Intel CPUs

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Intel is probably the most well known CPU manufacturer in the world. They've been making CPU's all the way from the earliest 8086 and are still designing and manufacturing CPU's to this day.

Even though in modern days, Intel CPU's only fit in Intel sockets and the other way around, in the old days there was a wide variety of manufacturers for any given CPU socket.


Intel 286 CPU


Intel 386 and 387 Coprocessor

Socket 1,2,3

Intel CPU removal tool for Low insertion force (LIF) sockets

First introduced in 1989 the Intel 486 CPU originally fit into a 168-pin PGA socket. After the introduction of the 486SX (and rebranding of the 486 to 486DX) Intel introduced "Socket 2" which was included an extra row of pins around the 168-pin socket that was supposed to be an upgrade path to Pentium technology. However, the main advantage of using the new socket was "Zero Insertion Force" or ZIF technology that allowed the CPUs to be removed easily without any tools. Socket 3 was more or less the same as Socket 2 except that it optionally supported 3V operation. The extra row of pins used in both socket were only used for extra voltage and grounding. The Pentium (POD63, POD83) upgrades didn't come out until 1996, and ironically didn't fully work in the majority of older systems that were claimed to support them. With the exception of the Pentium Overdrives, any 486 CPU can work in any 486 Socket as long as a voltage regulator is used with the 3V chips.

The first generation of intel 486 chips were 5V and made at 1 micron with 8kb of write-through L1 cache. The second generation were normally 0.8 micron. 486DX2s support clock doubling (40,50,66MHz). 486SX has the math coprocessor removed. The 487SX was advertised as a math-coprocessor for a 486SX but was esentially a full blown 486DX with a slightly modified pinout. The third generation of Intel CPUs were 0.6 micron and ran at 3.3V. The 3V version of the 486DX2 retained the 8kb write through cache. The Intel DX4 introduced clock tripling, despite having a name which implies clock quadrupling. Additionally, it sported 16kb writethrough or writeback cache (depending on the model), as well as some ALU enhancements used in Pentium chips. Although the DX4 was only produced in 75 and 100MHz versions, the 100MHz part normally ran about as fast as an am486DX4-120. Intel DX4s had a multiplier jumper and could be set in either 2X or 3X modes. In some cases it is possible run them on a 50MHz bus (in 2X mode). Intel documentation and some motherboards mention support for a 2.5X multiplier setting, however this was removed before the design was finalized. The 2.5X mode was originally meant to be used in a 486DX3-63,83 (2.5X clock) but these were deemed to be unmarketable.

In addition to the standard 486 chips, Intel also marketed a separate line of "Overdrive" chips. The first generation of overdrives weren't really necessary as they were merely 486DX2s with fancy heatsinks and a slightly modified pinout. Before ZIF sockets became common, most 486 boards had second special "487" or "Overdrive" sockets to take these overdrive chips. However, they all work fine in a standard 486 socket with a few changes to the motherboard jumpers. DX4 overdrives included integrated VRMs for use on older 5V motherboards, however they were multiplier locked.

486DX/4 100MHz Overdrive

Socket 4

Pentium 66 (Socket 4)

Socket 4 was released around 1993 and housed the very first real Pentium processor. Very few different CPU's have been made to fit this socket, which is limited to the Pentium 60MHz, the Pentium 66MHz and the obscure Pentium Overdrive which ran at either 120MHz or 133MHz. Because of the limited variety of CPU's manufactured for this socket and the limited speed options these motherboards provided, Socket 4 is a far less flexible platform when compared to Socket 3 or Socket 7. Socket 4 supported the then new 60MHz FSB and 66MHz FSB (even though some Socket 4 motherboards were made that had slower FSB's like 50MHz and 40MHz). Usually Socket 4 motherboards were fitted with ISA and PCI slots, though some VLB slotted Socket 4 motherboards were made. Socket 4 motherboards used either EDO or FPM memory modules and the memory modules had to be fitted in pairs where in it's predecessor, single modules were used. This was because Socket 4 was the first x86 motherboard that had a 64-bit memory bus (486 and earlier used a 32-bit, or a 16-bit memory bus).

