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This paper evaluates the use of pin and cycle accurate SystemC models for embedded system design exploration and early software development. The target system is the MicroBlaze VanillaNet Platform running MicroBlaze uClinux operating system. The paper compares register transfer level (RTL) hardware description language (HDL) simulation speed to the simulation speed of several different SystemC models. It is shown that simulation speed of pin and cycle accurate models can go up to 150 kHz, compared to the 100 Hz range of HDL simulation. Furthermore, utilising techniques that temporarily compromise cycle accuracy, effective simulation speed of up to 500 kHz can be obtained.