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Xeon vs. Pentium II
... A Tale of two systems from Xi Computer Corp.

While we were busy testing workstations in our main review... 
Xi Computer called and made us an offer we couldn't refuse:
Would we care to look at two identically configured systems, one with a 450MHz Pentium II and the other sporting a 450MHz Pentium II Xeon- Intel's newest processor, hot off the assembly line? We couldn't pass up a chance to get a direct comparison between the two processors, with all other things being equal.

What's a Xeon?
     
In a nutshell, the Pentium II Xeon is a Pentium II chip with a redesigned L2 cache and support for four-way multiprocessing. Using special (not to mention costly) SRAM chips produced by Intel, the L2 cache runs at the full processor speed- not half-speed as with previous Pentium IIs. Also, the Xeon supports a larger L2 cache: 512KB, 1MB, and eventually 2MB. Due to the larger cache and the four-way multiprocessor support, the Xeon requires a new and larger processor socket, appropriately named Slot 2. The initial versions of the Xeon operate at 400- and 450MHz.
      
For this mini-review we tested the Xi 900 MTower DP (450MHz Pentium II Xeon). Refer to the features table on p. 52 for detailed information for the Xi 900X MTower DP. The only differences between the 900X and 900, besides the processor, are the processor-support chipset and motherboard. All other components are identical.
      
Of course there is one other distinction between the two- price. The Xi 900 MTower DP's estimated street price is $2,999, while the Xi 900X MTower DP will set you back $3,999- both prices with a 2D graphics card. 
That's a difference of $1,000, or 33%.
      
To cover the full spectrum from 2D to 3D, we installed and tested two different graphics cards: the Matrox Millennium G200 (8MB) for 2D and AccelGraphics' GMX 2000 (96MB) for 3D. These cards are both highly rated in their respective categories.
      
We ran our C96-2D benchmark test on each system with the 2D graphics card installed. The results were 9.22 for the Pentium II and 9.55 for the Pentium II Xeon. While both numbers exceed the previous top score ever recorded by CADALYST Labs, we were surprised by the Xeon's narrow performance advantage- only 3.6%

What about 3D?
     
Because the Xeon is designed for high-end applications, we though CADALYST Labs' C96-3D benchmark might better show off its advantages. We installed the 3D cards, loaded the proper Windows NT driver, and configured the screen resolution and color depth in preparation for running the 3D test.
     
Alas, the results from our 3D benchmark were even less flattering to the Xeon. Its performance edge was cut to virtually nothing. The C96-2D3D test results were 16.53 for the Pentium II and 16.59 for the Pentium II Xeon. 
Once again, both scores were the highest we've ever seen.

     

In case your wondering, the estimated street price for the GMX 2000 graphics card is nearly $1,800, pushing the price of the systems up to $4,599 (Pentium II) and $5,599 (Pentium II Xeon).

Hold off on the Xeon?
At least for now, the choice seems obvious.
If you're looking for top performance and good value, the 450MHz 
Pentium II-based Xi 900 MTower DP delivers the goods.

-Art Liddle, Cadalyst

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