All Socket 4 motherboards were made as AT motherboards or as proprietary boards. No ATX Socket 4 motherboards were ever made. No AGP slotted Socket 4 motherboard was ever made.

Socket 5,7

Pentium Classic

Classic Pentium CPUs have a wide variety of speeds, from 75 to 200 MHz. They are supported by literally any Socket 7 chip set and proved to be fine performers. Pentium Classic is a good choice for Socket 7 Build, especially for beginners. They are easy to find and cost next to nothing.

Pentium MMX

Pentium 166 MMX

Pentium MMX CPUs arrived in 166, 200, 233MHz versions (66MHz x2.5, x3.0, x3.5).

Note that mobile Pentium MMX processors ran at up to 300Mhz speed, however, they had a different core (Tillamook) and usually a different packaging. There are Tillamook Pentiums in the same Socket 7 package as the later Pentium MMX chips, but it's proven difficult to get these running in desktop boards as the system will often not boot correctly without disabling the CPU cache. Possibly these chips can run with it's caches all enabled using a motherboard with Intels own 430TX chipset, but finding details about this is sketchy

Comparing to Pentium Classic, they have different core (P55C) with lesser 0.28 µm process. L1 cache was doubled (32KB vs 16KB). A new set of instructions called MultiMedia eXtensions was introduced, although the software to use them started to appear only by the time Pentium MMX processors were severely outdated.

Pentium MMX processors are supported by later Socket 7 motherboards with split rail voltage. Not every motherboard will accept such a CPU.

Overall Pentium MMX 233 can be considered the best choice of authentic CPU for a socket 7 system. When overclocked to 262MHz or further, it provides exceptional performance no other Socket 7 CPU can match. Pentium MMX CPUs are harder to find than classic Pentiums, but they are still quite cheap.

Pentium Overdrive and Pentium MMX Overdrive

These were split-rail processors mounted on a package together with a VRM and in essence were Intel's own upgrade chips. They were designed to be plug-in replacements for motherboards that used the classic Pentium. They have a small heatsink with a fan and if the fan fails or is removed, the CPU will downclock to using a 1x multiplier in order to prevent it from overheating (only in case of the Overdrive for the 486 socket). As these CPU's (other than the 1x multiplier in earlier versions) are multiplier-locked, these CPU's aren't commonly used for retro-rigs

Slot 1

Pentium II

The first CPU made available for Slot 1. It featured a 'cassette' containing a small PCB with the CPU die soldered onto it along with 2 cache chips for a total of 512KB of L2 cache. The cache chips ran at half the CPU clock speed though, which was a departure from Intels Pentium Pro where the L2 cache ran at the same speed as the CPU.

The Pentium II was made in 2 different versions. First came the Klamath, running at speeds from 233MHz up to 300MHz. These processors ran fairly hot for their time (up to around 40W), but an interesting fact for someone building a retro rig is the fact that most of these still had their multiplier unlocked. The second version was basically a die-shrinked Klamath, called the Deschutes, which was made in speeds of 266MHz up to 450MHz. The Deschutes is typically the prefered choice over Klamath, mostly because it offers more performance while producing less heat while having virtually no drawbacks except for most Deschutes-based Pentium IIs being multiplier-locked


The Celeron for Slot 1 was the very first Celeron ever made and was designed to fill in the gap created by the introduction of the Pentium II while at the same time Intel left it's budget users with the aging Pentium MMX 233.

2 Celeron cores were made for Slot 1.

The first one was the Covington, which was basically a Pentium II without its cache chips and the lack of any L2 cache had such a bad impact on performance that Intel quickly released a second core, Mendocino, featuring 128KB L2 cache. Only 2 speed grades of Covington were made, running at 266MHz and 300MHz before it was quickly replaced by Intels next Celeron incarnation. Mendocino was made available from 300MHz up to 433MHz when Mendocino moved back to a socketed solution (becoming Socket 370) Even though the Mendocino had only a quarter of the cache of the Pentium II, it ran at full speed instead of Pentium IIs half speed and had performance rather similar to the Pentium II.

