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To upgrade or not to upgrade, that is the question...

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Zapper Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 1:13 PM
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Hello, HPC2000 Forum, my name is Zapper, and I am an HPC/Pro user. (spoken in the spirit of Alcoholics Anonymous)

I have been using an MP780 and MP880 for a while now, and have been very happy with them. So pleased was I with their usefulness, I gave my nieces MP780s for Christmas. They are wonderful devices. Specially for a card carrying member of the Cheap Stingy Bastards Association.

Recently though, I have had the opportunity to spend a few days tinkering with an MP900. Having never seen one 'in the bare metal, with my own two eyeballs' before, I must say the bloody thing is a gorgeous piece of kit! And after playing with it for a few days, I have found that it has far more hardware and software support than my venerable old 2.11 machines. HPC2000 really does have a great deal more driver support for devices! Gorgeous AND flexible AND multi-talented! Fantastic! What more could a red blooded bloke want? It was instant infatuation... And as with any gearhead or grease monkey, the first thing you desire with a gorgeous piece of kit, is to peel her casing off and have a peek at what's under the bonnet.

(gets whacked on the head by Madame President, also known as MP10K - "Men! It's all hormones with you blighters!"

Unfortunately, the MP900 was not mine to disassemble. So I was left with running some home brewed benchmarks, and getting a 'feel' for how she runs. Load up big spreadsheets, have her crunch some data, run the GPS mapping on her...

She does not seem to be any faster than Donald, my old faithful MP780, who was sitting patiently and faithfully on the shelf.

Oh, the NUMERIC benchmarks show a bit of increase in performance, but the 'feel' of the device leaves something to be desired. The performance delta was not as significant as one might have initially assumed to be the case. Of course, knowing the different CPU architectures, this is not surprising. It's like comparing a P4 to an Athlon. Different internal architectures entirely.

I rather liked the MP900, I think it's a fantastic piece of kit, but I am unconvinced that it is worth the rather steep asking price, specially when my MP780 and MP880 are in perfect working order. But anyway, if you've read this far then you will understand where I am coming from when I ask:

Do you believe it is WORTH the rather steep price of admission to acquire an MP900 or other arm based machine with HPC2k and replace a FULLY FUNCTIONAL MP780 and MP880? And if so, I would like to understand your reasons? Thanks.
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corporate
corporate Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 2:16 PM
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Are you looking to upgrade to the MP900 for the ARM cpu or for the HPC2000 OS? If the latter, have you considered just tossing an MP790 rom into your 780 or 880? Definitely a cheaper option...

Edited by corporate 2005-07-18 2:19 PM
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Zapper Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 3:22 PM
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corporate - 2005-07-18 2:16 PM

Are you looking to upgrade to the MP900 for the ARM cpu or for the HPC2000 OS? If the latter, have you considered just tossing an MP790 rom into your 780 or 880? Definitely a cheaper option...


Both, I suppose. More future proof. If fewer people are developing for HPC/CE3, even fewer are available in MIPS. Still, I use the MP780 primarily for data collection and preprocessing, ebook, notetaking and sketching. I see it and the MP880 having a good long useful lifetime. But being realistic, one must admit that Mips/CE2.11 branch of the HPC evolutionary tree has dead-ended. So an upgrade is inevitable, but is it worth the expense of going all the way to HPC2000 on ARM? You suggest though of taking an incremental step, that of an MP790. That suggestion has significant merit. Afterall, one could possibly acquire TWO MP790s for the price of a single MP900. And would likely be more useful. Just not for as long. Hmmm...

Are those ROMS still to be had at a price significantly less than that of a whole MP790?
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cmonex Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 3:26 PM
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well i definitely recommend upgrading to hpc2000. that's all about software. hpc2000 is better than hpc pro, absolutely worth a few (or more) bucks
about the hardware: i've never seen a 790, so i don't know if the 900 is better than that.. i do have a 900(C) and a jornada 728, and you're right, the 400 Mhz xscale cpu isn't as much faster as the 206 Mhz strongarm. even if you upgrade the thing to ce.net 4.2. (i had hpc2000 900 too so i can compare them) it should be two times faster but it isn't the case. but fast enough, anyway and i don't know what the 168 MHz mips is like. but you told me now that it isn't too bad. i like arm architecture more though (better compatibility with some stuff).. so if you have enough money why not buy a 900... (900C isn't worth the extra money as you can upgrade the 900 if you want.. but ce.net isn't good for everyone.) if you don't want to spend that much and don't mind an older machine, upgrade your 780 to 790 or get a 790.
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 3:29 PM
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I'll stand next to Corporate on that one.

