Rating the Pentium

NEXTSTEP users require the kind of power that only the latest CPU can provide, so the arrival of the first Pentium systems for NEXTSTEP is welcome news.

NEXTSTEP can take full advantage of the Pentium chip, which provides all-around speed enhancements, as well as specific improvements for compute- intensive tasks like compiling and 3-D rendering. But unlike systems designed to run Windows, UNIX hardware must be carefully balanced. If any one subsystem is weak, the entire machine suffers.

The bottleneck is often hard-disk access. With the right hard disk, a '486 system can approach Pentium speeds. And before you upgrade to the Pentium, you might consider adding more memory to your machine. Many '486 systems allow you to upgrade simply by sticking a Pentium chip in the available overdrive slot. While this may be an economical alternative, it won't provide the system throughput available in a true Pentium machine.

Pentium chips are currently available in 60MHz and 66MHz versions, and a 90MHz version is on the way. The modest speed increase you'll get with the 66MHz version probably isn't worth the heat problems you're likely to encounter. The 90MHz Pentium is expected to include new cooling features that will eliminate the problem.

Many Pentium machines include such recent advances in PC design as a PCI bus, fast SCSI-2, and 32-bit color support. Vendors such as Compaq and Intel are integrating CD-quality sound into their Pentium systems. While power users will want to wait until NEXTSTEP moves onto PA-RISC, a Pentium-based system provides the maximum performance available today.

by Dan Lavin and Lee Sherman