Pentium III

The Pentium III was Intels successor of the Pentium II. By this time all Slot 1 CPUs were multiplier locked (except for some engineering samples perhaps). The Slot 1 Pentium IIIs came in 2 different variants. The first one was called Katmai and ran at speeds from 450MHz to 600MHz and this Pentium III was very similar to the Pentium II it was supposed to succeed. The Katmai could be considered a "Pentium II+" as it's main new feature was the addition of SSE instructions. Because the Katmai also had it's cache chips off-die, it still needed to be mounted on a small PCB along with it's cache chips.

The second and final variant of the Slot 1 Pentium IIIs was the Coppermine. The Coppermine featured 256KB on-die cache which was only half the amount of cache the Katmai had, but instead of running at half the speed of the CPU, the Coppermine had it's cache run at full speed, thereby increasing it's performance even though it had only half the cache.

The Coppermines also ran significantly cooler compared to Katmai and because the absence of any off-die cache, Intel quickly moved back to a Socketed solution for Coppermine.

Today: Slot 1 mainboards are a popular base for building a retro rig these days, mostly because of their overall good stability, the good availability of Slot 1 boards and their good compatability with other hardware, their good range of different CPUs which could be set up to running all the way from around 100MHz (when underclocked) all the way to 1400MHz (and possibly even higher when overclocking), their good performance and perhaps mostly because of Intels BX chipset which was made for Slot 1. Also BX boards are relatively easy to set up.

Socket 370

Pentium 3 1400MHz

Socket 370 was released on the 4th of January 1999 and was originally made as a budget CPU socket compared to Intel's higher-end Slot 1 solution. Later it became Intel's main CPU Socket until the release of the Pentium 4, after which it moved to the budget end of the market again before being phased out altogether. A wide variety of CPU's exist for this socket, ranging from the 333MHz Celeron (with Mendocino core) all the way to the Pentium 3 1400MHz (with the 512 KB L2 cache version also being known as Tualatin-S). The Tualatin-S was also very popular for servers because of their low power consumption.
VIA also made a variety of CPU's for this socket, though compatibility is somewhat sketchy.
As this CPU socket went through a couple revisions, not all Socket 370 CPU's will work in any given Socket 370 motherboard, even though they will mechanically fit. Generally speaking there are 3 different types of motherboards using this socket:The early Celeron Mendocino-only motherboards (usually limited to a 66MHz FSB), the Coppermine capable motherboards (having a maximum FSB of either 100MHz or 133MHz) and the Tualatin capable motherboards. Sometimes Tualatin capable motherboards have their CPU socket colored blue instead of the usual white.

Be wary when mounting a CPU cooler onto a CPU which has an Integrated Heat Spreader, as the taller CPU will make mounting the CPU cooler more difficult and may even cause the tabs on either side of the CPU socket to snap due to the increased force applied by the CPU cooler.

To prevent usage of newer CPU's in older motherboards, Intel switched a couple pins around to prevent operation of Coppermine CPU's in the earliest Celeron-only boards and Intel repeated that trick when it started manufacturing Tualatin CPU's. This prevented the use of later chips in older motherboards, even if the right (lower) voltage could be supplied by the motherboard.

Usually Socket 370 boards have AGP slots. The older ones have an AGP 2x (3.3V) and the newer ones have a universal 1.5V AGP 4x slot. Motherboards using ALi's M1631 (Aladdin TNT2) or Intel's i810/810E chipsets do not support an AGP slot. All Socket 370 motherboards have PCI slots and the older types of Socket 370 motherboards have ISA slots. ISA slots are more common on motherboards using non-Intel chipsets. Almost all Socket 370 motherboards are ATX (though a few AT Socket 370 motherboards are known to exist). Only very few Tualatin motherboards featured one or 2 ISA slots. Usually motherboards with the Intel i815 chipset have no ISA slots, except when the motherboard is equipped with a bridge chip. The bridge chip may cause some problems when using ISA sound cards.

The Intel i810/815 chipsets also only support up to 512 MB of memory. Its main competitors didn't have that limitation.

Today: Popular choices these days are either a 1000MHz Coppermine or, if the motherboard supports it, a 1400MHz Tualatin-s. Both these processors are about the fastest of their kind and widely available. The 1400MHz Tualatin-s is about as fast as a 1400MHz AMD Thunderbird while consuming about half the power, which helps in keeping case temperatures down. A number of BX Socket 370 motherboards were also made, just get the fastest processor available for your board.