The reason why the 900 is comparativly no better is due to the fact that it's running code optimised for the wrong CPU - think of it like running Windows 2000 programs on a EM64T or AMD64, they run, but not half as effeciently as a program compiled for the 64-bit x86 hybrid.
The MP900 uses XScale (ARM4) and the HPC2000 ROM is written in ARM3. Giving it an ARM4 OS (CE4) is akin to giving it a shot in the arm and letting it have a mad five minutes.

The P4 and the Athlon use the same Architecture, if they didn't there would be specific AMD and Intel versions of Windows XP. It's the impliementation, bolt-ons and optimisation techniques that differs. *mumbles something about whetstone and dhrystone obs*
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cmonex Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 3:38 PM
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C:Amie - 2005-07-18 9:29 PM

The reason why the 900 is comparativly no better is due to the fact that it's running code optimised for the wrong CPU - think of it like running Windows 2000 programs on a EM64T or AMD64, they run, but not half as effeciently as a program compiled for the 64-bit x86 hybrid.
The MP900 uses XScale (ARM4) and the HPC2000 ROM is written in ARM3. Giving it an ARM4 OS (CE4) is akin to giving it a shot in the arm and letting it have a mad five minutes.


you're a little wrong on this one. CE4 is better for it of course but not by as much as you'd expect.
so i think the rumours have been true, xscale isn't much better than good old strongarm
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 3:45 PM
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I think the fact that it stops the device from railing quite so much is enough vindication of the statement.

My comparison though was between a 2.11 MIPS4000 and the optimised CE4.2 XScale. Not 2000 XScale vs 4.2 XScale (per the original question). To which if you think there is no difference, you're either smoking something really potent... or haven't yet managed to turn the H/PC on.
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Zapper Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 4:15 PM
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C:Amie - 2005-07-18 3:29 PM

The P4 and the Athlon use the same Architecture, if they didn't there would be specific AMD and Intel versions of Windows XP. It's the impliementation, bolt-ons and optimisation techniques that differs. *mumbles something about whetstone and dhrystone obs*


That is not entirely accurate. The P4 and the Athlon have the same external Command Interface where the only external logical opcode differences are additional simd commands. But the internal physical layer architecture is entirely different. I shall not engage you or bore everyone else with microprocessor architecture debates as this is not the forum for it. Just a nitpick.
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Zapper Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 5:05 PM
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C:Amie - 2005-07-18 3:45 PM

I think the fact that it stops the device from railing quite so much is enough vindication of the statement.


Railing?
Explain, please. I am unfamiliar with that term.

C:Amie - 2005-07-18 3:45 PM

My comparison though was between a 2.11 MIPS4000 and the optimised CE4.2 XScale. Not 2000 XScale vs 4.2 XScale (per the original question).


Indeed. So, we know that 2.11 MIPS4k is slower than HPC2k on StrongArm, which is about the same speed as HPC2k on XScale. And we know that CE4.2 on XScale is a little faster still, though this highly dependent on what you're actually crunching. I believe the biggest difference is in multimedia and other applications where vectorization is possible. But for non-multimedia applications, is there any *compelling* difference in performance?
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cmonex Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 5:07 PM
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C:Amie - 2005-07-18 9:45 PM

I think the fact that it stops the device from railing quite so much is enough vindication of the statement.

My comparison though was between a 2.11 MIPS4000 and the optimised CE4.2 XScale. Not 2000 XScale vs 4.2 XScale (per the original question). To which if you think there is no difference, you're either smoking something really potent... or haven't yet managed to turn the H/PC on.


and my comparison was between a hpc2000 strongarm and a hpc2000/ce.net xscale device. but maybe i wasn't clear enough, sorry for that.
i never said there wasn't any difference, just not as much as you thought.

and it wasn't too funny, about the machine not turning on
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cmonex Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 5:12 PM
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Zapper - 2005-07-18 11:05 PM

Railing?
Explain, please. I am unfamiliar with that term.

C:Amie - 2005-07-18 3:45 PM

My comparison though was between a 2.11 MIPS4000 and the optimised CE4.2 XScale. Not 2000 XScale vs 4.2 XScale (per the original question).


Indeed. So, we know that 2.11 MIPS4k is slower than HPC2k on StrongArm, which is about the same speed as HPC2k on XScale. And we know that CE4.2 on XScale is a little faster still, though this highly dependent on what you're actually crunching. I believe the biggest difference is in multimedia and other applications where vectorization is possible. But for non-multimedia applications, is there any *compelling* difference in performance?


wow i'm not alone not understanding what railing means! so good not to be alone!

no, there's no compelling difference between strongarm and xscale, i can't compare them with mips though. you should be able to as you had both (or did you mean your question about comparing the 900 (hpc2000) and the 900C (ce.net)? in this case, again no compelling difference. i wish i had made tests, but i never thought of that, only in the case of IE4 and IE6)
btw, i can assure you there's a compelling difference between sh3 and strongarm (my experience) (though it is application dependant..)
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corporate
corporate Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 5:46 PM
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To be honest, comparing regular operations (putting around the basic OS, opening Word and Excel and such) there wasn't a huge difference between my Axim's 400Mhz Xscale any my MP790's puny little MIPS. I think that's got a lot to do with how bloaty WM2003 is, though.

