We reviewed an earlier version of the Spectra upgrade processor here, and a quick browse through that review should give you an idea of what this new one’s all about. Basically, if you have an old Pentium-powered PC, you can upgrade to the equivalent of a 400MHz AMD K6-2 processor. Simple? Well, yes it is, really. There are one or two requirements that your system has to satisfy first; it has to have a Socket 5, Socket 7 or Super7 motherboard with a CPU clock speed of at least 75MHz, but that’s not much of a restriction, and the vast majority of machines up to about six years old will qualify.
What you get in the Spectra 400 box, aside from the clear instructions, is an AMD K6-2 processor cleverly mounted on a raised pinboard with all the necessary voltage-changers and other circuitry that are required in order to allow it to run at 400MHz in machines originally designed for a quarter of that speed. There’s also a CD, which you must use first to check whether a flash BIOS upgrade is necessary (files for most common boards are included on the CD).
Once that pre-installation task is complete, the next stage is to carefully remove the existing processor, replace it with the Spectra 400 (after confirming that the motherboard jumpers are correctly set), connect up the supplied fan, and power on the system. In our test machine it worked first time, and went like the clappers; a dramatic improvement over the system’s 150MHz original speed. The 3DNow! and MMX extensions built into the AMD chip mean a significant boost for games and multimedia titles, while the raw power and 64KB level 1 cache mean that a system that previously chugged slowly through the mire of Windows 98 could now cope with Windows 2000. Assuming we wanted it to, of course.
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