After much hype and innuendo, Intel unveiled its latest generation of processors in London last month.
The MMX chips are based on Pentium technology, but are designed to process multimedia instructions in parallel, giving faster graphics and animations, better-quality video and richer sounds, without extra components or cards on the motherboard.
Applications need to be written specifically for MMX to take advantage of the enhanced processing power, but Intel claims a performance benefit of ?10 to 20 per cent? when the chip is used on existing applications. Much of this performance improvement comes from the larger-than-usual memory cache on the chip.
The improved graphics capabilities will be most beneficial to games developers, but CADCAM users will also want to snaffle up MMX machines.
There are two factors in the MMX launch that make it special. The first is that machines are already available from almost every manufacturer ? a stroll down Tottenham Court Road revealed dozens of small-system assemblers selling PCs based on the chip. And manufacturers buying them in quantities greater than 1,000 only pay roughly 10 per cent extra for the MMX silicon.
The second is that Intel appears intent on converting all its production of Pentiums to MMX. So, by the end of the year, or thereabouts, you won?t be able to buy a non-MMX chip, and the price premium will have disappeared. Whether you like it or not, MMX is here to stay.
The real benefit of MMX for business users may be some time coming. Natural input technologies (speech and handwriting recognition, in layman?s terms) will be able to use the faster graphics and sound processing speed, and video-conferencing will almost certainly benefit once software upgrades or tailored products hit the shelves.
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