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Which Chips Should You Bet On?

Which system should you get?

Which system should you get? A Pentium? A Pentium with MMX? A Pentium II? I recommend Pentium with an MMX processor. The MMX acronym refers to MultiMedia eXtensions, the addition of 57 instructions the Pentium chip can now understand. These instructions will speed up the specially designed graphics software that's just beginning to hit the market; and they'll help make your PC an all-in-one communications center. Intel plans to gradually phase out Pentiums, so you should jump on the MMX bandwagon now.

What about the Pentium Pro? A Pentium Pro, although better at running Windows NT than a run-of-the-mill Pentium with MMX, lacks the added multimedia extensions. Intel just introduced a Pentium Pro with MMX called the Pentium II. But initial tests on Pentium IIs show they're running just slightly faster than Pentium Pros. Pentium II systems still use an old set of supporting chips originally designed for the multimedia-challenged Pentium Pro. A new chipset engineered specifically for the Pentium II and boasting support for a new technology that speeds video to your desktop called AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) won't arrive until the fall.

Pentium II systems are priced at $4,000 and up. The smart move is to wait until the kinks are worked out and prices fall. If you must have the most powerful PC known to humankind, get a Pentium II. But the value-conscious choice for Windows 95 is a 200 MHz Pentium with an MMX system. You'll save at least $1,000.

A version of this article appeared in the June/July 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.