Holiday 2006 Shopping Guide: CPUs

by Jarred Walton on 11/27/2006 12:05 AM EST


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  • Shin - Saturday, December 02, 2006 - link

    Hi, I'm interested with your guide regarding the midrange. But there are couple things that still not clear for me.
    1. In term of price, you said that the AMD's system is $50 cheaper. but in term of performance (stock performance), how fast Intel E6300 against X2 3800?
    2. If I want to overclock, how far can I overclock using the "suggested" midrange mobo and RAM? for both AMD and Intel.
    3. If I want to get the 50% increase in performance, what kind of Mobo, RAM and probably better cooling system should I buy? and how much it will cost me?

  • JarredWalton - Saturday, December 02, 2006 - link

    1 - X2 3800+ vs. E6300 can be seen">in this article.

    2 - I haven't actually suggested a midrange mobo/RAM yet, but decent DDR2-800 and motherboard means you can take either platform at least to 400 MHz. That would be a 100% overclock on AM2, using a base DDR2-400 (1:1) ratio - which won't happen, as the CPU will never hit that high. On Core 2, that's a 50% overclock.

    3 - Best recommendation, get the Biostar 965PT or the Gigabyte 965P-S3 as an ~$110 motherboard, then get some DDR2-800 CL4 RAM for around $250. That should easily get you to 2.8 GHz with an E6300, even with the stock CPU cooler. Throw in something like a Thermalright, Thermaltake, or Scythe heatsink and you can go even further. RAM might hold you back a bit, though, so going with the E6400 and shooting for 3.2 GHz and beyond is a good choice.

    If you want to overclock an X2 3800+, get the EPoX 570 SLI or just about any of the 590 SLI boards. Plan on topping out at 3.0 GHz at best, however, and more likely around 2.8 GHz - and that's with something like the Scythe Infinity HSF. With the stock HSF plan on more like 2.5 GHz.
  • Shin - Tuesday, December 05, 2006 - link

    Thx. For your reply. Will wait for your next guide for Mobo and RAM.
    I have one request regarding guide for mobo/RAM, can you suggest the mobo/RAM for user who don't wish to overclock and the other one for overclocker.

    Thx and merry xmas.
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, November 28, 2006 - link

    It's nice to see the 3500+ processor get some love, as it's really can be great bang for the buck, as it overclocks easily. I bought the NewEgg $99 deal for the Athlon 3400+ (same as the 3500+) and motherboard, and have it overclocked to 2.6 Ghz with little effort using the included motherboard and low cost RAM. My old motherboard sold for $50, so overall it was an inexpensive upgrade. Reply
  • rileychris - Thursday, November 30, 2006 - link

    I would think there are a lot of folks with Socket 939, AMD 3200 (or similar), DDR that could still get a reasonable process upgrade at a decent price. Can't you get a dual core for socket 939 for around $175? Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link


    A 50% increase in price that brings a 10% increase in performance is par for the course.

    That's ONLY really true for the user that already has a system that can have the new CPUs actually. For the new users that have to get more than just the CPU, the quote isn't really right.

    $200 vs $400 CPU for say 10% faster

    But say the actual cost is:
    $200 CPU
    $200 for RAM
    $120 for motherboard
    Total $520 for the $200 CPU vs $720 for the $400 CPU.

    Though the pricing difference isn't always 38%($720/$520), it is definitely less than the 2x pricing difference for the INDIVIDUAL CPU.

    Taking the prices for the computer store I usually buy(NCIX, all prices are canadian dollars):

    E6600: $379
    E6700: $639
    OCZ Gold XTC PC2-6400 2GB 2X1GB DDR2-800 CL5-5-5-12 240PIN DIMM Dual Channel Memory Kit: $279
    Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 ATX LGA775 Conroe P965 DDR2 PCI-E16 3PCI-E1 3PCI SATA2 GBLAN Audio Motherboard: $173

    Total E6600 with Tax(14%): $947.34
    Total E6700 with Tax: $1243.74


    Which is pretty good, considering most users don't upgrade every new CPU release, or even upgrade the current one.
  • Missing Ghost - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    What's about recommending socket 754 for people that want an extremely low-cost rig but already have lots of DDR1 RAM? Reply
  • pottervillian - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link


    This takes PC (meaning "politically correct") to the extreme, doesn't it?

    but what about this?


    And from all of us here at AnandTech, we would like to send you Seasons Greetings and wish you a very Happy Holidays!

    Merry Christmas!!!

