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Pentium Pro

This Article was last modified in January, 1998.

The Pentium Pro processor family is Intel's generation of CPUs mainly now in use for servers, and somewhat for high-end desktops, and workstations. The family consists of processors at 150, 166, 180, and 200 Mhz, and is easily scalable to up to four microprocessors in a multiprocessor system. The Pentium Pro processor delivers more performance than previous generation processors through an innovation called Dynamic Execution. This is the next step beyond the superscalar architecture implemented in the Pentium processor.

A bottleneck of today's systems is the fact that the L2 cache on the motherboard can only operate on the bus speed, and not the core speed of a system (which is normally much faster than the bus speed). The Intel Pentium Pro overcomes this problem by integrating the L2 cache directly on to the chip (as you can see in the picture above), this is one of the reasons that the Pentium Pro is so expensive. To keep down costs, the L2 cache on a Pentium II is not integrated directly on to the CPU, which therefore leads to slightly lower performance in some areas, and lower prices.

Most mission critical servers still use the Pentium Pro for servers instead of the Pentium II. This is because while the Pentium Pro allows for more than dual processing (up to four CPU's in one system), the Pentium II only allows for two. This, and the fact that the L2 cache on a Pentium Pro is accessed much faster than that on a Pentium II are the main reasons why the Pentium Pro remains the highly preferred CPU for servers.

Key Features


L2 Cache
L1 Instruction/Data
Cache Size
150 MHz 3.1V 256-Kbytes 8-Kbytes/8-Kbytes Yes
166 MHz 3.3V 512-Kbytes 8-Kbytes/8-Kbytes Yes
180 MHz 3.3V 256-Kbytes 8-Kbytes/8-Kbytes Yes
200 MHz 3.3V 256-Kbytes 8-Kbytes/8-Kbytes Yes
200 MHz 3.3V 512-Kbytes 8-Kbytes/8-Kbytes Yes
200 MHz 3.3V 1 Mbyte 8-Kbytes/8-Kbytes Yes

CPU-Central Scoring

Overclockability 90%
3D Performance 80%
Overall Performance 87%
Upgradability 10%
Compatibility 90%
Price 50%

Overclockability: Due to the fact that Intel has such high quality standards (which results in their high prices) the overclockability of their CPU's is very high. However, my experience with overclocking these types of CPU's is very limited, and little advice is to be found on the internet about this subject.

3D Performance: As in the Pentium and Pentium MMX, Intel CPU's have strong FPU performance, which excel in FPU intense games and applications. However, the performance of the Pentium Pro in MMX enhanced games may lag behind slightly.

Overall Performance: Compared with the new generation of CPU's, such as the Pentium II, the K6, and the 6x86MX, the performance of the Pentium Pro is about at a par with these chips in the area of business applications, and most other 32 bit applications, but in most multimedia applications, the other chips will perform better.

Upgradability: Intel's Pentium Pro processors use a different Slot than all other CPU's, and therefore make it impossible to upgrade, unless you simply upgrade to a better Pentium Pro processor with a higher clock speed than the one you already have.

Compatibility: As in the Pentium and Pentium MMX, almost all PC games and applications are fine tuned for Pentium CPU's, and owners of these chips should have almost no incompatibility problems whatsoever. However, the new generation of MMX enhanced software may not perform quite as well, or may not work, on non-MMX CPU's such as the Pentium Pro.

Price: These CPU's were not really intended for use with the typical home user, and therefore Intel has priced these CPU's quite high. These CPU's are mainly intended for professional use, such as in a server. I would recommend purchasing another more recent (and cheaper) CPU instead of this one, if you are just a home user, such as the Pentium MMX, the K6, or the 6x86MX. However, if you are looking to build a strong server for your company, this CPU would be an excellent choice.


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