Future Power jumps up Celerons

Future Power makes another controversial move with a multiprocessing Celeron. Forget about your warranty, says Intel.

Multi-processing and Celeron are not supposed to be synonymous terms, especially according to Intel, but a newcomer in the PC arena is putting them together.

Future Power, best known for its ePower iMac look-alike, is preparing to announce Dual Millennium -- a new line of dual Celeron processor computers, which it says supports multitasking and multi-threaded applications. Not only that, Future Power says the Dual Millennium will match similar, single Pentium III machines in performance.

However the Dual Millennium could gain more attention -- and controversy -- as a result of its specialised dual-Celeron motherboard that can be overclocked by up to a factor of eight.

Founded in October 1998, Future Power is a relative newcomer to the PC industry. It has a partnership with Daewoo Telecom, a subsidiary of Daewoo Group, which makes a number of the components used in Future Power PCs. The company's goal is to bring low-cost PCs with the latest technology to a variety of users, including families, students and small businesses.

Its latest offering will likely be as controversial as its last. Apple Computer, filed suit against Future Power, claiming ePower's design was lifted from the iMac.

The Dual Millennium line will offer two different models at first. A "mid-tower" model with a mid-sized chassis was designed for power users, including graphic designers and gamers. The second, a "full tower", was designed to be a low-end server for small businesses or homes. The two models will be available at the end of the month, Future Power officials said.

The mid-tower model will come with a pair of 466MHz Celeron chips, 128MB of memory, a 20GB hard drive and a 48-speed CD-ROM drive. Its graphics depend on a Diamond Multimedia Stealth III accelerated graphics port card with 32MB of on-board memory. The mid-tower will come pre-loaded with Microsoft's Windows NT 4.0 operating system. It will be priced at $1499 (£929). It can be bundled with a 19-inch monitor for $1899.

The full-tower uses the twin 466MHz Celeron chips, but adds 256MB of memory and a 3Com Fast Etherlink network interface card along with a 48-speed CD-ROM drive. Its graphics aren't as beefy, offering only an 8MB board with AGP graphics, manufactured by either Diamond Multimedia or ATI Technologies. This machine will come pre-loaded with the Linux operating system. Windows NT is an option. It will be priced at $1399.

The systems achieve their dual-processor status by using a specialised motherboard developed by ABIT Computer, of Taipei, Taiwan. The motherboard, called the ABIT BP6, integrates two 370-pin sockets for pin-grid array Celeron chips. "The ABIT motherboard is a really famous board for reliability. It's really popular among gamers," said Dong Yun, a system engineer at Future Power. "Basically, the Dual Millennium is for a user that wants to use a more powerful [Pentium III] PC, but can not afford it."

The motherboard also includes hardware, which makes the dual-Celeron setup possible. Celeron processors, according to Intel, are not designed to be used in multi-processor computers. It is, however, possible to use two of the chips together by altering them physically. The BP6 motherboard features hardware that makes it possible to pair the two Celeron chips without altering them.

It also features a jumper-less design, which allows customers to set their own processor parameters in the PC's BIOS, using an ABIT software utility called Soft Menu II. The utility lets users set processor parameters, including clock multipliers from double-speed to eight-speed. This practice, called overclocking, "is not recommended", said Yun, pointing out Future Power's stance on overclocking. A user could easily use Soft Menu II to overclock their two Celeron CPUs. Overclocking pushes the chip to run at a faster clock speed than it was marked with. The Celeron chip is a favourite for overclockers, who boost 333MHz or 366MHz chips to higher clock speeds by manipulating jumper settings on their PCs' motherboards.

Buyers should beware, according to Intel. Though most users understand the implications of overclocking and don't mind taking the risk with a low-cost chip such as the $67 Celeron 333MHz, overclocking can cause processors to run hotter than normal and become unstable, leading to data loss. Overclocking also voids Intel's warranty on a Celeron processor.

In addition, "the design specification [for Celeron] says the processor should be used in a single processor applications", said Intel spokesman Seth Walker. "When you run [a product] outside those specifications... that would void the product warranty." Intel's Walker would not comment further on the Dual Millennium or the ABIT MP6.

The new Future Power Dual Millennium systems will be available at computer resellers and online retailers, such as Cool Shopper, later this month.

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