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AMD or Intel, Now or later?
June 8, 2006 4:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to choose a new processor, and don't know which one to buy.

I am currently in the process of building a new computer for myself, and I'd like it to be my 'Dream Computer.' Pretty much I want to waste a lot of my hard earned money and make a really good computer. I've had enough experiance and can figure everything out, except the processors. I want a very fast chip (the faster the better) for gaming and video editing (more gaming), but I don't know enough about the architecture to be comfortable with picking one myself. Now, to boil it down to what I'm looking for: what is AMD's best chip, Intel's best chip, and which is better? Also, I hear that Intel is coming out with a new desktop chip soon. Should I wait for it, or buy a 'top of the line' right now? If you want, I also need a motherboard to go with it, so any suggestions would definately be appriciated. My end goal with this computer is to have it cost no more than $3000. Thanks!
posted by tdreyer1 to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Intel just announced that they are going to slash prices by 60% in order to help catch up with AMD. If I were you, I'd take some time to browse the gamer forums and do some research on the various chips while the prices drop.

Then build a decent, but not over-the-top system with a fraction of your money. Use your remaining money to progressively upgrade the system as games come out with new demands.

Be skeptical and avoid the hype.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2006


Intel's current processors (The Pentium Ds, etc) are space heaters. I would definitely not get one.
posted by zsazsa at 4:52 PM on June 8, 2006


Some sites that may be of help: The Tech Report, AnandTech, Tom's Hardware Guide.

Here's a very recent and quite comprehensive benchmark test comparing all the top processors on the market.

Right at the moment, if you want blazing speed and don't care about anything else, a dual Opteron seems to be the way to go. But these things change constantly as AMD and Intel keep releasing new system.

And keep in mind that no matter what you pick, it'll superseded by something else before you've got the system working.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:56 PM on June 8, 2006


And keep in mind that no matter what you pick, it'll superseded by something else before you've got the system working.

Well, that's a bit of an overstatement, new chips are usually released every six months or so.

When you say you want to spend "a lot" of money, what do you mean? I mean you could go out and buy a quad opteron, hardware RAID-5, etc but would you be willing to deal with a 10% performance drop in order to halve the price?
posted by delmoi at 5:03 PM on June 8, 2006


Dual Core Opterons are nice. I also like the nForce4 boards from Nvidia, many of which have RAID 5 and multiple PCI express slots.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 5:16 PM on June 8, 2006


Dual Core Opteron, nForce-4, as Mr. Gunn says. Best bang for the buck, bar none.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:37 PM on June 8, 2006


I love the opteron 175. It's the equivalent of the 4400 x2, but has a higher overclocking potential. I paid ~400 in december, I assume it's way cheaper than that now.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:47 PM on June 8, 2006


And more specifically. What I built:

opteron 175 oced to ~2300
Asus a8n32 SLI -Deluxe
2 gigs Corsair TWINX2048-3500LLPRO
2 7800 gtx's in SLI
2 250 gig Hitachi SATA 2 drives in Raid 0 (i like these drives, cheap, fast)
and 1 250 gig backup drive.

Bat out of hell machine. Works for DVD work and games.

If I could do it today, I'd tweak up the processor and get the 2 GPU 7950 gtx and save 300 bux
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:50 PM on June 8, 2006


Lord_Pall - I got my 175 in November, right after the price spike for around ~$500, and NewEgg is still asking $500 for it. Did you get an OEM unit?

The 175 has been a great CPU, but I use it in a Linux-MySQL server.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:53 PM on June 8, 2006


You can drive yourself nuts waiting for the next big thing. Wait for 2011 and you can get a carbon-based CPU.

That said, the most interesting advances slated for this summer (so far as this casual reader of tech news knows) are AMD's low-power AM2 chips, and Intel's Conroe and Merom -- the short-term emphasis from both companies seems to be advancing efficiency more than performance (though the Conroe XE should be an impressive performer.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 6:09 PM on June 8, 2006


From what I've read on ARS Technica forum, if you can afford to wait a couple of months, then wait for Intel's new conroe chips. They will be priced well ($150-$500 I believe) and kick even AMDs best chips by 15% or more from what benchmarks have been done.

This is coming from an AMD guy for the last couple years so I'm not an intel fanboy or whatever.

If you can't wait, an AMD Athlon 3800 x2 (socket 939) is a great chip and what I just bought. I feel the dual core is worth the extra money. Of course if you have alot to spend then the 4400 x2 is even better.

