I wasn't expecting too much in the area of overclocking since I already had two strikes against me. The first strike is the unfriendly overclocking behavior of the reference GeForce3 card I'm currently using. The second strike is that the 1GHz Pentium 3 is the fastest speed based on the Coppermine core which leaves little room for overclockability.
Nevertheless, I gave it a shot and was able to squeeze out an extra 50MHz by upping the front side bus (FSB) speed on the motherboard's BIOS from 133MHz to 140MHz. A higher FSB caused Quake 3 to lock up the system immediately upon entering the game. This was also the case with the 700MHz processor, which is based on a 100MHz FSB speed, when I tried to move beyond a 105MHz FSB speed.
Overclocking Performance - 1024x768
At a resolution of 1024x768, I realized a 5% increase in performance in Serious Sam and Unreal Tournament, a 4% increase in Quake 3, and a 2% increase in Nascar Heat. Not exactly earth shattering, but the extra performance could be used to enable additional graphics and/or sound options.
One point that requires mentioning is that the 1GHz processor is based on a 133MHz FSB speed and the 700MHz is based on a 100 FSB speed. However, the difference in performance between the two processors due solely to the higher FSB speed is marginal at best.
I'm a firm believer that upgrading to a faster graphics card is a cost-effective way to increase a system's 3D performance. Of course the previous statement is also dependent of the type of processor being used at the time of the upgrade. Over the years, I've experienced increases of over 50% just by moving up to a faster graphics card. As a case in point, there are occasions where a 700MHz processor and GeForce3 outperform a 1GHz+ processor and a GeForce2 Ultra.
On the other hand, there are cases when a processor upgrade is worthwhile. One reason to upgrade is to tap into the additional performance that a graphics card can provide a system with a more powerful processor. However, caution should be exercised in this scenario, as the graphics card may not be powerful enough to suit your needs.
For example, outfitting a 1GHz+ processor with a GeForce2 MX would be counter-productive when trying to maximize 3D graphics performance. In this situation, the GeForce2 MX typically becomes a performance bottleneck when running today's graphics intensive games at resolutions greater than 800x600 in 32-bit color. A more powerful graphics card, such as those based on the GeForce2 Pro, Ultra, or GeForce3, would be a better choice.
At the time this article was published, the 1GHz Pentium 3 processor is selling for around $180. If I took the percent increase in frame rate for each game and resolution I tested, the results would be as follows - 30.25 frames per second at 1024x768 and 25.5 frames per second at 1280x1024.
Overall, I'm delighted with the processor upgrade which will extend the life of my system for a bit longer.
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