    P.S. You Did a great job on the article, and I Look forward the rest of the series!
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Merry Christmas to you too! However, even though it's being politically correct, I didn't feel there was any need to potentially offend any Jews, Muslims, [insert whatever] by sticking with Merry Christmas. Besides, I couldn't actually tell you for sure what the various religious affiliations of the rest of the AnandTech staff are. Now leave me alone while I celebrate my pagan holiday! ;-) Reply
  • lopri - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    I said 'nearly' but that's just for other folks who might disagree on author's selection here and there. I personally think this is a perfect guide for anyone who's looking to buy CPUs coming this holiday season. I thank Jarred for his time, effort, and reasoning based on seemingly vast ammount of research. I think this article should be abstracted, posted, and stickied in the CPU/OC forum so we get less ammount of clutter in the forum. Reply
  • mpc7488 - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Agreed. The summary table at the end is the "quick" answer, and all of the detail is great as a rationale for making a choice. Nicely done. Reply
  • valnar - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    They listed pretty much every CPU and categorized them by price. How is this worthy of an article? This takes PC (meaning "politically correct") to the extreme, doesn't it?

    In other words, buy whatever you want, with what you can afford. You can't make a wrong choice.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Actually, we don't recommend everything. I guess I have to add a summary table to make it clear what our overall picks are, since the text didn't do it for some of you. Reply
  • Murst - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    I recently had some issues with my CPU/MB (I'm actually unable to determine which since I do not know anyone who has a socket 939 and my MB does not post).

    I'm looking to fix my issue without spending a ton of cash. Therefore, replacing the fewest number of parts in my computer is my goal. I've already decided that I will be replacing my CPU + MB. Currently I have a 6800GT (AGP) and upgrading to a card with equal performance is just a waste of money IMO.

    Are there any boards out there for the C2D that can handle AGP cards? Or am I stuck with AMD if I do not want to replace my graphics card?

    I've already accepted the fact that I'll have to buy new RAM if I'm switching to C2D, but anything more is just too much cash atm.
  • Spacecomber - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link">Asrock 775Dual-VSTA

    Besides the AGP/PCI-E option, this board also offers a DDR2/DDR option. For the money, it makes a nice intermediate step up.

    Check the Anandtech Motherboard forums for a thread on this board to find out more about what people have experienced with it. Also, Anandtech did some further testing with this board in subsequent articles found in their motherboard articles section.
  • Murst - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Thanks, this is exactly what I'm looking for :) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Gary did testing with a variety of AGP motherboards and Core 2 Duo a month or two back, so you might want to browse around and look at those articles. If you're simply looking to keep costs down, the ASRock VSTA is probably the cheapest option, but I'm hesitant to recommend it as the best choice. ECS and a couple other boards are also available with DDR and/or AGP support for Core 2 Duo. Such boards should work okay, and as long as you don't want to overclock they are reasonable option.

    As for your graphics card, keep in mind that a 7600 GT is going to be as fast as a 6800 GT, and often even a bit faster. I would say you should either keep both your memory and GPU and go with one of the AGP + DDR boards, or you should ditch all four components (CPU, motherboard, memory, GPU) and start from scratch.
  • Murst - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Yeah, my primary concern is a cheap replacement atm so that my computer is usable. I'm looking for decent performance in WoW on a 1200x1024 resolution, so nothing that's really that demanding.

    The game ran just fine with a 3500+, so switching to a e6300 with a cheap MB shouldn't be much (if any) performance loss, especially since its not CPU limited.

    Its actually a huge bonus that I can keep my current RAM. By taking a quick look at newegg, I can get the 6300 and MB for around 240 including shipping, so that's definetally not a bad deal.

    I can only wish about upgrading more parts, but I'll be buying a house in a few months so my budget is rather limited!

    Thanks again

    P.S. OCing isn't an issue... last time I OC'd something was back in like 98 =/ I'd get no noticable gain from OCing based on my usage.
  • Elwe - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Not for nothing, but if that is what you are looking for, Fry's has some very good deals for new bundled Core 2 Duo processors and basic motherboards. They seem to rotate between the e6300 and e6400 for the lower end, but basically they give you an ECS board for free.

    If you have not already placed an order, $150 is a good deal (if you can get to a Fry's).">
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Actually, the Fry's E6300 is a great deal, considering the E6300 goes for $180 most places right now. Heck, you can toss the mobo and still get a better price than for example at! Reply
  • Murst - Tuesday, November 28, 2006 - link

    Dude, you rock ;)

    I'll be getting this tonight. Way better than the newegg deal. Only problem is that it doesn't come with a heatsink/fan, but that can be easily fixed with minimal investment.

    ATM I'm using the Thermalright XP-120, so its not really an option here cause of its size.
  • Spacecomber - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    I haven't kept up with the availability and price differences between the socket 939 and the AM2 Athlon 64's, but it seemed to me the last time I priced these entry level processors that the socket 939 was still the better deal. Basically, you could get a full Athlon 64 3000 instead of having to use a Sempron processor for the same price.

    You also had the advantage that you weren't going to have to pay the premium that DDRII memory would cost you over regular DDR.

