Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1203

Another week, another price guide.  This week we have information on our particular favorites; Motherboards and CPUs.  On the heels of Derek’s excellent low budget CPU article, we have our recommendations and picks for the whole assortment of AMD and Intel products.  As always, do not forget to check our RealTime Price Guides for daily deltas and product listings updated by the minute!

There has been some great news and changes regarding AMD motherboards.  Hopefully, you got a chance to read Wesley’s SiS’s 755 chipset preview.  We were not expecting motherboards based on the chipset already, but it looks like ECS did a good job of copying the reference board and it is starting to show up at some merchants for under $90.  We are very excited to see the other Tier 1 guys adopt the chipset in the near future.

Let us also not forget about ATI’s interesting announcement; IGP for AMD 64.  Now that we will have 6 companies (ALi, AMD, ATI, NVIDIA, SiS, VIA) competing in the AMD 64 core logic sector, we should have some extremely interesting competition. If suspected rumors hold true that the ATI IGP will incorporate Radeon 9600 capabilities, AMD’s closest ally NVIDIA will have some impressive specifications to beat for their nForce3 IGP chipset.   With nForce3 250 already in production, even we can’t help but get a little excited.

Further additions have been made to this week’s listings; we have added a few random motherboards including DFI’s NFII Infinity which is pretty stacked with features for a board that costs only $100.  The ASUS nForce2 A7N8X Deluxe is still our weekly choice (at least concerning NVIDIA core logic), 

Check out the next page for AMD’s VIA solutions. 

VIA was not shy on recent announcements either these last couple weeks.  The chipset producer somewhat unexpectedly announced a dual channel core logic based on its PT880 chipset earlier this week; which was followed up by a quick commitment from Soltek, among others.  On unrelated VIA news, analysts report that VIA’s November sales figures were off over 16% from October. 

Looking at our AMD motherboards this week, it looks like VIA has the most aggressive motherboards for Athlon 64 3200+ (socket 754).  Right now, we feel the MSI K8T800 motherboard is the best of the batch as far as price/performance goes.  The Chaintech nForce3 150 beats the MSI K8T800 in performance, but the MSI board costs $60 less (35%).  Perhaps now that MSI closed down 1/3 of its US offices, they are able to keep more competitive pricing.

Athlon XP motherboards are all over the spectrum.  Contrary to popular opinion, prices tend to gently ramp up during the holiday season (followed by that January free-for-all that represents the real deals).  We are seeing small and medium changes in the motherboard pricing, but don’t hold your breath for any cuts before January.  Occasionally, we’ve seen some good deals but they are generally one or two day items.  Fortunately, KT600 boards have been falling in price for so long that their stability now will result in no more significant, immediate price increases.

It seems like each week we could write a book about Intel’s motherboard analysis.  It’s no surprise, but Intel IGP chipsets are supposed to drop a few bucks in the upcoming weeks here.  To us, this looks like simple retaliation for ATI’s incredibly acclaimed RS300 IGP chipset which hit the streets in full force a few weeks ago.  Shuttle, FIC and ASUS seem to be the largest backers so far, but the usual Tier 1 guys (MSI, Gigabyte) will probably start pumping out boards once they see ASUS doing it. 

VIA and SiS also have more toys at their disposal this week too.  The quiet announcement of SiS 655TX came and went slightly before COMDEX.  The SiS 655FX chipset was fine, but it really didn’t pack the punch the needed to capture anyone’s attention.  The 655TX chipset (currently being pursued by Gigabyte, ECS) should have capability for much higher overclocking.  The first batch of reviews should be a good read.

VIA, on the other hand, is finally producing PT880 chip in enough volume for boards.  Longtime VIA buddy Soltek had the first production board on this chipset but now Abit, MSI, Chaintech and Soyo are also replacing their PT800 chipsets with PT880.  As we noted earlier, VIA’s KT880 dual channel chipset is essentially based on the same core logic as the PT880.

