AMD Sempron System
If you remember the results that my notebook scored, and what I've said about the graphics subsystem of the VIA K8M890 chipset on the Foxconn motherboard, there are some things to mention. The embarrassing 1.0 score for the integrated subsystem in the desktop and gaming categories doesn't come as a surprise. The graphics unit can display information at adequate speeds, but it doesn't support many visual features. This is, however, not a K.O. if you don't think you need the fancy AeroGlass look. Vista still plays video and displays all window information properly.
A score of 4.1 for the processor is certainly acceptable. The hard drive is pretty powerful, which is reflected by the high score of 5.8 points. A score of 3.9 for the main memory is a good result, but it is no match for other systems since the Sempron comes with a tiny L2 cache of only 128 kB, and that the memory runs at DDR2-667 speed. My Thinkpad T60 only got a faster score because the 2 MB L2 cache helps to improve overall performance of the complete memory subsystem, which the L2 cache is part of.
From my standpoint, the overall score of 1.0 doesn't reflect the capabilities of this system, as it has a capable processor, a decent amount of RAM and a blazing fast hard drive. From what we experienced during testing, the AMD Sempron 3400+ system at slightly above $300 should be rated at a Performance Index of at least 2.5.
Intel Celeron System
As it scores 3.0 instead of 1.0 Performance Index points, the Celeron system seems to do be much better for Windows Vista. We do not agree, however, because the integrated 945G graphics may be more feature rich than the K8M890's, but despite being faster, it certainly isn't much better in 3D. From what we can say, 3D performance isn't part of the graphics performance index (or it doesn't have much impact), which could lead the user to the wrong assumption that Intel's 945G may be considerably superior to the VIA K8M890 chipset. Well, it is not. The truth is that neither of these chipsets is suitable for gaming, because both under perform. If you want to play 3D games, get a decent graphics card for $150 or up. Period.
Opposed to the benchmark results that we received for our first $300 PC article, the Celeron D 352 score of 4.0 versus the Sempron's 4.1 indicates that the Sempron 3400+ actually is faster - which we could not verify. In fact, the Celeron D 352 provided better performance in most of our benchmarks.
The hard drive and the memory scores aren't different here, as both the AMD and the Intel system score the same index points.