- Intel Pentium 4 2.80GHz/133MHz FSB (Northwood)
Times on list: 2
Ever since AMD released the original Athlon, Intel has been behind AMD, or only just keeping up. The only time Intel had any real advantage over AMD was when they released the P4 Willamette 2.0GHz, and AMD only had the Thunderbird 1.4GHz on the market. After the Athlon XP was released, AMD once again took the performance crown by quite a margin, and Intel was left in its wake with its P4 Willamette. However, Intel's rise back to the top of the CPU ladder came with the release of the Northwood cored Pentium 4. The Northwood cored P4 introduced two main things - double the case size, and an increase in the FSB speed. The cache went from 256KB to 512KB, running at the CPU speed, and on some Northwood variants, the FSB went from 100MHz quad pumped to 133MHz quad pumped. The improvement in these two areas went a long way to bridge the performance gap between the two competing processors, and when Intel started to ramp up the speed of the Northwood core to 2.4GHz+, AMD hasn't been able to respond. Thus, the fastest performing CPU's at this time all come from the Intel fab plant. In previous press releases by AMD, they have claimed they have the fastest performing desktop CPU (this was a theme of the XP2600+ release), but remember that this CPU is not actually available at the current moment, nor is the CPU that it was released with, the XP2400+. On October 1, AMD released the XP2700/2800+ CPU's, which do indeed have enough power to take it up with the Pentium 4 2.8GHz CPU, partly due to AMD raising the FSB speed of the Athlon XP to 166MHz DDR. But there is a problem with the new 2700+ and 2800+ CPU's - you can't buy them, and won't be able to for quite a while. In the meantime, The Pentium 4 from Intel holds the speed crown by quite a margin, so obviously it's going to be the performance processor of choice. Currently, there are about six P4's that will perform better than AMD's XP2200+ (their current top performing processor that you can buy), which are the P4 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6GHz on the 100MHz quad pumped FSB (mind you, I have never seen a 2.6GHz/400 P4 for sale, but I am told they exist), and the 2.4, 2.53, 2.66 and 2.8GHz on the 133MHz quad pumped FSB. The choice of which processor is really up to your wallet. If you're after the absolute best performance, I would certainly go for the 2.8GHz, but if your looking to save some money, I would look at the 2.53GHz P4. They have come down in price quite a bit lately (62% price drop on that product about a month ago), and thus represent an excellent speed/value ratio. This processor should also overclock quite well, but if you're into overclocking, I would either purchase the P4 2.66GHz, which is based on the new C1 stepping, or wait for the P4 2.53 C1, which is said to begin production on October 4 and will probably make retail stores at the start of November.
To take advantage of the new 133MHz quad pumped FSB, as well as to have the ability to actually support the new, high frequency P4's, you will need to have a motherboard based on one of Intel's i845E/G or i850E chipsets, SiS 648 or 645DX chipset, or VIA's problem-plagued P4X400 chipset. Apart from having one of these new chipset motherboards, I would make sure you have a decent power supply as the P4 can be a bit more demanding on your PSU. If you're not into overclocking, a 350W or more PSU, from a decent brand should be fine.
So the choice is yours, but remember, don't be fooled by AMD's processor releases - you can't buy them, so just think of it as if they don't exist.
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- AMD Athlon XP 1900+
Times on list: 4
At lower clock speeds, the Athlon XP still rules over the Pentium 4, so it is a definite inclusion in the value section of this guide.
The Athlon XP (Palomino) was the processor released after the Thunderbird by AMD and was quite heavily redesigned. A lot of things were changed, but the things that stayed were the 266MHz FSB (133MHz DDR), 128KB of L1 cache and the 256KB L2 cache. The things that were introduced centered on the hyped QuantiSpeed Architecture, which is basically a name given to special things the processor has that lead to it being able to carry out more instructions per clock cycle (IPC). This boils down to it doing things like Hardware data prefetching, which gives it the ability to do more IPC's per clock cycle. This then leads to the slightly confusing PR rating system. The PR system is designed to show users what the performance of the processor is really like, as most people who purchase a CPU think the more megahertz, the more speed. An example is my XP 1600+ processor. The processor is actually running at 1400MHz, but because it can carry out more IPC's than a P4, AMD thinks its performance is equal to a P4 running at 1600MHz. This actually holds out to be fairly true, and is usually underestimated!
Anyway, why did I choose this processor? The choice of processors is only really between the Athlon XP's, as at lower clock speeds they easily account for the comparative Pentium 4. I chose the XP 1900+ because of its excellent price/performance ratio. The performance of the 1900+ isn't that far behind the 2200+ and is quite a bit cheaper, so you're not missing out on much performance-wise, but still saving a few dollars. Add to that the above average overclocking ability of the 1900+ and you have yourself a winner, especially when placed with the right motherboard and RAM.
About a month ago, AMD released what it called the fastest performing processors available, which were the XP 2400+ and 2600+. On October 1, AMD released the 2700+ and 2800+, which were, amazingly, released before the 2400+ and 2600+ made it into the retail channels. While they are decent and very fast processors, AMD really needs to get their act together when releasing new products. So, if you're looking to buy an AMD processor, don't be fooled. The XP2200+ is the fastest you can buy right now and the 1900+ is probably the best value.
Feature-wise, the new 2700+ and 2800+ have the updated Thoroughbred B core which allows the CPU to scale a lot higher and have lower heat output, and of course overclock better, and even more importantly, the new CPU's run on a 166MHz DDR FSB. This means you will need a KT333, KT400 or nForce 2 board to run these chipsets at the right speed. The increase in FSB speed has given the processors a nice performance boost, which has meant they can keep up with the P4 2.8GHz running DDR 333. However, they won't be here before Christmas in all likelihood, so I wouldn't hold my breath (and Intel should have the P4 3.06GHz on the market by then).
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