Year End CPU Buying Guide
A couple of more sources for the latest on processors. I’m thinking about spending $1,000 to upgrade two machines I have that are currently Pentium III 450Mhz and 550MHz if you can believe that (state of the art four years ago with 256MB at 133MHz and 8GB hard disk on one and 500GB on the other). So that means upgrading to a midrange system. The choices are large thanks to Intel’s Pentium 4 and AMD Athlon XP and 64. Here’s an analysis, but the basic conclusion is that for budget systems, an Athlon 2500+ or 2800+ with 512MB of PC3200 memory has the best price performance. Then it is as far as egos and pocketbooks go.
CPU Scorecard – PC CPU Benchmarks, News, Prices and Reviews. A cool site that summarizes processor benchmarks across the Internet. HAs a scorecard that is interesting to look at as well. The site seems slightly out of date, but is super well organized in explaining the technical differences between the many processors.
“Tom’s Hardware”:http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20031223/index.html. Just did a year end CPU buying guide, so you can figure out the sweetspot pricepoints:
* “CPUs at a glance”:http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20031223/images/image1_big.gif. The largest table ever, but it has every fact (including the codenames) for every processor around pretty much.
* AMD Athlon XP is now at a deadend. but very inexpensive. Right now the pricing curves are $85 for 2500+, $136 for 2800+ and $205 for 3000+. Also motherboards are very inexpensive. Given its ability to overclock, its a good idea to buy a cheap processor splurge on memory. An Athlon 2600+ at $100 running at 2.3GHz instead of its normal 1.9GHz is about 20% faster and competes with the Pentium 4 2.8GHz costing $213.
* AMD Athlon 64. The budget model right now is the 3000+ at $220. Since I’m not buying a whole box, we’re just talking about “motherboard”:http://www.tomshardware.com/motherboard/20031201/index.html replacement. Nice thing is that is has Quiet & Cool technology to make it run super quietly if you have the right motherboard (MSI K8T Neo or the ASUS K8V Deluxe)
* Overclocking. The Athlon XPs are good at it. The so called Barton cores can support up to 2.3GHz so an Athlon 2600+ at $100 is a good buy. You have to buy faster memory though to do this.
* “Price/Performance”:http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20031223/cpu-guide-21.html. They do a nice analysis of price performance given the very unequal pricing for CPU, motherboard and memory. Not surprisingly the Athlon XP comes out very well particularly the XP 2800+ and below then the Pentium 2.6 and 2.8.
* “Time Savings”:http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/20031223/cpu-guide-21.html. They also asked how much time would you save on multimedia applications if you bought various systems. You could save up to 35% of your time with a Pentium 4 3.2GHz, 20% with an Athon XP 3200+ vs. the lowly Athlon XP 2600+
“PureOC”:http://www.pureoc.com/amdxp2500_1.asp. Overclocking is a way to get price performance at the cost of stability. Interesting to see one man’s experiment. Take the cheapest Barton Athlon, the XP 2500+ which costs about $80 and see how fast it can go. The basic point is that as you overclock the FSB, you also have to increase the voltage on the processor. Most bios let you do that. Plus you need good cooling. Here’s what he found:
| Speed | Voltage | Temperature | Memory DDR | Heatsink | Comment |
| 1.8 GHz | 1.65V | 46C | 400MHz |Stock AMD | Using PC3200 ram |
| 2GHz | 1.7V | 46C | 420MHz | Stock AMD | Requires PC 3500 ram |
| 2.159 GHz | 1.75V | 52C | 431.75MHz | Thermalright SLK-800 ($45) | 10x Multiplier |
| 2.319 GHz | 1.825V | 48-50C | 421.79MHz | Thermalright SLK-800 ($45)| 11x multiplier |
“Tweaktown”:http://www.tweaktown.com/document.php?dType=article&dId=519 and “Motherboards.org”:http://www.motherboards.org/articlesd/hardware-reviews/1275_1.html did a review of coolers and liked the ThermalTake SilentBoost. It’s very quiet which is nice as well and not expensive at “$27”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=1365093/blsrt=1/ut=0ce41693ae1ec9b4 at Pricegrabber.com
“OCFAQ”:http://www.ocfaq.com/categories.php/overclocking has an incredible knowledge base for folks who want to know more about overclocking.
“Motherboards Scorecard”:http://www.motherboards.org/rank/AMD/total/motherboard-rank.html has a terrific scorecard summary. The ASUS A7N8X got a nice review in “Motherboards”:http://www.motherboards.org/articlesd/motherboard-reviews/1237_1.html and costs only “$113”:http://www.pricegrabber.com/search_getprod.php/masterid=659525/blsrt=1/ut=0ce41693ae1ec9b4 right now. The ASUS A7N8X-X is only $72. Other high scorers were the Abit AT7-Max2 and the Gigabyte GA-7VAXP.