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The VIA Technologies Cyrix M II Processor

There is a new player in Socket 7 CPU market: VIA Technologies.  VIA recently bought Cyrix from National Semiconductor and is actively breathing life back into the product line.  Soon, VIA will introduce a new Socket 370 competitor to the Celeron and socket 7 CPUs, presently code-named Joshua.  As a prelude, and to take a look at an alternative product in the "entry level"  processor market, we review VIA's challenge to the AMD K6-2 processor, the 300 Mhz Cyrix M II.  300 Mhz?  Mega Herz, Smiga Herz... Performance is not always directly measured  by the CPU clock speed.  As we will see, this processor is faster than a 400 Mhz K6-2.

300 Mhz M II, 400 Mhz K6-2?  Why am I writing about 300 and 400 Mhz processors?  700 and 800 Mhz CPU's are the rage.  700 and 800 Mhz processors aren't for everyone or even most people, if they are smart.  They cost far too much and most us can get along just fine without them.  In my experience, computers with 650 Mhz processors appear a little bit faster (have a little more "snap") to the average user than those with a 400 Mhz CPU, not a whole lot faster as one might infer from the CPU clock frequencies.  They certainly, by far, don't produce the same impression of speed increase that a 400 Mhz processor has when compared to 150 Mhz processor.  There is not a linear relationship between the CPU clock speed and perceived speed of a computer.  It starts to flatten around 350 Mhz and noticeably flattens after 450 Mhz.  The CPU is spending a lot of time waiting for something to happen.  There is not much gain per dollar spent.  So, lets change the term "entry level," which is a misnomer used in marketing to make us feel cheap and obliged to spend more for more than we need, to "smart level."  K6-2's, Celerons, and M II's are "smart level" purchases.  They do the job within a reasonable price.  Smart and reasonably frugal people can patiently wait for today's worthwhile latest and greatest to fall to reasonable prices.  In the computer field, the wait usually isn't very long.

KEY FEATURES

  • Socket 7 and Super Socket 7 Compatible
  • Uses Existing Socket 7 Motherboard Infrastructure
  • Wide range of speed grades: M II 300, 333, 366, 400, 433
  • 350+ MHz, 100 MHz Super Socket 7
  • Flexible Core/Bus Clock Ratios (2x, 2.5x, 3x, & 3.5x)
  • 2.8v core, 3.3v I/O and 2.2v core, 3.3v I/O
  • X86 Instruction set includes Multimedia extensions
  • MMX™ compatible instruction set
  • Runs Windows® NT, Windows 98, Windows 3.x, DOS, Unix® OS/2®,
  • Solaris® and others (including popular RTOS’)
  • High performance native x86 core
  • Superscaler / Superpipelined
  • Dual Issue / Seven Stage
  • Multiple Branch Prediction with Speculative Execution
  • Dynamic Execution
  • Enhanced MMU - Two level 384 entry TLB
  • 64 kByte Unified Instruction / Data Cache

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES

  • Enhanced Sixth-Generation Architecture
    • 64kB 4-way unified Write-Back Cache
    • 2 Level TLB (16-Entry L1, 384-Entry L2)
    • Branch Prediction with a 512-Entry BTB
    • Speculative Execution
    • Enhanced Memory Management Unit
    • Scratchpad RAM in Unified Cache
    • Optimized for both 16-bit and 32-bit code
    • 80-bit Floating Point Unit
  • Four major functional blocks
    • Memory Management Unit
    • CPU core
    • Cache Unit
    • Bus Interface Unit

Copyright, Disclaimer, and Trademark Information Copyright © 1996-2006 Larry F. Byard.  All rights reserved. This material or parts thereof may not be copied, published, put on the Internet, rewritten, or redistributed without explicit, written permission from the author.