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Processor Selection 101

Dual Core Processors For Low-Power, High-Performance Desktops
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Most people would never try to buy a car without first doing their homework, but many do exactly that when it comes to their computer's processor. In the past, selecting a processor was a fairly simple affair, but finding the best model is increasingly difficult these days; understanding the technology requires a lot of reading. Both AMD and Intel offer multiple product lines, each carrying different model names and numbers that are hard to understand intuitively. The following table will give you a rough overview of what is currently available:

  AMD Intel
Current desktop processors Sempron (single core)1
Athlon 64 (single core)
Athlon 64 X2 (dual core) both for Socket 939
Celeron D (single core)1
Pentium 4 6x1 (single core)
Pentium D 900 (dual core) both for Socket 775
Current mobile processors Turion 64 ML series (single core, max. 35 W)
Turion 64 MT series (single core, max. 25 W) both for Socket 754
Pentium M (single core)
Core Solo (single core)
Core Duo (dual core) all for Socket 479
1 These are low-cost processors that we do not recommend buying.

Note that all processor families consist of multiple versions that usually run at different clock speeds, but a different model number may also indicate a different feature set. An AMD Turion 64 MT is more efficient than a 64 ML, but technically equivalent and equally fast. However, the Athlon 64 3800+ and Athlon 64 X2 3800+ are different - single versus dual core - and work at different clock speeds. In the Intel world, a Pentium 4 500 with a model ending in a "1" supports 64 bit extensions, while with the Pentium 4 600 line, the last digit being "1" means that it is a 65 nm processors.

Quick Facts (April 2006)
Most efficient dual core processor Intel Core Duo
Most efficient single core processor AMD Turion 64 or Intel Pentium M
Fastest single core processor AMD Athlon 64 FX-57
Fastest dual core processor AMD Athlon 64 FX-60
Cheapest dual core processor Intel Pentium D 805
Cheapest single core processor AMD Sempron

The following tables include all AMD and Intel processors that are currently available and will fit in suitable desktop platforms. All you require is a motherboard with Socket 754 (Turion 64) or Socket 479 (first or second generation, depending on whether or not you want to use Core Duo). All these motherboards are bundled with a suitable processor cooler.

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