Level 16 - Colossus
MMX or Multi-Media-Extention is the latest technology from Intel for their computer processor chips and is now becoming available in some high quality, mid-priced computer systems. In this essay, I will discuss the technology and what it offers to the user, as well as, compare three high quality system packages from three of industries leading manufacturers. The systems discussed here are the Gateway 2000 P55C-200 FPC, the Packard Bell NEC Platinum 2240, and the Compaq Presario 4784; all of which contain the new Intel Pentium 200 MHz-MMX processor. MMX technology is more than an industry buzz word and is currently available in some well rounded, mid-priced system packages that are obtainable for most home users to take advantage of.
MMX technology is Intel's most recent processor enhancement, but what is it? How does it work? What does it mean as far as performance improvements? MMX technology is the first new chip architecture from Intel in ten years. From a technological standpoint, there are significant changes: MMX defines a set of 57 new computer instructions that extend the x86 instruction set of approximately 80; it has 32 KB of on-chip cache, verses the non-MMX on-chip cache of 16 KB, which enhances performance of even non-MMX applications, and it makes use of Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) for more efficient data processing. The 57 new and powerful instructions are specifically designed to process and manipulate audio, video, and graphical data much more effectively. Intel, having doubled its on-chip cache size from 16 KB on non-MMX processor chips to 32 KB on MMX enhanced chips, now allows more instructions and data to be stored on the chip reducing the number of times the proces! sor must access slower, off-chip memory areas for information. The multimedia and communication applications of today often use repetitive loops that account for 90 percent of the execution time, even though they only account for 10 percent or less of the overall application code. A process called Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) enables one instruction to perform the same function on multiple pieces of data at once. This allows the chip to reduce compute-intensive loops common to audio, video, graphics, and animation. As an analogy, consider a quarterback telling all of the offensive team a play a one time, rather than telling each player the play individually. The bottom line is that the Pentium Processor with MMX technology includes all of the features of the standard Pentium Processor, and then some. Due to the improvements, the media experience is fuller, smoother, and much more realistic, while maintaining complete compatibility with Intel-based PCs, existing operating systems, and application software.
All three of the complete package systems evaluated in this essay received high recommendation scores in a recent review from Family PC magazine. Even though their review scores were nearly identical, their are differences in features among the three manufacturers' packages. These different features, as well as, the similar ones will be listed on their own merits. Also, some commentary about each systems service-and-reliability scores will be included in the explanation of each system in this comparison.
The P55C-200 FPC from Gateway 2000 Inc. is a 200 MHz-MMX PC system that comes with an array of high quality peripherals, such as a plug-and-play Crystal Scan monitor featuring Toshiba filtering technology and a new digital control wheel that makes fine-tuning your display as easy as tuning a radio dial, as well as, some fine components blending to make an excellent, well rounded computer system. According to PC Magazine, using components such as 512 KB of pipeline-burst L2 cache, 32 MB of synchronous DRAM, and a 3.8 GB Quantum hard disk drive, the P55C-200 FPC led the home PC pack on most of the test performed. This system posted an astronomical score on their Graphics WinMark 97 test suite that was 51 percent higher than the next closest competitor. The systems other peripherals include a 33.6/14.4 Kbs Telepath fax modem, a PC ProPad 4 game pad, and an Ensoniq Soundscape VIVO sound card with a set of Altec Lansing ACS-410 speakers to supply the sound. The P55C-200 FPC re! ceived much better than average results for Service-and-Reliability, according to PC Magazine. Gateway 2000's P55C-200 FPC, with its high-flying performance and excellent multimedia hardware along with great family software make it a fabulous addition to any home or home-office.
The Packard Bell NEC Platinum 2240 is a 200 MHz-MMX-enhanced Pentium system that includes a built in TV tuner, quick-access multimedia buttons on the front panel, and an excellent family- oriented software shell. The Platinum 2240's basic hardware includes 32 MB of EDO RAM which is upgradable to 128 MB, a 256 KB pipeline burst cache, a 3.2 GB hard disk drive, a 16x variable speed CD- ROM drive, and a S3d ViRGE 3-D graphics and video accelerator with 2 MB of video memory. According to test performed by PC Magazine, the 2240 turned in an average performance, primarily due to its smaller amount of cache, however it still out performed any of the non-MMX systems they have reviewed in the past. Easy-to-use features make the Platinum 2240 a very family-friendly system. Its MediaSelect control panel, which is about the size of a mouse pad and fits under the monitor, provides simple one-touch access to the volume control, TV channel selection, Internet access, fax and scanner suppo! rt, and voice mail, as well as, audio CDs. These quick-access features makes them much more useful than when they are controlled only through the software. The built-in speakers are sub-par, however the rest of the multimedia components, such as the 17 inch monitor, wavetable synthesis, Surround Sound, and hardware accelerated S3 ViRGE 3-D graphics are all top notch. Packard Bell's Navigator, a family- oriented software shell that can be used instead of the Windows 95 interface, heads up a software bundle with 34 titles covering categories such as productivity, education, and entertainment. This package includes something for every member of the family. The only weak spot for the Platinum 2240 is its low scores on Service-and-Reliability, which the company is working very hard to improve, especially in the areas of service and support. Otherwise, The Packard Bell NEC Platinum 2240's performance, software, TV capability, and quick-access buttons make it a great choice as a family system.
Compaq Presario computers have been strong family favorites and the new Presario 4784 wraps all of its usual family-friendly features with a high performance 200 MHz-MMX processor into a powerful multimedia system. A built- in Iomega Zip drive, a multimedia control panel, and a solid software package creates a good choice for a family system. The Presario 4784's core components include a 200 MHz Pentium MMX processor, 32 MB of RAM, a 256 KB secondary cache, accelerated graphics hardware, and a 4.3 GB hard disk drive. An array of buttons on the top of the tower allows access to the answering machine, play audio CDs, and put the unit into sleep mode, which allows a quick start from the point at which you left it. One of the features that is a downfall to the system is that the only external volume control is located on the front of the monitor, and if a Presario Monitor is not used, the only way to control the volume is by going through the software. The Compaq Presario 4784 is a nice system, however its software package is only a third of the titles that are included with the Packard Bell Nec, and it is the most expensive system of the three compared during this essay.
MMX technology may have few performance benefits for mainstream business, however, since the demand for more realistic multimedia is increasingly driving the PC performance needs market, and in that realm MMX-enhanced processor technology offers tremendous promise. Combine a PC, such as any of the three discussed in this essay, with software that are both designed to take full advantage of this new technology, and you are in for a truly amazing experience. If you are in the market for a new personal computer today, I strongly encourage you to take a close look at any of the package systems reviewed here and the new technology that they incorporate.
Family PC, March 1997
How MMX Technology Works
by John Clyman and Nick Stam
Review: Gateway P55C-200 FPC
Review: Packard Bell NEC Platinum 2240
What is MMX Technology
copyright: 1997 Intel Corp.
Pentium Processor with MMX Technology
copyright: 1997 Intel Corp.
Packard Bell Platinum 2240
copyright: 1997 Packard Bell NEC Inc.