Tech Industry

Desktop speed limit raised

The performance landscape of the desktop PC market is rapidly changing as a new category of Pentium Pro-based "personal workstations" raise performance expectations while 75-MHz and 90-MHz Pentiums begin to vanish.

The performance landscape of the desktop PC market is rapidly changing as a new category of Pentium Pro-based "personal workstations" raise performance expectations on the high end while the 75-MHz and 90-MHz Pentiums that used to define the low end begin to vanish.

While most high-end machines use 150- and 166-MHz Pentiums, a number of vendors, including Gateway 2000, Dell, and Intergraph Computer Systems, have created a new breed of desktop system dubbed the "personal workstation" that has redefined the high end of the PC market.

The systems are based on Pentium Pro 150-, 180-, and 200-MHz processors and match traditional RISC-processor-based workstations from the likes of Sun Microsystems in performance and features.

Gateway, for instance, is selling a 200-MHz Pentium Pro "G6-200" that is configured much like a traditional RISC workstation but sold at a dirt-cheap price in comparison with workstations aimed at the engineering or scientific market.

A user can get the Gateway system for $6,999, complete with 64MB of RAM, a 2GB hard disk drive, a high-performance graphics accelerator chip with 4MB of video RAM, and a 21-inch monitor. Workstations that pack in this kind of a feature have historically been priced well beyond $10,000.

Meanwhile, vendors are upping the performance ante for the low-end from the 75-MHz Pentium processor, long the mainstay chip at the low-end, to 100 MHz. Dell, for example, will officially drop all 75MHz Pentium processors from its desktop lineup at the end of April, said a source close to the company. And AST Research will now only deliver "special order" 75-MHz systems.

The 90-MHz Pentium has disappeared even faster because it is priced comparably to the 100-MHz processor, said Linley Gwennap, editor in chief of the Sebastopol, California-based Microprocessor Report.

In between the new personal workstations and the 100-MHz desktops, the mid-range is increasingly moving to 120- and 133-MHz Pentium processors.

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