Evergreen/AMD – Spectra 333 review

upgrade chip for Pentium owners
Photo of Evergreen/AMD – Spectra 333
£150 + VAT (RRP)

One of the promises that the PC has often failed to deliver is upgradeability. The concept of the ‘future-proof’ computer has now rightly been laughed into oblivion, but even when Pentium systems were being sold, one of the selling points was Intel’s perceived commitment to a nice long upgrade path. That happened for a while, but only up to the mid-200 megahertz. After that, users were pretty stuffed. There was no upgrade path to the Pentium Pro, Celeron or Pentium II, and the ‘SuperSeven’ chips from Intel’s competitors won’t work in standard Socket 7 motherboards. Intel did produce a Pentium to Pentium MMX upgrade chip, but that stopped short at the 200MHz barrier and was pretty pricey.

So if you’re still using a 75, 90, 100, 120, 133, 166 or 200MHz Pentium PC, this Spectra 333 upgrade may be just what you’re after. It can upgrade your system to a 333MHz AMD K6-2 processor, with MMX and 3DNow! instructions. The former is Intel’s additional code for faster multimedia, while the latter is AMD’s own widely-supported games acceleration code. In our experience the former is of dubious value but the latter really works, especially with optimised graphics drivers. The Evergreen package consists of the AMD chip itself, mounted on a small board that handles voltage change, cooling fan power supply and so on. It’s all quite compact, so it shouldn’t foul even in systems where space is at a premium, and it plugs directly into the original processor socket.

It’s not quite a simple case of plug and play with the Spectra 333, though. First you must run the installation software, which will tell you what motherboard and processor you’re currently using. It’ll then tell you if you need to change your motherboard bus speed settings – you need 66MHz for the full 333MHz performance – and advise you if there’s a suitable/necessary BIOS upgrade or patch on the CDROM that’s included with the chip. Once you’ve done all that, you simply remove the old processor, replace it with the Spectra 333 package and you’re away. The performance difference is not subtle – in almost all respects, it’s a dramatic improvement, particularly if you’re upgrading from one of the slower Pentium chips.

Company: Evergreen/AMD

Contact: 01793 601300


Verdict
Be careful when considering a system upgrade. Processor power is one thing, but if you also need more memory, a bigger hard drive and a faster graphics card, it might be easier/cheaper to just buy a new PC. But if the slowest thing in your PC is the processor, then this little package can make a huge difference. It can transform a sluggish office machine into a decent games system, simultaneously boosting virtually all aspects of the PC's performance without the need for the user to reinstall any software or alter any settings.