You Asked Us- PC

by Alan Zisman (c) 1997. First published in Toronto Computes, June 1997

I recently read mention that the MMX chip by Intel requires an extra voltage
to operate. I have checked my back issues of both Toronto Computes and The
Computer Paper and have been unable to find the quote, alas I did not have my
higlighter to hand and thus nothing was marked. I must throw this out to your
I have seen adds that state that relatively common boards are "MMX"
capable-indeed, one company stamped "MMX CAPABLE" across all the boards in
their ad. So, how does one tell if a board is MMX operable and indeed how do
you tell (board or system) if you are recieving the specs as promised for an
MMX chip?
Are MMX and Standard Pentium chips socket compatible? If an MMX chip was
pluged into a board without the extra 2.8 volts, would it still work but with
only the capabilities of its less expensive sibling? Is the 2.8 volts already
present on all boards as a standard ? I have a Pentium capable Gigabyte
GA-586VX board and there is no mention of MMX or what the pinout for the CPU
socket is.

Is there a program or test available to determine if a MB/CPU combination in
reality delivers the paid for performance.


Yes, you?re correct?the MMX cpus are not directly compatible with many standard Pentium motherboards; as you?ve stated, they operate at a different voltage?plugging one into an incompatible motherboard could damage the chip, the motherboard, or both. If you?re not sure whether your motherboard voltage can be reset to support an MMX cpu, check with your vendor and get a written confirmation that it is supported and will not void your warranty.

But if your motherboard doesn?t allow you to simply replace your existing cpu with an off-the-shelf MMX replacement, you may still have an option?Intel is just beginning to ship MMX OverDrive Processors (ODPs) for P75, P90, and P100 machines; ODPs for P120 and P133 machines are due later this year. These chips include built-in voltage regulators, and the beefed up L1 32k cache of the original MMX CPUs.

Each replacement ups the clock speed by 66%, turning a P75 into an MMX P125 or a P100 into a P166. These replacements include the beefed-up L1 cache, which, by itself, is a real performance-enhancer. Prices should range between about $500 for the P125 chip to $700 for the P166 model. Look for lower-priced alternatives using competitive CPUs from AMD or Cyrix in the near-future.

As for a test to determine whether your hardware ?delivers the paid for performance?? utility programs ranging from Norton Utilities to the new Helix Software Nuts and Bolts include programs to test performance, and compare your system to industry-standard models. For a free alternative, look for the WinBench and WinStone benchmarks from publisher Ziff-Davis (

I wonder if you could give me an "unbiased" opinion. I'm fascinated with
the prospect of scanning pictures into the computer. I have a limited budget;
let's say $300. I like the flexibility of a hand scanner (Scanman 2000) to
scan pictures on their own or something out of a book but I understand you
need a steady hand and the quality is so-so. On the other hand, I own a video
camera. Going head-to-head, which method would reproduce the better quality
picture in the computer:

a) the low end scanner, or
b) video taping the picture with a video camera and tranferring it into the
computer with Snappy V2.0?

Gary MacDonald
Aurora, Ont.

I?d propose a third alternative? if you?re primarily interested in scanning photos or print material, flatbed desktop scanners have taken a real drop in price; entry-level models from a number of companies are now available within your budget. You might, for example, take a look at models such as the Microtek E-3, which includes a SCSI adapter, or the Plustek 4800, which plugs into your parallel port.

Flatbed scanners will provide much clearer pictures than either of your proposed alternatives. In addition, most include optical character recognition software, to convert scans of text into word processor files, and software letting them be used as a (slow) photocopier, together with your printer. They won?t, however, let you capture pictures from other video sources such as videotape or TV broadcasts? it that?s one of your requirements, go with the Snappy (or look at replacing your current computer?s video card with a model like ATI?s new All-in-Wonder card, which gives you video input and output in addition to excellent 2D and 3D acceleration).

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan