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Dual Core Processors For Low-Power, High-Performance Desktops

Processor Selection 101

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:

AMDIntel
Current desktop processorsSempron (single core)1Athlon 64 (single core)Athlon 64 X2 (dual core) both for Socket 939Celeron D (single core)1Pentium 4 6x1 (single core)Pentium D 900 (dual core) both for Socket 775
Current mobile processorsTurion 64 ML series (single core, max. 35 W)Turion 64 MT series (single core, max. 25 W) both for Socket 754Pentium 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 processorIntel Core Duo
Most efficient single core processorAMD Turion 64 or Intel Pentium M
Fastest single core processorAMD Athlon 64 FX-57
Fastest dual core processorAMD Athlon 64 FX-60
Cheapest dual core processorIntel Pentium D 805
Cheapest single core processorAMD 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.