Review Rambus Pentium III 933MHz

It's new, it's fast, it's not cheap

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Updated Thanks to our lovely readers, we've now got some numbers allowing us to compare single and dual channel Rambus. SiSoft Sandra benchmarks show almost identical processor performance, but a significant 25 per cent memory performance improvement with the dual channel i840 chipset over the i820. The motherboard in question was an Intel OR840 (Outrigger).

Check out the figures at the end of this story for details.

We were all set to benchmark our Pentium III 933MHz a month ago, but there was a small hiccup with the Cape Cod mobo we were going to try it in. [Have we written anything about this? – Ed] So we were forced to wait for a replacement in the shape of an Intel Vancouver VC820 and then forced to wait again for some Rambus RIMMS to show up. Now thanks to our chums at Kingston coming up with the goods, we can at last switch the thing on.

What is there to say about a Pentium III that hasn't been said before? It's got 256KB on-die L2 cache (the advanced transfer kind) and it runs at 933MHz with a 133MHz front side bus. We slapped it into the Vancouver mobo and had the whole thing running first time within 30 minutes of taking the motherboard out of the box. (Is this a record for building a complete system from scratch, we wonder, somewhat immodestly?)

1066MHz, anyone?
We've always liked the single jumper approach Intel takes with its mobos – pins 1&2 jumpered for normal running and pins 2&3 for setting things like clock speed – couldn't be much simpler than that. Once we'd upgraded the BIOS from the supplied version 4 to the latest rev 10, we were offered a tantalising choice of setting the clock to 1000MHz, or even a giddy 1066MHz.

Of course we had to try, didn't we? At 1GHz, the system booted but we got regular BSODs a few minutes into running Win98 and Win2K, so we reverted to 933MHz and the system has run stably ever since.

Because we received two 128MB PC700 RIMMs and a single 256MB PC800, we thought it might be interesting to compare their relative performance. There wasn't a great difference, in some cases the improvement of PC800 over PC700 was about the same as PC700 over PC100 SDRAM in our reference BX system. Because different folks like different benchmarks, we tried Norton Utilities, WinTune and SiSoft Sandra. Take your pick.

Norton Utilities' overall system benchmark showed a score of 461.5 with PC700 memory, increasing a smidgeon to 473.9 with PC800.

Wintune reported that with two 128MB PC700 Rambus RIMMs, the processor clocked 2706.2 MIPs, while with a single 256MB PC800 RIMM, this was boosted a little to 2717.3 MIPs. Memory throughput was 1875.8MBps with the two slower parts, increasing to 1917.7MBps with a single, faster RIMM.

Our trusty old(?) BX440 Pentium III 800 (750MHz overclocked) system with 256MB of PC100 SDRAM returned respectable Wintune scores of 2315 MIPs and 1642MBps memory throughput. Not bad for a system with memory costing about a quarter the price of the Rambus box.

The VC820 is the mobo that users will get when swapping their dodgy Cape Cods, and with 128MB of free Rambus memory, they'll have little to complain about. But if you have to reach into your pocket to upgrade your system, at $385 for an 800MHz part compared with $744 for the 933, we'd still have to recommend the slower chip in a BX mobo with lots of lovely cheap SDRAM as opposed to the undeniably faster, but equally undeniably extremely expensive Rambus solution.

Nice chip, nice mobo, nice memory, not so nice price.

The numbers

SiSoft Sandra showed no difference in MIPs rating with the different Rambus memory specifications, despite the theoretical 46Mhz difference in memory bus speed, although memory throughput was up.

Pentium III 932MHz
L2 On-board Cache: 256kB ECC synchronous ATC
Intel VC820 Motherboard
FSB: 133MHz

Two PC700 128Mb RIMMS
Memory Bus Speed: 354MHz

CPU: 2512 MIPS, FPU: 1244 MFLOPS

CPU/Mem: 327 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 414 MB/s

Pentium III 932MHz
L2 On-board Cache: 256kB ECC synchronous ATC
Intel VC820 Motherboard
FSB: 133MHz

One PC800 256Mb RIMM
Memory Bus Speed: 399MHz

CPU: 2512 MIPS, FPU: 1243 MFLOPS

CPU/Mem: 350 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 435 MB/s

Pentium III 932MHz
L2 On-board Cache: 256kB ECC synchronous ATC
Intel OR840 Motherboard
FSB: 133MHz

Two PC800 64Mb RIMM
Memory Bus Speed: 399MHz

CPU: 2519 MIPS, FPU: 1248 MFLOPS

CPU/Mem: 434 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 548 MB/s

Pentium III 799MHz
L2 On-board Cache: 256kB ECC synchronous ATC
Intel SR440BX motherboard
FSB: 100MHz


CPU: 2138 MIPS, FPU: 1061 MFLOPS

CPU/Mem: 292 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 341 MB/s


Don't just take our word for it, check out what other people have to say about the 933 at SharkyExtreme and AnandTech


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