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PCBUILD  May 2004

PCBUILD May 2004

Subject:

Re: AMD XP vs Pentium 4

From:

John Sproule <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PCBUILD - Personal Computer Hardware discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 11 May 2004 20:35:21 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (103 lines)

Which motherboard and processor combo will be the best choice for you will
depend  alot on how you will be using your system.  Trying to answer your
question is also confused by the different model Athlon XPs and Pentium 4s
available.  And, we haven't even gotten to the different chipset supporting
these various processors.  ;-)

So, at this point, I'll just try to sketch out some of the pros and cons for
these various processors, along with some mention of chipsets, and perhaps
follow up with more detail if you provide some more specifics about what you
are looking to do with your new computer.

Pentium 4 models running on the 800 MHz bus (actually 200 MHz with an
"effective speed" of 800 MHz) along with an Intel chipset, either the 865 or
the 875, are probably the best combination for performance, reliability, and
compatability.  These 800 MHz bus models seem to be significantly faster
than the previous 533 MHz bus models, probably because they are supported by
PC 3200 memory and because all the 800 MHz models also have the Intel's
Hyperthreading technology. So, if you are looking for speed and stability
without wanting to have to worry alot about whether this or that add-on PCI
card will work well with your system, this is the way to go.  You'll pay
more for this choice, but if you just want to build it and then forget it, I
think this is the best option.

If performance is of no real concern, ie you'll just be checking email, web
browsing, and typing up stuff with Word, then a Celeron processor will be a
good way to save some money while still being able to take advantage of the
stability and compatability of Intel chipset based motherboards.  You could
even look to an 845E chipset to save a bit more money, since you won't need
the 800 MHz bus speed capability.  Upgrading to a regular Pentium 4 later is
also an option.  The Pentium 4 based Celeron are severely hobbled by their
low bus speeds, limited amount of internal cache, and increased latency or
internal memory timings.  If you run any programs that push your CPU usage
up above 50 % for more than a brief moment, I think you'll be disappointed
by this processor's performance.

The Athlon XP provides a nice alternative to the Celeron in the getting more
bang for your buck department.  It also seems to have more appeal to the
"Enthusiast" computer user, probably because of it's relatively low price,
compared to the Pentium 4 and the potential for overclocking.  AMD, who
makes the Athlon, does not manufacture chipsets supporting this processor,
which I've always felt to be the weak link in a system based on AMD
processors.  VIA and Nvidia are the big names in makers of chipsets
supporting the Athlon XP (though SiS also makes Athlon chipsets).  If I were
to rate Intel chipsets as generally excellent, I'd have to rate chipsets
from VIA and Nvidia as Good to Very Good.  For someone putting to together
just a basic machine to do basic computing tasks, I think that they will be
satisfied with an Athlon system built around a VIA or Nvidia chipset, using
a motherboard from a top tier manufacturer.  A more demanding computer user
is more likely to uncover some of the weakness in stability and
compatability that may surface with some of these motherboards.  If this
person is also an enthusiast, they probably won't mind so much tracking to
down the right combination of components, BIOS updates, drivers, etc. to get
the most out of one of these systems, but not every computer user enjoys
this kind of troubleshooting.

Note that there are several versions of the Athlon XP 2600.  There is the
older Thorougbred core, which is clocked at 2.08 GHz and has 256 KB of L2
cache, and there is the Barton based core, which is clocked at 1.9 GHz but
has 512 KB of L2 cache onboard.  There also is a mobile version of this
chip, which is very popular with the overclocking enthusiasts, largely
because it still has an unlocked multiplier (AMD started locking their
multipliers soon after they released the Barton based Athlon XPs).

The socket A Athlon XPs are being superceded by the newer Athlon 64 XPs,
which are generally much better performers, closer to being on par with the
Pentium 4s running on the 800 MHz bus.  This may largely be due to the fact
that the AMD has built the memory controller into the processor, so they no
longer have to depend on some chipset maker to get that important interface
right.  Although these Athlon 64s are readily available now, AMD is moving
to a new socket for supporting these processors in the near future, so
current Athlon 64 motherboards will not support future, higher speed Athlon
64s.

Intel is also getting ready to release new chipsets and new sockets for
their line of processors.  Although many current motherboards support the
latest "Prescott" Pentium 4s, it looks like these upcoming newer chipsets
will be better optimized for this new Pentium 4 core.  (Currently, with
today's motherboards, I don't see a big advantage to the Prescott core over
the older Northwood core.  This should change with future, higher speed
models, since the whole point of the new Prescott core is to allow Intel to
continue to ramp up the clock speeds of their processors.)

John

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Eisenstadt" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, May 10, 2004 11:34 AM
Subject: [PCBUILD] AMD XP vs Pentium 4


> I intend to assemble a new computer. I mean to buy
> a motherboard processor combo, probably an Asus.
>
> I have been thinking of getting an Athlon XP 2600+
> but I am curious whether one or another Pentium 4
> or Celeron of comparable speed might be a better
> choice in terms of price.

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