We recently added a plethora of Intel 848P motherboards for the conscious buyers out there.  They aren’t our particular choice of chipsets, but they do get the job done if you need an Intel board. 

This week, when it comes to motherboards we suggest taking a look at the ASUS 865PE P4P800 Deluxe for good quality and an average price.  The Abit 865PE and 875P boards are also selling aggressively but rumors about memory compatibility (particularly with performance timings) seems to continue to plague them.  Now that manufacturers are starting to run out of PAT enabled 865PE chips, the MSI and ASUS 875P motherboards are also becoming quite attractive.

AMD announced its 148, 248, and 848 processors two weeks ago.  These are essentially 2.2GHz Opterons which have an onboard memory controller capable of PC3200 (DDR400).  Unfortunately there do not seem to be any available right now.  For all intents and purposes, these are exactly identical to the Athlon FX-51 processors, but there are some minor electrical changes that make them capable of SMP. 

AMD still appears reserved about what they are going to do about Socket 939, considering updated roadmaps and rumors on Athlon FX-53.  It is looking, for now anyway, that the Socket 940 will stick around for a while still.  Also since this Socket 940 will be able to run Opteron chips it looks like there is no need to panic for all of you who bought into the first generation boards.

If you doubt the effectiveness of AMD’s low end processors, just check out Derek’s article from earlier this week.  The trusty Barton 2500+ chips continue to be the most desirable AMD processors and rightfully so (Derek’s benchmarks continue to show the Barton core outperforming the Thoroughbred 2600+).  Even with recent price increases this is the chip to have.  For AMD users looking to pack a little more punch, the 400FSB chips are still slightly cost inhibitive, but we will see a turn around in January most likely.

Opteron and Athlon 64 prices continue to remain stable.  We will continue to see a few small cuts in the Athlon 64 3200+ but probably not in the Athlon 64 FX 51.  We are still looking for supplies of Opteron X48 processors but once they hit stores the other speed units should dip in price. 

There were two significant bits of news on the Intel CPUs.  The largest and most recent was the “unofficial” news on Prescott release information (however, take this news with a gain of salt as a more recent article has already disproven some of the information).  Most reliable sources are expecting Prescott to ramp up clock speed quite quickly to compete with Athlon 64, but let’s not forget AMD isn’t sitting around waiting for this to happen.  Athlon 64 FX-53 and Athlon 64 3400+ will most likely debut before the Prescott release date; whenever that ends up officially becoming.

The other more solid tidbit of information was the official retail store launch of the Pentium 4 Extreme Edition.  Intel launched this processor a few days before Athlon 64 in order to steal a bit of the fire from AMD’s eye (don’t be surprised if AMD pulls a similar trick before Prescott’s launch).  Unfortunately, original expectations were a little optimistic as vendors are pricing the behemoth at over $1050.  To put that in perspective, you could build a dual Opteron system with memory and a motherboard for less than the price of the P4EE.  Pentium 4 3.2GHz non-extreme CPUs sell for under $400.  Since there is such a large differential between the costs of the two chips, don’t expect the non-extreme version of the chip to decrease.

We got an unusual email from a vendor last time we recommended the 2.6GHz 800FSB P4 over the 2.4GHz counterpart.  In a nutshell, the vendor was concerned that the 2.4GHz price was artificially inflated and in turn cut the price on the 2.4C.  Funny enough, all of our other merchants cut the price soon after.  Once again, the 2.4GHz 800FSB is the less expensive CPU.  However, the 2.6GHz processor has not changed much in price, and it still can be had for under $175 (last month at this time the 2.4GHz 800FSB processor cost $176).  Once again the 2.6GHz remains our choice of the week.


We hope our guide coverage this week provided some good insight for holiday shoppers.  Since its decision time for computer shoppers everywhere, next week we will have even more info on video cards, hard drives, and optical storage.  Stay tuned!

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