Pentium Pro for home. Remote professional

Among the limited set

holy grail

There is one modern retrofan, from which, contrary to the requirements of sanitation, probably all more or less popular retro reviewers have already drunk. And some more than once.

Is there life on Venus?

So, Pentium Pro. The most professional, the best, the most


processor mid 90s. Year 1995. The sixth generation of Intel processors, an unprecedented “money no object” class calculator

(English “money doesn’t matter”)

. The price of completed assemblies in the region of five thousand bucks is not shocking, except perhaps for a corporate client who was just looking for a new server in the office for 200 tables.

In 1996, Intel made an attempt to push the Pentium Pro into the relatively affordable workstation segment. The i440FX chipset was released and the motherboard on it is the VS440FX “Venus”. Venus. It looks erotic… ATX board with PS/2, USB 1.0 and DMA IDE modes, as many as four PCI 2.1 slots, which means there is a Bus Master. In general, at first glance, quite an ordinary motherboard … of the year for 1998!

Intel 440FX is a two-chip solution, not counting the southbridge.

Of course, for an advanced retrofan, it will not be difficult to see “senile wrinkles” on this Venus in the form of SIMM memory and … the absence of AGP. Not being a direct collector of PCI video cards, I chose from only three options:

  1. Put a two-megabyte S3 Trio64 and play a serious uncle who has no time for games at all.
  2. Install a 4MB S3 ViRGE and drive the original 1996 Tomb Raider in S3D rendering.
  3. Install Nvidia Quadro NVS PCI, similar to GeForce 4 MX, and have no limitations in graphics tests at all.

Nvidia Quadro NVS PCI. Chip NV17.

But the main character today is still a processor. It is superscalar, three-pipeline, out-of-order, and a completely new instruction decoder for confident code parallelization. Full-speed cache up to 1MB, 36-bit PAE with theoretical support for up to 64GB of RAM. In general, the brain of even a healthy, prepared pekboyar could easily detonate. Indeed, in 1996, assemblies based on Socket-3 (486) were still being sold with might and main, AMD K5 occupied the middle segment, and the first Pentium was de facto a top product, because Pentium Pro was far from being found in every metropolitan store.

PentiumPro 200MHz, 256kB cache, Socket 8 (387).

The copy I got has the latest stepping, in which rather serious errors in the kernel are fixed. But at the first start of the system, I still flashed the BIOS to the latest version. Habit! And then I installed Windows 98 SE… Yes, I also read the Wikipedia article, and I remember that the Pentium Pro has problems running 16-bit code. But here we must not forget that the current OS in 1995 was Windows 95, sorry. And it really had a lot of 16-bit modules, which led to a decrease in performance on the Pentium Pro.

What irony! After all, 16-bit libraries were called speed up heavy work for the then standard computer operating system! It’s just that the P6 architecture, suddenly, turned out to be too 32 bit… But, in any case, in 98SE the situation is already a bit different, because the team of Win9x developers gradually tried to abandon 16-bit pieces, although they often ran into the volume of home PC RAM.

On this screen – a fortune. And not only by the standards of 1996!

The amount of RAM we have is not particularly huge: 64MB. And if you don’t bother searching for Avito, then today for four SIMMs this is practically the limit. However, this did not prevent us from conducting a fairly detailed testing of this amazing system. And the main competitors today will be Pentium II 266, Celeron 266 and Celeron 300A. All of them will be tested on an AOpen AX6LC motherboard based on the i440LX chipset, with the same amount of memory and the same video card. Various assemblies from my old reviews will also appear in the charts.

The opponents are very serious, even if none of them has the title of “Pro”…

Performance at a professional level.

CPU-Z Vintage Edition shows us how much faster the Pentium Pro is than the Pentium MMX at the same frequency: a 1.5x difference! It’s a pity that against Pentium II and even against Celeron our “professional” has no cache

there is nothing

. Perhaps this is how it should be? After all, these processors are direct successors to the P6 line. Yes, and the same VIA Cyrix III, which I

I dared to put next to the Pentium Pro

– lost to the old man in the FPU test, and pretty well. The increase from overclocking to 233 MHz is not shocking, but it is there, scalability is present.

In WinBench 99, the closest results to the Pentium Pro were obtained by its descendants – the Celeron 266 and 300A. Moreover, both are ahead in the FPU subtest, but in integer arithmetic, 266 lost a lot! It turns out the opposite result compared to CPU-Z. But the average level for this “retro hospital” is already clear. It’s sobering compared to VIA C7, even if there is a whole decade between them. In Windows 2000, the CPUMark subtest gives some very strange results, and scalability in overclocking has gone somewhere …

But in SiSoft Sandra’s arithmetic, the advanced architecture of Pentium Pro allows you to stay on equal terms with VIA C3 at a four times higher frequency: 200 MHz versus 800 MHz. It’s not a big victory, of course, but what a victory it is – against the newer Intel processors, even the overclocked Pentium Pro 233 frankly does not pull. The difference between Windows 98SE and 2000 this time is within the margin of error.

But in the Multimedia test, everything is more interesting. The Pentium Pro at 233MHz almost lost the PII-266, though only in one subtest – the FPU. And it seemed to me that this is the same bench, where if there is no MMX, there is no chance! However, unexpectedly.

But all this is boring compared to the exciting calculation of the number “pi” in SuperPI. Windows 2000, where are you going?! They just changed the operating system, and instead of an uncertain victory over the Pentium MMX, it is already possible to compete with the Pentium II, and even with the Celeron on the advanced Mendocino architecture, not to mention its frequency.