    I know that socket 939 is a dead-end with no further AMD support (EOL), but while the supplies last, they still seem to find a use for those whose main criteria is getting solid computing power for office applications at the lowest cost. At this point, I'd rather put the money saved into extra system memory, which will likely help with the useful life of these computers, probably more so than worrying about whether a processor upgrade will be available a few years from now (which is always a gamble).
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    DDR2 memory and is currently priced about the same as DDR memory, if not a few dollars cheaper. Motherboards are also going to be about the same price, and a lot of the processors for socket 939 are becoming more expensive than the equivalent AM2 processors. All things being equal in price, there's really no reason to get socket 939 anymore, at least as a new system. A lot of people already have DDR memory, so the potential to use your old RAM is still there, but that's about the only reason I see to consider 939. I don't think the total price difference between 939 and AM2 would be more than $5 or $10. Reply
  • Spacecomber - Tuesday, November 28, 2006 - link

    Since it sounds like the premium of going with an AM2 system is shrinking to the point of being negligible (if still present at all), I did a quick price check through NewEgg to see how things stack up at the low end.

    I agree, there is no real difference between motherboards and memory, now, between the two systems (socket 939 and socket AM@). 6100 chipset micro-ATX boards can be found for around $60 for either socket, for example. And, picking Corsair's Value Select line for a quick comparison of DDR2-533, DDR2-667, and PC3200 DDR memory in a 2x512MB kit, the cost virtually is the same for all of these ($105-$107).

    However, at least at NewEgg, there still seems to be a small gap between what your money will buy in the way of an inexpensive socket 939 processor and a socket AM2 processor. Although NewEgg didn't have an Athlon 64 3000 (939), they did have an Athlon 64 3200 for $62 in a socket 939 version. At this price point, they only have a Sempron 64 3200 for the socket AM2. The least expensive Athlon 64 for the AM2 socket is the Athlon 64 3500 for $92. This isn't much more than the socket 939 version of the Athlon 64 3500, which sells for $84.

    So, the gap is really only at the lowest end of the processor range, where you are still faced with choosing either a socket 939 Athlon 64 or a socket AM2 Sempron. At this time, it probably does make sense to go ahead and accept the slight premium ($30) to move up to the least expensive Athlon 64 in a socket AM2 form, which will be a slightly faster clocked processor, as well.

    Presumably, even this small gap will also disappear as the socket 939 processors dry up and the availability of low end AM2 Athlon 64s increases.
  • johnsonx - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Your price quote on the Sempron 3200+ at $77 really jumped out at me, as I purchased those a couple of weeks ago at about $63. So I checked NewEgg just now, and they're only $61. Where are you getting $77? I don't think they've been that high in months.">

    Also, there's little point in discussing the Sempron 2800+ and 3000+, as they pretty well aren't available; I haven't been able to get any for over a month at least (or if I could get them, they'd cost more than the 3200+). NewEgg does have bare 2800's at only $40, but that's most likely a short term deal.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    All of the prices are linked directly to the RTPE so you can see where I got them. Looks like some of the Newegg prices are missing, unfortunately. :( Guess I'll have to edit things slightly. Reply
  • johnsonx - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    Ah, yes, I see what you mean. The RTPE shows the NewEgg price for the 3400, but not for the 3200. It also looks like the 2800+ and 3000+ availability is a little better now than they were last time I went looking for them, but the fact that NewEgg has dropped the retail 2800 altogether is telling methinks. I don't remember the last time I saw the 3000+ in stock at NewEgg either, so I'm guessing both those low-end Semprons are going the way of the Dodo.

    I agree with the ultra-budget section in general though: on the AMD side, either buy the cheapest Sempron you can get, or ante up for a real Athlon64.

    A side question though: do you know whether Cool'n'Quiet now works on all AM2 Sempron's? On Socket-754, only the 3000 and up (1.8Ghz and up) had it enabled. If it's still only on the 1.8's and up, then that makes $61 for the 3200 a better buy than a 2800 for $50 (at least to me).
  • Patrese - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    It only doesn't work on the 2800 and 3000 (1,6GHz) Semprons. And I guess they´re hard to find in the US because they´re selling really well in the parts of the world in which the ultra budget segment responds for a bigger part of the market. Here in Brazil, for instance, it's pretty easy to find one of them, and they sell really well. Reply
  • rqle - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    i said anything above midrange and above go with intel for overclocker. Til 65nm comes out for AMD, its processor max around 2.4-2.6ghz with very few going over 2.8ghz. Where hiting 3ghz with intel is a cake walk even if it $20-30 difference. Reply
  • Calin - Monday, November 27, 2006 - link

    You should assume that even with transition to 65nm, AMD's overclocking will remain most of the same - just as it happened with Intel's Pentium4. Reply

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