Although you wouldn’t necessarily believe it judging by the company’s marketing campaigns, Intel does not have a total monopoly in the PC processor market (and nor would it want one – that could draw unwelcome attention from government departments). Cyrix and particularly AMD continue to harry the chip giant, with considerable success. But there are other, smaller fry in the pond, and one of those making increasingly large ripples is IDT. Its latest offering is this WinChip 2A processor.
As the name would suggest, IDT’s market for the first incarnation of its processor was the low-cost Windows desktop PC, used primarily for word-processing, browsing and e-mail. This next generation chip has a little more power under its belt, however, with support for the MMX and 3DNow! additional instruction sets, from Intel and AMD respectively.
That would appear to place it somewhere in AMD K6-2 territory, and indeed the WinChip 2A processor is a Socket7/Super7 chip in a 296-pin PGA package (there’s a BGA version too for surface-mounting), so it can be used in a variety of motherboards supporting either 66 or 100MHz bus speeds, depending on the chip. We tested the WinChip 2A-300, which is actually a 250MHz chip running at 2.5 times 100MHz, with a ’300MHz equivalent performance’. That may sound like a marketing con, but the performance figures tend to back up IDT’s claim. Depending on the application, this chip is just a few percent slower than AMD’s K6-2/300, and is generally quicker than the Cyrix MII-300. In most tests it lags behind Intel’s Celeron 300A, but not by a huge amount.
Performance isn’t really what IDT’s all about, though. The point of the WinChip 2A is that it’s cheap, allowing vendors of low-cost systems or set-top boxes to put together PCs that perform pretty well but don’t cost the Earth. And if you’re worried about compatibility, your fears would seem to be unjustified. IDT has arranged for the WinChip 2A to be tested by various bodies, including Microsoft, and it has plenty of seals of approval. Certainly we had no problems with it in our test PC. It ran everything from office suites to 3D action games without a hiccup, and we had no complaints about its performance whatsoever.
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