Great CPU, or the greatest cpu?
May 4, 2004 10:49 AM   Subscribe

AMD or Intel? I'm calling on the collective to abandon corporate loyalties and reveal unto me a true assessment. Even the mighty Tom has no clear answer. For the home-user who wants to avoid obsolescence for the next 18 months, which of these two companies' processing products offers the best bang for my buck? Or more specifically, for my $180 or less? [MI]

I need to upgrade. I know that only so much of my current system is salvageable (the GeForce 4 5200 video card is new, the CD-RW can be re-used, possibly the harddrive as a secondary), so this means a new case, new primary harddrive, new motherboard, and a new processor. I've been researching for months as I've been saving my nickels and dimes. My head is spinning with cache sizes and front-side busses. "Intel has a higher running speed, but AMD is more efficient and therefore faster." AAAAAH.....!!!

I'm making my purchase in about two or three weeks. My budget is about $180 for the CPU, though I'd like to pay less. Any assistance will be appreciated.
posted by grabbingsand to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Tom's Hardware is a payola biased site. HardOCP and AnandTech are better, that being said, right now you should go for either Intel Pentium 4/ 2.8C GHz 800MHz FSB, 512K Cache, $178 or AMD Athlon 64 3000+, 512KB L2 Cache 64-bit Processor at $223 (prices from Newegg).

I, myself went with AMD 64 3200+ after spending a lot of time thinking I'd get the P4 2.8C because I wanted to run a quieter but fast computer, and AMD served my needs in the speed dept, and the quiet dept with their Cool & Quiet feature, the 64 bit was just added bonus.

Either AMD or Intel is fine honestly, AMd motherboard prices are slightly cheaper than Intel's so when you add the cost of motherboard and CPU both should come out to about the same.

For now avoid Intel P4 E editions, because they're not yet perfected, go for the C version.
posted by riffola at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2004

I dunno. You think 64-bit systems are all hype, or do you think they'll take off? If they are the new wave, check into the new AMD chips -- confident that you'll stave off obsolesence for a few extra months (though it'll be awhile for software to catch up). If not, Pentium has some mighty sweet deals.

The gang here convinced me to go AMD -- and I'm willing to bank on their collective wisdom. In fact, I just did.

Of course, that $180 limit might be, er ... limiting.
posted by RavinDave at 11:01 AM on May 4, 2004

I should say that I think Tom's gets payola, anyway the general consesus by many is that it's a biased site.
posted by riffola at 11:02 AM on May 4, 2004

Tom's is a pretty biased site - stick with Anandtech or Tech Report. Generally speaking when you say the phrase 'bang for your buck' you're speaking the language of AMD, not Intel. Traditionally Intel is for people who have a lot of money they want to blow on the 'ultimate' PC (or who are using Xeon chips to build servers), but with AMD having the clear 64-bit lead right now, they've got both the low and high ends pretty effectively cornered right now.

Go with AMD.

And no, 64-bit systems are not all hype - they're not even a little hype. As the technology is increasingly utilized you'll be seeing 20-30% performance gains from it.
posted by Ryvar at 11:18 AM on May 4, 2004

Response by poster: Of course, that $180 limit might be, er ... limiting.

So's my budget, hence my limit. :)

Thanks so far. Keep it up. This is what I've been needing.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2004

Be sure to check SharkyExtreme's Weekly CPU Price Guide, which can help you get the best bang for your buck. I too say go with an Athlon (64 or otherwise). Unless you have a specific reason to go with Intel, there's no reason not to pick AMD.
posted by falconred at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2004

I'm still using and still very happy with my 3 year old AMD Athlon-950. I like it better (for games, mainly) than the P4-1400 I got slightly later.

The only downside is that it runs hot, hot enough to be an issue during the summer. And the fan's kinda loud. Ok, our two downsides...
posted by alex_reno at 11:35 AM on May 4, 2004

I'm not sure you can assure 18 months of non-obsolescence with either AMD or Intel. That said, I'm with RavinDave on 64-bit, with the added caveat that your motherboard choices are smaller with 64-bit, at least for now (but it should buy you more time if that's what you're looking for). I'd go AMD, even if you go 32-bit, like most of the people here have recommended.
posted by tommasz at 12:12 PM on May 4, 2004

alex_reno there's a reason for that - because Pentium 4s have extremely long instruction pipelines, when they mispredict a branch (that is, the result of an if-then statement), the entire instruction pipeline has to be cleared and this can cause significant slowdown.

Because of this Pentium 4s such as the 1.4GHz models can, under the most unfavorable circumstances, perform nearly as slowly as a 200MHz Pentium *1* - granted it never gets this bad in the real world, but this gives you an idea of how badly the works can be gummed up.

The reason Intel made this decision is that the changes to the overall design of the processor that came with the extremely long instruction pipeline also allowed them to rev the clockspeed WAY up - far beyond what AMD was capable of doing with their more traditional approach to processors. This was basically a marketing ploy because the smaller performance with higher clockspeed made the processors sound faster than they actually performed - AMD doesn't have a processor that runs at 3.4GHz, Intel does. What AMD does have, however, is a processor running at 2.x GHz that performs roughly on par with that 3.4GHz Intel. Hence AMD adopting the 'Athlon XP 3200+' nomenclature, instead of outright declaring the clockspeed explicitly.
posted by Ryvar at 12:34 PM on May 4, 2004

I think the 64-bit AMD thing is overhyped severely, unless you have access to Windows for 64-bit machines.

I'd say go for a 2.8 GHz P4. ZipZoomFly has them for $177, including free 2-day shipping. Or just shop around.

Prices at the componant dealers stay around the same, so you need to look for shipping details, and vendors that won't charge sales tax to ship to your state.
posted by benjh at 12:37 PM on May 4, 2004

I think the 64-bit AMD thing is overhyped severely, unless you have access to Windows for 64-bit machines.

The original question did specifically point towards forward-compatible solutions and, rightly or wrongly, consumer 64-bit systems are the forseeable future of desktop computing.
posted by Danelope at 3:28 PM on May 4, 2004

AMD. I used to run Intels in all the machines I used at home, or set up for other people. Then I tried out an AMD XP 2700+ with a Gigabyte mobo, and haven't looked back - 12 months on, and it's still a fantastic CPU.
posted by cheaily at 6:16 PM on May 4, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. As it sits now, I'm probably going with the newish AMD Athlon 64 2800+ (Newcastle), as it seems to have the speed and longevity I want within my budget.
posted by grabbingsand at 8:21 PM on May 4, 2004

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