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As we closed up our tests of the Dual Core Athlon 64 X2 from AMD, our conclusions were positive. With two processor cores on one chip, slow-moving computers are a thing of the past: multi-threaded applications run faster, as if the clock rate were boosted. But despite this trouble-free and powerful technology, AMD over-reached itself.
The previous "starter chip" in the X2 family was the Athlon 64 X2 4200+. Even with best-deal single-unit costs of $560 or so, this is a chip in demand by the market - in fact, many retailers continue to charge $600 or more for this model. This not only set a new ceiling for AMD pricing, but is out of reach for most users. In fact, the top-of-the-line X2 4800+ goes for over $1,100! That's why we aired critical observations about cost in our initial X2 article - AMD has prospered in the past from its exceptional skills at balancing price and performance.
It's a good thing for AMD that the X2's chief competitor, the Intel Pentium D processor, not only runs noticeably slower but also earns bad marks for high power consumption. But it also offers exceptional performance to modern, multi-threaded applications. Where processor-intensive workloads are concerned, Pentium 4 models with Hyper-Threading have already earned glowing reviews. The dual core Pentium D kicks those abilities up to a higher level.
But our comparisons of the two families were based on technical considerations, with particular emphasis on performance capabilities. That said, you can buy a Pentium D 820 for under $300 nowadays. The prospect of getting an Intel for half the cost can make even die-hard AMD enthusiasts question their loyalty. After all, even the slowest dual-core processor can give 007's latest high-tech gadgets a serious run for their money, whether they are from Intel or AMD.
It looks like AMD has taken this criticism to heart - in a big way. They now offer a new entry-level dual core model, the Athlon 64 X2 3800+, which is available for under $400 on the open market, with bottom-dollar pricing yet to be settled. This sounds much better to us already!