. With the cost only $30 higher thanthe elder Celeron models, Intel Pentium III 500E shows beautiful performance. Besides, due to the new 0.18 micron technologyand L2 integrated on-die cache, this CPU can boast a huge overclocking potential and allows increasing its frequency up to133% from the nominal. So, FC-PGA Pentium III opens a new epoch for Socket 370. However, to our great disappointment FC-PGAPentium III still faces one very serious problem - compatibility with old mainboards that is why we wouldn't call this CPU agood upgrading solution.

Besides, you should also bear in mind that in the end of Q1 we will see Coppermine 128 (with 128KB L2 cache, 100MHz FSB andCoppermine core), which is expected to replace Celeron. Therefore, it should cost less than the today's FC-PGA processors.However, we don't think that they will prove much slower than the today's Coppermines. That is why they are very likely tobecome the leaders in terms of price-to-performance ratio. 

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