However, I do notice a huge difference when playing videos and games and the like - but in the case of the MP900 I doubt you'll notice any video improvement (PocketDVD will agree, I think).

Edited by corporate 2005-07-18 5:50 PM
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cmonex Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 5:51 PM
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well wm2003 should be more optimized..
but if anyone visits rothberger.net, they can see my benchmark of a 900 with hpc2000 and compare that to the 900C's benchmark.. (i checked because i couldn't believe it but it is true!).. so you might have a point there
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 5:58 PM
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Railing means 'not comfortable' esentially.
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Snappy! Page Icon Posted 2005-07-18 6:04 PM
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C:Amie - 2005-07-18 1:29 PM

I'll stand next to Corporate on that one.


I'll third that option! Upgrading to a 790 via a ROM upgrade or a totally different set is prob good enuff. Or else you can consider a J720 if you dun mind the slightly daintier keyboard.

Most apps for the 780 are quite optimized, or they do not load the CPU to that extent that you will see a significant difference between the 780 and 900.

So, if it were for the apps and hpc2000 support, go for 790. But if you really want a longer support for software, J720 may be a better bet, since it is on StrongARM and hence would run even more apps, even ppc apps with some tweaking.

C:Amie - 2005-07-18 1:29 PM

The P4 and the Athlon use the same Architecture, if they didn't there would be specific AMD and Intel versions of Windows XP. It's the impliementation, bolt-ons and optimisation techniques that differs. *mumbles something about whetstone and dhrystone obs*


As to difference or lack thereof of architecture, I beg to differ. They both implement a core set comprising what is known as x86 instructions or opcodes. But, and that's a major or minor but depending on how you look at it, there are CPU specific codes that are not found common either a P4, PIII, PII, P, 486, 386 or AMD Athlon, duron, K6 and what have you. (Oh and PentiumPro). Why do I say that you say? If you open up any of the MSVisual Studio VC++ tools, from 4.0, 4.1, 4.2, 5.0, 6.0 or 7.0 (VS.NET), you should find under project settings, optimization for 486, PentiumPro etc. These are generic optimization via the consoles, and many more are under the hood through compiler flags or options.

Further, if you recall the earlier days of MMX enabled processors, AMD processors did not implement them, instead they have their own 3DNow multimedia enhancements. Forward to today, with Athlon and P4s (not really today technology, but anyway ... ), they do have some differences in architectures, be it in terms of their pipelining (Intel call theirs HyperThreading while AMD calls their ... what do they call theirs?? ) ... well, saving precious SDRAM space in my brain, here's a link ...
Your Processor, Your Compiler, and You: The Case of the Secret CPUID String
http://www.devx.com/amd/Article/28001

Now does that mean that there are two (or ten?) flavours of WindowsXP for each variant of Intel/AMD CPUs? No. For most part, the WindowsXP we see and interact with is really the presentation layer and application layer. Most of these code call system libraries which, for most part, again never talk to hardware directly, ie CPU, video cards, or sound cards etc. As far as WindowsXP is concerned, most apps goes through the GDI layer for graphics and its system core libraries for CPU stuffs. I know for a fact that the GDI layer is currently more optimized for new processors compared to the older GDI layer in pre-Win2k systems. Why? Consumer Graphics cards capable of alpha-blending appeared as early as the mid 90s and became common-place in late 90s, but only in Win2k did transparent windows become possible without serious tweaking. This capability is defacto ever since, including XP and even more so in LongHorn. In LongHorn, the entry system is supposed to require 3D graphics cards with at least 128MB ram (or something). This would allow the cool graphics UI that is supposed to blow users away and make them fork out money to upgrade!!

The point is that Windows (XP or otherwise) is written to fit into the lowest common denominator. In most cases, it will switch to use the more optimal code where available and possible. And in my opinion, that is also why for most part, Windows does not seem to run as fast on the same machine as linux, 'cos linux is almost always compiled for a particular processor whereas Windows (XP) works on any x86 compatible CPU, and performance depends greatly on the (raw) speed than cpu optimization.

So, I would say that depending on how you define CPU architecture, P4 and Athlon do implement different architectures, but share a similar core cpu set, known as the x86 architecture.

... now back to the question of upgrading ... as I mentioned, if you are really for longer lifespan in terms of software support, go for a J720. If not, a 790 ROM upgrade.

PS: Remember how certain apps would crash in AMD systems but run perfectly in Intel systems. There *are* differences in even how the x86-compatible architecture is being implemented. Of cos stabilities plays in, but is a different issue altogether.
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