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PC Buyers Guide - July 2002 - Processors

With so many items for sale in the markets, it can sometimes be difficult to decide what's hot and what's not. Come join Nick Swan as he brings us another installment of the TweakTown Buyer's Guide. There are some new toys out there, but we'll try to see which ones deserve a place within our own special systems. Come check it out!

| Guides | Posted: Jul 3, 2002 4:00 am

Processors

 

- Intel Pentium 4 2.53GHz/133MHz FSB (Northwood)

 

Times on list: 2

 

Intel's website for this product

 

 

Intel's rise back to the top of the CPU ladder took a long time, as the P4 Willamette certainly wasn't the world's fastest processor. 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 (100MHz 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.

 

The next evolution of the P4 Northwood was the move to a FSB (Front Side Bus) of 133MHz, quad pumped, which gives a very handy 533MHz effective. The 133MHz FSB version P4 has become a lot easier to find in retail shops since last guide, so I have decided to include the processor. These processors come in 2.4 and 2.53GHz varieties, and the 2.53GHz is obviously the one of choice for a power user. However, to run these new processors at their default speed, you will need to own a new i850E, or i845E/G motherboard. These are also becoming much easier to find in the marketplace. To go with the new i850E motherboard, which will give the best performance of the three new options, you need to buy PC1066 RDRAM. This is, unfortunately, extremely hard to buy (will explain later). However, since this is the top of the line section, I have still gone with an i850E board with PC1066 RDRAM which will give the absolute best performance possible with this CPU.

 

The change from the Willamette to the Northwood core worked wonders for Intel and the Pentium 4 regained the speed crown, although not by too much. The move to the new 133MHz FSB has moved the Pentium 4 even further in front of the Athlon XP. Without PC1066 RDRAM, the new P4 can't take full benefit of the increased bus speed, but using DDR RAM still gives a handy performance increase. The move to a 133MHz FSB has also allowed Intel to increase processor speeds by 133MHz instead of 100MHz. This is now double the speed increase's AMD makes when it releases new processors. This new, larger MHz increase will allow the P4 to jump even further ahead of AMD in the future. Talking of the future, the new AMD Athlon XP based on the Thoroughbred core is going to be released relitively soon, but it has no additions other than a 0.13 micron die size. While this allows AMD to scale the CPU higher, it also means the chip will perform the same as a similarly clocked XP (Palomino), which means AMD won't be catching up to Intel on the speed scale just yet. In fact, AMD looks to be in trouble until the Hammer CPU is released.

 

- Find the best price on Intel Pentium 4 2.53GHz (Northwood 'B')!

 

- AMD Athlon XP 1900+

 

Times on list: 3

 

AMD's website for this product

 

 

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 1900+ because of its excellent price/performance ratio. The extra speed in this processor, compared to the 1800+ here last time, is a measly 66MHz. However, the price has dropped, and a 1900+ can be found for a few measly dollars more than the 1800+, making it an excellent choice. The performance of the 1900+ isn't that far behind the 2100+ and it costs half as much. 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.

 

One thing to note is the release of the Athlon XP based on the Thoroughbred core. This processor only has a die shrink to 0.13 microns, but its introduction should reduce the price of other AMD chips. It may be worth waiting a few weeks or a month until the Thoroughbred has hit the stores.

 

- Find the best price on AMD Athlon XP 1900+!

 

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