From what we have seen so far, the new AM2 socket isn't any better then the 939 socket but will future proof you more and allow you to use higher speed ram.
posted by meta87 at 6:23 PM on June 8, 2006


The Intel Conroe chip (Core 2 Duo) blows away dual core opterons and will be out in July. If you must make something now an overclocked Yonah chip is also faster than Opterons in most benchmarks.
My 2 cents.
posted by wolfkult at 6:51 PM on June 8, 2006


Wait for Conroe, it will be worth it.
posted by lucien at 6:57 PM on June 8, 2006


If you're going to run Windows (and it sounds like you are), you have to decide whether to wait for Vista. It's not all that clear whether you'll be able to do things like play next-generation DVDs in full resolution, or whether today's hardware will all be crippled by tomorrow's DRM.
posted by jepler at 7:22 PM on June 8, 2006


Lord Pall's setup is pretty ideal for gaming right now, and it's what I'd go with - obviously switch out the 7800s for 7900s, but other than that . . .
posted by Ryvar at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2006


SDB's links above are good, but keep in mind that Anandtech tends to lean AMD-ward, and Tom's Intel-ward.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:38 PM on June 8, 2006


It's been said, but wait for Conroe. It looks amazing.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:15 PM on June 8, 2006


I too have been reading from several sources that IBM is on the cusp of taking the lead back from AMD and have saved a few sites for reference: http://del.icio.us/BillyG/PC_Hardware

There are a few from June 2 that should help you out, including the DIY, the AMD 4x4, and more recent, the Conroe link. Don't forget about Vista's min. req's if you use Windows and that brings up some recent links from http://del.icio.us/BillyG/Vista that you may want to scan. G/L.
posted by BillyG at 7:53 AM on June 9, 2006


AnandTech's price guides are always useful, however they are a couple of months old.

The latest and greatest will always be just around the corner. If you're set on building a computer now, go with something that gives you good "bang for the buck" and be done with it. The guides on AT will give you a good idea where the sweet spot is. AMD has the best value and the cheapest dual core chips right now.

I just built an AMD system, but went with an AMD 3700+ (San Diego). In retrospect, I should have plunked down the extra 100 bucks to get a dual core chip, but I can't complain. It's overclocked from 2.2GHz to 2.95, air cooled, runs about 45C under load and is Prime stable for 24 hours (solid as a rock).

I can run FEAR at the highest settings at 1600x1200 and average 50FPS. I can run WoW at the highest settings with out a hiccup. I want to play these games _now_, so waiting for an Intel chip thats several months out wasn't an option.

DFI LAN Party expert board (probably would skip the Expert next time)
AMD San Diego 3700+ (Socket 939)
Zalmann CNPS9500
2. 1GB G.Skill GBHZ DDR500 memory
2x BFG 7900GTs SLI
Antec TruePower 550w
Antec case (Al cheapie I already had)

The whole rig plus monitor (Samsung 204t) cost me approx $2500. Newegg rocks. Spend as much as you can on a good moniter, worth every penny. Good luck.
posted by kableh at 8:19 AM on June 9, 2006


tdreywer1,

With questions like these, it's important to realize that people are rarely objective when discussing AMD vs. Intel so be sure to take each recomendation with a grain of salt and do some of your own research by looking at benchmarks and the like.

With that said a lot of people have mentioned the Intel Conroe. From the benchmarks and reviews I have read, this processor is going to be a beast.
posted by Paul KC at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2006


The number have been on AMD's side for a long time. Intel's big push with the P4 burned a lot of people - they were awful, awful chips for the first few revs. The RAMBUS fiasco didn't help things, either.

You can evaluate these chips objectively (within the limits of the test methodology), and that's what the more reputable hardware review sites do. Objectively, AMD has been the performance/dollar leader for a long time, but Intel is poised to take the lead with their next generation of chips. When they come out. And when they are available for retail sales.

Anandtech covers the question of whether or not to upgrade quite well in their recent Buyer's Guide.
posted by kableh at 10:05 AM on June 9, 2006


From a friend of mine:
Everything I read says as of today, AMD, (Opteron or X2), but if you wait a couple months, Intel’s Conroe should be some kind of impressive. I’m guessing Conroe will be really expensive, and by the end of the year, Intel will still ship more of the current architecture than Conroe – changing the fabs takes time.
posted by mmascolino at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2006


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