A New Engine for Pentium IIs

Stuck with older 66MHz motherboards and chip sets, early Pentium II adopters could not drop in faster new processors, which run on a 100MHz bus. But now there's Evergreen Technology's Performa 500 upgrade, featuring a 500MHz Celeron CPU that runs on the 66MHz bus.

Installation of a shipping unit on my 440BX-based PII-266 went smoothly: The hardware drops right into the Pentium II's Slot 1. I merely changed the speed settings in my BIOS -- no drivers to install and no jumpers to reset -- and I was up and running. In my informal tests, the Performa 500-based system seemed on a par with -- you guessed it -- a 500MHz Celeron PC assembled from off-the-shelf components. Depending on the CPU you're replacing, the performance difference can be spectacular.

Evergreen's Performa 500 costs US$229, and there's the slight rub. These days, 500MHz Celeron CPUs cost about $140 on the street. To use that processor in a Pentium II PC, you'll need a Celeron host card -- or SlotKet, as they're popularly called -- which has a 370-pin socket and a voltage regulator; the card fits into Slot 1. SlotKets generally sell for less than $10. Throw in the cost of a high-quality cooling fan and Slot 1 retaining clips, and you're talking $175 -- or $54 less than the Performa 500. These parts are only slightly harder to assemble than Legos, though you have to be careful about static discharge. With a little Web research, you can find thorough instructions.

Evergreen includes excellent installation instructions, nice troubleshooting tips, and a diagnostic diskette. The company also provides 8 hours of weekday tech support though you pay for the call. In the end, you simply have to ask yourself if you're willing to pay extra for the handholding.

Performa 500

PRO: Easy-to-install Celeron upgrade for 66MHz motherboards; almost no assembly required.

CON: Somewhat overpriced.

VALUE: Worth it if you doubt your do-it-yourself competence.

List price: $229

Evergreen Technologies




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