Cyrix/IBM 6x86 (M1) and 6x86MX (MII)

The Cyrix 6x86 processor family consists of the now-discontinued 6x86 and the newer 6x86MX processors. They are similar to the AMD-K5 and K6 in that they offer sixth-generation internal designs in a fifth-generation P5 Pentium-compatible Socket 7 exterior.

The Cyrix 6x86 and 6x86MX (renamed MII) processors incorporate two optimized superpipelined integer units and an on-chip floating-point unit. These processors include the dynamic execution capability that is the hallmark of a sixth-generation CPU design. This includes branch prediction and speculative execution.

The 6x86MX/MII processor is compatible with MMX technology to run MMX games and multimedia software. With its enhanced memory-management unit, a 64KB internal cache, and other advanced architectural features, the 6x86MX processor achieves higher performance and offers better value than competitive processors.

Features and benefits of the 6x86 processors include

  • Superscalar architecture. Two pipelines to execute multiple instructions in parallel

  • Branch prediction. Predicts with high accuracy the next instructions needed

  • Speculative execution. Enables the pipelines to continuously execute instructions following a branch without stalling the pipelines

  • Out-of-order completion. Lets the faster instruction exit the pipeline out of order, saving processing time without disrupting program flow

The 6x86 incorporates two caches: a 16KB dual-ported unified cache and a 256-byte instruction line cache. The unified cache is supplemented with a small, quarter-K-size, high-speed, fully associative instruction line cache. The improved 6x86MX design quadruples the internal cache size to 64KB, which significantly improves performance.

The 6x86MX also includes the 57 MMX instructions that speed up the processing of certain computing-intensive loops found in multimedia and communication applications.

All 6x86 processors feature support for SMM. This provides an interrupt that can be used for system power management or software transparent emulation of I/O peripherals. Additionally, the 6x86 supports a hardware interface that enables the CPU to be placed into a low-power suspend mode.

The 6x86 is compatible with x86 software and all popular x86 operating systems, including Windows 95/98/Me, Windows NT/2000, OS/2, DOS, Solaris, and Unix. Additionally, the 6x86 processor has been certified Windows 95 compatible by Microsoft.

As with the AMD-K6, there are some unique motherboard and BIOS requirements for the 6x86 processors. The 6x86 processor has been discontinued since Cyrix was absorbed into VIA, but the 6x86MX (MII) design is still sold and supported by VIA.

Check motherboard compatibility with the 6x86MX or MII processors before integrating one into an existing Socket 7/Super 7 system. A BIOS update might be necessary in some cases. When installing or configuring a system with the 6x86 processors, you have to set the correct motherboard bus speed and multiplier settings.

The Cyrix processors are numbered based on a P-Rating scale, which is not the same as the true megahertz clock speed of the processor. Note that because of the use of the P-Rating system, the actual speed of the chip is not the same number at which it is advertised.

For example, the 6x86MX-PR300 is not a 300MHz chip; it actually runs at only 263MHz or 266MHz, depending on exactly how the motherboard bus speed and CPU clock multipliers are set. Cyrix says it runs as fast as a 300MHz Pentium, hence the P-Rating.

To install the 6x86 processors in a motherboard, you also must set the correct voltage. Normally, the markings on top of the chip indicate which voltage setting is appropriate. Various versions of the 6x86 run at 3.52V (use VRE setting), 3.3V (VR setting), or 2.8V (MMX) settings. The MMX versions use the standard split-plane 2.8V core 3.3V I/O settings. The Cyrix MII is now sold by VIA Technologies.