Pentium 4 Systems: To Buy or Not To Buy / To Cry Or Not to Cry

Feature Comparison

Now that you had a good look at the configuration of the four competitors it's time to compare the features of the low-end and the high-end systems side by side.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Dell Dimension 8100Limited EditionPentium 4 1.3 GHz$1588Gateway Select 1000CustomizedAthlon 1 GHz$1594
ProcessorIntel Pentium 4 1.3 GHzAMD Athlon 1 GHz(200 MHz FSB)
Memory128 MB PC600 RDRAM128 MB PC133 SDRAM
Hard Drive20 GB20 GB
Graphics CardNVIDIA GeForce2 MX 32 MBNVIDIA GeForce2 Pro 32 MB
Sound CardSoundblaster 64V PCISoundblaster AudioPCI128D
ModemV90/56K Telephony56K / Home Networking Combo Card
Network Cardn/a56K / Home Networking Combo Card
Monitor19" Dell OEM19" Gateway OEM
SpeakersHarman-KardonBoston Acoustics BA265
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows MEMicrosoft Windows ME
SoftwareMicrosoft Works 2001Microsoft Money 2001 StandardNorton Antivirus 2001Microsoft Works 2001Microsoft Word 2000Microsoft EncartaQuicken 2001Norton Antivirus

Dell's 'little' 'Limited Edition' Pentium 4 is not equipped that much worse than Gateway's Athlon system. There are a few remarkable things however.

First of all, Dell is realizing the 'low price' by equipping the Pentium 4 1.3 GHz with PC600 RDRAM. This memory type is no less than 25% slower than PC800 RDRAM, having a very bad impact on the memory bandwidth-sensitive Pentium 4. A Pentium 4 1.5 GHz with PC600 RDRAM is 5-8% slower than with PC800 RDRAM. If you should ever decide to go for a Pentium 4 system, please take my advice and invest in PC800.

The other and most important difference between the Dell and the Gateway system is clearly the 3D-card, which I marked in red. NVIDIA's GeForce2 Pro is of course way faster than the GeForce2 MX. This graphics card alone will assure that the Gateway system will kill Dell's Pentium 4 box in any 3D-benchmark. The good 3D-performance of Pentium 4 has simply been cancelled out.

Last but not least the Gateway system comes with a home networking card and a bit more software for the same price. The other components seem pretty much on par.