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Old is New...

by Patrick Unterlerchner

In the May 1998 issue of the AJ, our president, Pat Hughes, mentioned the Black Lion in Meguro. This month, I suggest to put the Lion in a cage, underneath the cover of your old but "suki na" PC.

If you are like me, you have probably purchased your computer a while before the internet outbreak took place in Japan, that is around 1994-1995. At this time, a Pentium 75MHz or 90MHz was the best one could buy on the market. However, since Moore's Law1 proved true so far, your old PC is now living its pre-retirement period, if it is not already recycled into PET bottles!

As far as my desktop was concerned until recently, a hard disk of 540MB and a CPU of 90MHz were not really the best bet to run MS Office and other resource demanding communication software. A difficult decision was to be made. To buy or not to buy, that was The Question!

Being a student here in Japan and having quickly conducted an audit deep in my pockets, I did not have much difficulties to figure out that I definitely had to find an alternative to extend the life of my DELL computer. I decided to write an e-mail to DELL Support Service and inquire on possible upgrades. In return, I have received a message suggesting me to have a closer look at the Powerleap device.

So, I hop on to the web site and discovered with rounded eyes that the Powerleap device went far beyond my most foolish expectations: the possibility to boost my old Pentium 90MHz to a lightning fast 233MHz with MMX!!! Wow! But, aren't those Pentium processors with MMX using a socket 7 whereas my PC is based on a socket 5? ... No problem! This was almost too good to be true. The device, sold together with the Intel processor, was priced a bit more than $350 (that was on last December 1997 and I do not remember the exact price...). Note that the device and the processor are also sold separately, it's all up to you.

Living in Tokyo, I have naturally found the Powerleap device "PL-ProMMX" at T-Zone (main shop, 7F) for 7,800 (on January 1998). Mr. Akihabara, alias Sigi Rindler, told me that such device is called "geta" in Japan. Having the device, the CPU was still cruelly missing... but only until recently! So, how is this device functioning?

CPU upgrades are possible using an overdrive or simply by changing the processor for a more powerful one. In both cases, there is an upper limit that cannot be exceeded in the processor speed. Considering the overdrive, it receives its electrical power directly from the motherboard and so, this implies that a CPU upgrade is limited to a certain speed. This maximum limit depends on the motherboard's capacity to adjust to the internal speed of the processor by using multipliers and jumpers.

PL-ProMMX.gif (24669 bytes)

For example, the initial speed of my computer's processor was 90MHz working with a external bus of 60MHz (being 2/3 of the CPU). if I had to upgrade the processor using an overdrive, the maximum reachable would have been the initial speed of the CPU plus 2/3 of it: 90+(2/3*90)= 150Mhz. That's all. No possibility to go any further.

Powerleap is an add-on socket that is placed in between the socket 5 (or 7) and the new processor. It receives its electrical power directly from the PC's power supply and so, the electrical resource by-passes the motherboard. This explains why it is possible to perform the upgrade using a much more powerful processor than it is usually allowed with standard overdrives.

The device is mounted with a series of dip switches that one can turn ON and OFF to adjust to the desired voltage and frequency multiplier, depending on the type of processor fitting into it. For example, I wanted to install an Intel 233Mhz with MMX, so I first changed the jumper on the motherboard of my PC so that the external speed was set to 66MHz, which is required to install such a processor. I then switched the dip-switches ON and OFF for those to correspond to a voltage of 2.8V and a frequency multiplier of 3.5. Here, we can notice that 66MHz multiplied by 3.5 gives 231, which is the calculated speed of a 233MHz processor. Note that this type of upgrade is limited to a maximum processor speed of i233MHz, for new i266MHz Pentium processors are now being built around the new "slot 1" architecture. I finished the installation by plugging in the power cable for the device and another for the processor's fan.

I then replaced the cover of my desktop and turned the power ON to let the lion roar and discover that the upgrade was just a snap! What a difference! In the move, I have also changed the hard drive (from a Quantum 540MB to a Western Digital 6.4GB - Wow again!) and I can tell that my old PC is now brand new!

Powerleap upgrades are also possible using Cyrix, AMD or any other processor brands. However and in most cases, non-Intel CPUs require to upgrade the system BIOS as well. While it is not the case when using an Intel processor, the system BIOS may display a wrong processor speed at the PC's booting. This is only a display error and it does not affect the functioning of the PC in any ways. My system BIOS displays a processor speed of 133MHz upon booting, but it functions at 233MHz, no doubt about that. Just in case and to convince yourself, simply run Wintune 97, a small but useful program made by Windows Magazine. See the link below to download your free copy. This application compares the overall power and major components of your system and gives some hints to fine tune it. Then, you can compare the outcome of the testing to a whole lot of benchmarked systems, ranging from 25MHz to 200MHz. As expected, my computer is out of range, thanks to the great upgrade! <g>

One last word. Although this upgrade is really great, the true power of the processor and the overall performance of the PC can be slightly contained due to a small cache size (i.e.: 256K) and/or not enough RAM memory. Old PCs are usually built around a 256K cache and 16 to 32MB of RAM memory. An increase is recommended, though not necessary.

If you intend to upgrade using Powerleap technology, I strongly recommend you to have a thorough look at the company's web page prior to buying the device and the new processor. First you will learn a great deal and second, you will be on the safe side. There is everything on the page to guide you in your way to heaven. Also, have a look at the dedicated newsgroup on the subject and be sure your configuration settings (PC, BIOS, processor and others) can host the device. If your PC's motherboard is an Intel as well as the processor, the upgrade will most likely go smoothly. Other components must be checked a bit more cautiously, though.

 

This upgrade will cost you around 30,000 now (device and processor) compared to the much higher cost for a new or even second hand desktop. Isn't it a great deal? I wish you a good upgrade and maybe you'll be as happy and lucky as I was: I have been presented both the processor i233Mhz with MMX and the new hard drive... It was definitely the most powerful and cheapest upgrade I have ever done! <g>

List of links:

POWERLEAP

http://www.powerleap.com

POWERLEAP

White-Paper: Socket 5 and Socket 7: What It All Means and Why an Adapter is Needed for MMX CPU Upgrades

http://www.powerleap.com/tn-006p.html

INTEL

Pentium(R) Processors-Quick Reference Guide

http://developer.intel.com/design/pentium/qit/

INTEL

Pentium Overdrive Processor

http://www.intel.com/overdrive/index.htm

WINDOWS MAGAZINE

wintune97

http://www.winmag.com/software/wt.htm

Patrick Unterlerchner

E-mail: patricku@typhoon.co.jp

_____

1. Back in 1965, Gordon Moore-cofounder of Intel-predicted that the capacity of a computer chip would double every year. He later adjusted his prediction by saying that a computer chip would double every two years. The reality is that on average, it is doubling every eighteen months. Finally, this average became to be known as the Moore's law.


© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

July, 1998

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


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