Would you believe it the first time?

When counting 1 million characters, in principle, everything is the same. The fast PPro cache eliminates the difference in frequency and memory speed on the i440FX platform. Yes, and the gaps here reach minuteswhich is simply unbelievable. For example, I didn’t believe it. But repeated tests were relentless…

In WinRar, the numbers are much more mundane, but at least the Celeron 266 is far behind. And in general, we should be glad that the Pentium II surpassed its pretentious ancestor so much, and then the people’s Celeron easily jumped over it.

Beautiful, clear, and absolutely comparable!

Mandatory program.

Graphic test 3DMark99, and – all the main competitors in more or less the same conditions. The miracle is here

seems to have happened

, but very unnoticeable. Pentium Pro, despite the difference in frequency and age, outperformed Celeron without cache. There are about three years between copies and there is a whole gap in market positioning.

The motley company on backing vocals here shows what 3DMark99 itself is capable of – they are comparable systems? Only the assembly on the VIA processor can be taken seriously. Once again. And while it’s clear that developing a processor, even a garage-built one like the Cyrix III, is a complex and multifaceted process, wasn’t the Pentium Pro the starting point for Centaur in terms of consumer performance? (spoiler: no; they tried to get Mendocino through IPC).

3DMark 99 MAX: The Pentium Pro still holds up well. Visually, the tests are not too slow

3DMark2000 won’t run on a Pentium Pro because it needs the MMX instruction set. But 3DMark2001 doesn’t need them! Saying goodbye to the remnants of logic, we analyze the numbers. To uncover danced Of course, our hero cannot get a fourth GeForce on PCI, but over the years of collecting various hardware, I have recorded a lot of comparable figures. For example, I was impressed by the attempt of Celeron (Coppermine) 667 to get a formidable Pentium Pro with a formidable Nvidia Quadro on a sad Intel-built-in. The Pentium II and Celeron 300 have traditionally disappeared beyond the event horizon, and the Pentium Pro at 233 MHz has never passed this test – the availability of overclocking (usual jumpers here) does not guarantee its stability.

DroneZ also turned out to be too tough for the “accelerated” assembly, and Windows 2000 failed. Celeron on the Mendcino core is once again out of competition. Covington also tried, but at the same frequency, he would have lost. It is unlikely, of course, that any of the owners of the Celeron-266 was worried, because for the cost of one Pentium Pro you can buy a whole box of 266, a couple of which will start at a frequency of 400 MHz. But I’m already trying to draw conclusions. I have another test up my sleeve…

So Quake. Everything is here at once: both the soft mode, and OpenGL, and Windows 98, and 2000 – the results of which would be better to unsee at all. Although it would seem that OpenGL and Windows 2000 are friends forever! In general, this is the essence of one phenomenon, like a mouse and a pad, like a floppy disk and a blue screen. But, as you can see, not everything is so simple, and it was not for nothing that Windows 98 remained a gaming operating system both during the time of Windows 2000 and after the release of XP. Quake itself, of course, a product of its era, even though I used WinQuake for soft runs. It can be seen that our “professional” is hard here. This can be seen in the tests of 1996-1997, by the way, so we did not make any discovery here. Left Covington behind – already worthy.

Pentium Pro 200 surprises in OpenGL! But only in Windows 98…

Well, at the very bottom of the graph, two processors from the time of the mature Socket 7 are modestly attached – Pentium 200 MMX and Rise mP6 with a similar frequency. And now it is clear that it was them that PPro was supposed to surpass, and brilliantly coped with its task. Everything that happened after is a consequence of his achievements, and nothing else.

Points for speed and artistry.

Before turning to conclusions about the Pentium Pro, let’s pay attention to the elephant in the room: the Pentium II does not hold up well against the Celeron on the Mendocino core. Previously, I did not arrange such tests: even knowing the result, what kind of retrofan would put a budget processor in his assembly instead of an elite Pentium II? But the graphics won’t lie either – on this historical canvas, the Pentium II looks

already obsolete


On the other hand, I did not conduct low-level cache tests. Indeed, in order to obtain reliable, comparable results, you need to at least install a Pentium Pro on a 440LX (and there are such methods), but right now, groping for some conclusions in the dark, I come to a paradoxical one – cache speed was not as important as its integration to the core!

What different approaches! What a flight of engineering thought! And users look only at “MHz” …

From this angle, the Pentium Pro can be seen as a model of the future Celeron. And although the goal for the budget design was just a compact full-speed cache, the bonuses from the elimination of additional chips and tires actually played even moreaboutan important role, which certainly came as a surprise to both Intel itself and the market. Perhaps, Intel should have presented Mendocino as a Pentium III, along the way removing the stupid 66MHz limit on the system bus. True, then ordinary users in the 90s would never have received fast and inexpensive assemblies …

As for the Pentium Pro itself and its native “Venus”, then, like the dual-processor Xeon Socket-604 in one of my videos, they froze forever somewhere between generations. One can only wonder how many of them came and went in the 90s! An advanced, over-the-air motherboard in practice was probably even more impressive than the sixth generation “working processor model”. Yes, it’s fast, but wow! PCI 2.1, hard drive controller with DMA mode, no need to buy additional sound, APM turns off the board by itself – yes, by itself! Also USB under Windows works without problems.

It is a pity that this time it will not work out to stretch this “wow effect” for five to seven years, as it is sometimes dreamed of by buyers of everything top-end. Do you want to argue? Just imagine yourself buying more SIMMs after the release of available DDR platforms. Long live the 90s! Long live their kings.

Iron for review provided

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