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.
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
PRODUCT INFO NO. 692