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AMD's and Intel's End-of-Year CPU Buyer's Guide

Buying A CPU: Performance Vs. Falling Prices

Seen objectively, when choosing a CPU you should make sure it can always supply the computing power you need plus reserves for future tasks. These CPUs are generally available at a reasonable price.

From an economic viewpoint, the fastest and costliest processors only make sense if the extra performance really results in clear time gains for resource-intensive activities, for example, when large scenarios have to be rendered - a procedure that can take minutes or even hours.

Fair warning to all other users: because of their high prices, processors such as the Athlon64 FX 51 and the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition are primarily aimed at enthusiasts who don't need to count pennies. In this article, we reveal which particular processor models are worth considering.

The Platform: Socket A, Socket 478, Socket 754, Socket 940

These days, the general choice of a platform is not simply between AMD and Intel because today's processors call for different sockets.

This issue is resolved most cleanly in Intel systems, since Socket 478 continues to dominate in desktop computing. It's been around since the beginning of 2002 and will continue to form the basis for faster Intel processors in the coming months.

AMD, on the other hand, created two new sockets at once when it launched its 64 bit Athlon: Socket 754 for the Athlon64 and Socket 940 for the Athlon64 FX and the Opteron, the server variant. Also still available is the 462-pin Socket A that accommodates all AthlonXPs up to 3200+.

Thus, the architecture must first be selected. Finally, we'll treat each processor again in detail.

Socket ASocket 754Socket 940Socket 478
PlatformAMD AthlonXP, DuronAMD Athlon64AMD Athlon64 FX, OpteronIntel Pentium 4, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, Celeron from 1.7 GHz
Cost of processorLow to averageAverage to highHigh to very highLow to very high
Cost of motherboardLow to averageAverage to highAverage to highLow to high
Performance nowAdequate to good*Very goodVery goodAdequate - very good*
UpgradeabilityLowGoodGoodGood - satisfactory
Long-term valueGood to satisfactoryGoodGoodGood
* depending on processor used