A Year Ago: MMX buyers face tough choices

This story was first published October 23, 1996

The first half of the year could create some tough buying decisions for companies looking to tap the power of the first generation of MMX processors. Intel, AMD and Cyrix yesterday showed sharply contrasting implementations of the technology in their contributions to the Microprocessor Forum.

At the annual show in California, Intel demonstrated what it will call the Pentium Processor with MMX Technology, formerly known by its P55C code name. The 4.5 million transistor chip will run at speeds up to 200MHz in desktop format and 166MHz in a low-voltage version for mobile PCs. Intel claims a performance improvement of 10 to 20 per cent over the orthodox Pentium when running non-optimised applications, according to benchmarks including CPUmark, SPEC and Sysmark, and an average 60 per cent better performance running optimised applications.

Also helping to boost performance will be a 32Kb L1 cache (twice the size of the cache on today's Pentiums) and a dual pipeline that provides the ability to execute two MMX instructions at once. The chips will be produced on a 0.35 micron facility and ship from the first quarter of 1997.

Both AMD and Cyrix will ship in the first half of the year. Each of their MMX chips will have a 64Kb L1 cache - twice that of the Intel part - but neither will have the dual pipeline that Intel boasts. Cyrix said its M2 will run at about 180MHz and 225MHz.

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