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PC Buyers Guide - 29th April 2002 - Processors

When it comes to buying new hardware for your beloved system, those who aren't entirely up-to-date on all the latest news or what's Hot or Not often need a bit of guidance to make an informed decision on their all important purchases. In what will be a guide which is updated every two weeks by our newest writer Nick Swan, we present you with the first installment of our PC Buyers Guide.

| Guides | Posted: Apr 29, 2002 4:00 am

Processors

 

- Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (Northwood)

 

 

Many of the people reading this will surely be surprised, if not shocked, that an Intel processor is being recommended as the top of the line product. The original Pentium 4 (Willamette) couldn't keep up with AMD produced processors, and some of the lower clocked P4's were being beaten by Pentium 3's in certain applications. When the Athlon XP was released, the P4 Willamette fell even further behind, and Intel had to do something. Their answer was the Pentium 4 Northwood. The Northwood is essentially the same as a Willamette, so it supports the 400MHz FSB (100 Quad-Pumped), SSE2 and runs in Socket 478 format. But Intel has added an additional 256KB of L2 Cache to give a total of 512KB, and a die shrink to 0.13micron core. These changes have worked wonders for Intel, and the Pentium 4 has regained the speed crown, although not by too much. The extra cache has really allowed the P4 to catch up to, and then pass the Athlon XP's performance. The die shrink has reduced voltage requirements, and thus heat, which gives Intel the ability to scale the chip higher, and that means that overclocking is much, much easier. Talking of Northwood overclocking, the 1.6GHz variant is almost certainly guaranteed to overclock to 2GHz +, and the 2.4GHz model can get past 2.6GHz with decent cooling. The downside of this chip? The price! AUD$1400...ouch! However, this section is the top of the line processor, so money isn't an issue.

 

- Find the best price on Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz (Northwood)!

 

- AMD Athlon XP 1800+

 

 

Thankfully for us Athlon lovers, all versions of the P4 are beaten by the Athlon XP at lower clock speeds. 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 1800+ because of its excellent price/performance ratio. The performance of the 1800+ isn't that far behind the 2100+ (currently the fastest AMD processor) and it costs half as much. Add to that the above average overclocking ability of the 1800+ and you have yourself a winner, especially when placed with the right motherboard and ram.

 

- Find the best price on AMD Athlon XP 1800+!

 

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