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

CPUs Compared

The end of the year is a great time to buy new equipment, whether for tax purposes or simply to buy something for yourself that you really want. Most geek wish lists include hard drives, graphics cards and processors.

The choice of core elements - processors, motherboardsand RAM - is now so large that laypeople are quickly overwhelmed. For processors, there are the AthlonXP, Athlon64, Athlon64 FX, Duron, Opteron, Pentium 4, Pentium M, Celeron, Xeon, Itanium. Then, there are at least three chipsets available for each platform - not including models featuring integrated graphics.

For our purposes, we can whittle down the plethora of products to a manageable sampling. There are Intel's Celeron as well as the Duron from AMD for low-end PC applications and the Pentium M and Mobile Athlon64 for notebooks and the Opteron, Xeon and Itanium lines for servers.

However, all the PC buyer really has to care about are AMD AthlonXP, Athlon64, Athlon64FX and the Intel Pentium 4 processors. Prices range from from $110 / €100 for an AthlonXP2600+ all the way to more than $1,200 / €1,100 for the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition. Clock speeds range from under 2 GHz up to 3.2 GHz.

For our purposes, we wanted to know which PC processor delivered the best price/performance ratio. We also wanted to find out how each of them responded to overclocking.