AMD, one of the processor manufacturing companies that, like a badly-trained puppy, regularly bites Intel’s ankles to ensure that the latter’s virtual monopoly doesn’t become a real one, has recently launched a new chip. Although ‘only’ clocking at 300 or 333MHz, this processor, called the K6-2 with 3DNow! (unfortunately the exclamation mark is obligatory) is something rather special – it’s quick and it fits in a Socket 7 motherboard. For readers unfamiliar with the terminology, that means it looks like a Pentium chip rather than the video cassette-style monstrosity that is the Pentium II. Elonex is one of the first PC vendors to incorporate this new processor into a system, and they lent us one to play with.
The first thing to note is that, although this looks – and in some ways behaves – like a standard office system, it’s has plenty of features that will make it attractive to games players, and 3D games players in particular. The AMD processor’s 3DNow! instructions are designed to aid the performance of 3D graphics applications (i.e. games), although they only really come into effect with DirectX 6.0 (in beta testing at the time of writing). In this PC, the 300MHz AMD CPU sits in a motherboard that is equipped with 64MB of RAM. The 3D theme continues with the graphics card, which is an ATi XPert 98 fitted with a whopping 8MB of memory. It’s not the fastest controller around for dedicated 3D work, but is certainly no sluggard, and is very fast in straight 2D modes as well. It is connected to one of Elonex’s 17-inch monitors, which has pretty good image quality.
Yet more 3D-related bits and pieces can be found inside this PC. In particular, the sound card is a SonicStorm unit from VideoLogic. It sits in a PCI slot and can cope with large numbers of sound channels without straining the PC’s processor, as ISA sound cards are wont to do. It can also do some clever tricks to make you think that sounds are coming from all around you (not recommended if you’re paranoid), even on a two-speaker system. This particular machine has three speakers – two conventional amplified ones and a thumping sub-woofer, too.
So that you have somewhere to store all those 3D action games (and business applications, of course), this system is fitted with a 6.4GB EIDE hard drive and a 32-speed CDROM drive. Just about the only games-related component it doesn’t have, in fact, is a joystick, but since the world’s best Quake players use a mouse, you may not need one.
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