The Pentium M on the desktop: DFI's 855GME-MGF

DFI's 855GME-MGF motherboard

THE STARS WERE perfectly aligned for this to happen. Since making the move to a new 90nm fabrication process, the Pentium 4 processor has been struggling mightily. Compared to the previous generation, Pentium 4 "Prescott" chips run hotter, consume more power, do less work per clock cycle, and have had a difficult time reaching higher clock speeds that might offset their performance disadvantages.

Their SAT scores are lower, too.

Meanwhile, silent computing and small form factors are on the rise in desktop systems, as consumers become more aware of PC features beyond raw performance. Against this backdrop, certain corners of the market have fixed their gaze firmly on a tantalizing alternative: the Pentium M processor, optimized to deliver solid performance combined with miserly power consumption, that has seen great success in the mobile market as part of the Centrino platform.

Now comes DFI with exactly what we've been asking for: a desktop motherboard for the Pentium M. The DFI 855GME-MGF transcends boundaries by offering Pentium M support in a microATX mobo with an AGP slot and some decent overclocking options. But can the Pentium M really go toe to toe on performance with the Pentium 4 and Athlon 64 when paired up with desktop hard drives and video cards? We've gathered up a Pentium M "Dothan" processor and an extensive array of competitors, ranging from an Athlon 64 3200+ at 2GHz to a Pentium 4 at 3.8GHz, in order to find out.

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