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Intel Pentium 3-550E Review

Why Upgrade

The main reason I upgraded to a more powerful processor was to keep up with the "mainstream system." The P2-450 made it's debut almost two years ago and has served my needs well. With next generation graphics cards, based on NVIDIA's GeForce 256, getting ready to debut, it makes sense to move up to a faster processor. Doing so is an attempt to maximize the performance of these new and more powerful graphics cards.

A secondary reason is that I am in the middle of what I refer to as a "buying cycle." In the past, I've normally purchased a completely new system about every 2-3 years. Unless there is a significant breakthrough in technology that's affordable, I may accelerate the buying cycle. Sure, there's no denying that I would like to have a 1GHz Athlon/Pentium 3 based system, but it's just not economically practical. My primary goal was to get the "best bang for the buck." With processor prices dropping every week, the P550E was too good of a bargain to pass up.

Intel Pentium 3 Processor

My research on upgrading consisted of keeping close tabs on the Abit motherboard newsgroup - alt.comp.periphs.mainboard.abit. Officially, Abit's latest BIOS (NV) for their BH6 rev. 1 motherboard added support for non-Coppermine, or Katmai Pentium 3 Slot 1 processors, up to 600MHz. A drawback was that the 550 and 600MHz Katmai processors were about $150 more expensive than their Coppermine counterparts. On top of that, the Coppermine was outperforming the Katmai over 10% in Quake 3 Arena benchmarks (see AnandTech's Slot 1 Coppermine review).

Abit BH-6 Motherboard

Getting back to the Abit newsgroup, I noticed some message threads regarding the BH6 motherboard and Coppermine processor. I was pleased to learn that users were reporting success on getting the Coppermine to work and decided to give it a shot. As a contingency plan I was willing to get a new motherboard, but I'm glad to report that the Coppermine P550E is running just fine at 1.66 volts on my Abit BH6 revision 1 motherboard.

An easy way to determine the revision of a BH6 motherboard is to check the BIOS version, which is displayed at the bottom left of the screen during the boot cycle. The BIOS version, which is the last two characters of the BIOS string, for BH6 revision 1.1 motherboards are as follows:

  • KK - LG - NK - NX - PM - QN (most recent)
For the older BH6 motherboards (those marked as 1.01, 1.02, etc.):
  • FL - FU - GY - HN - JJ - KG - KJ - LH - LN - NV (most recent)

Next Page: Coppermine Overview

Last Updated on April 3, 2000

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