Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1232

Welcome back to another installment of our Price Guides.  We have interesting follow up news from our AMD and Intel roadmap previews.  As always, do not forget to check our RealTime Price Guides for daily deltas and product listings updated by the minute!

We have had some interesting progress over the last couple weeks, particularly with roadmaps and product announcements. Hopefully, everyone got a chance to read Anand and Derek's Prescott developments from yesterday.  Intel's February 2nd NDA covered more than the introduction of: 3.4GHz Northwood, 4 Prescott CPUs, the 3.4GHz Gallatin P4EE.  There were also some interesting price revelations under the NDA that coincided with the processor releases.

First of all let's started off with Intel's pricing strategy.  Anand briefly touched on the subject that Prescott and Northwood CPUs of the same speeds would cost the same price to the consumer.  Derek's Benchmarks clearly show the Northwood cored CPUs put the newer Prescotts to short work (at least at present speeds).  However, the dirty little secret with Prescott is its unusual non-linear overclocking.  For those of you who rely upon our guides, the message should be obvious; buy Northwood until we start getting up to the speeds that Prescott can perform better such as 3.6GHz and higher.   Of course, if you read our Intel Roadmap analysis, you would know that we won't see speeds like that on mPGA478, only the new Socket 775 interface.

So, if there are two points to note in this weeks price guide, we already explained one; Prescott on Socket 478 is pointless.  Even the overclocking aspects of the processor aren't going to be worth it for now.  Socket 775 is not too far away, and when the new interface begins to show up, we would not be surprised if Prescott packs more of a punch (and maybe even a little less heat dissipation).  The second major point we wanted to bring up is that it looks like Prescott shipments are slightly lower than expected, and even delayed a few weeks.  Nearly all the vendors don't expect to see initial Prescott shipments until the 15th, and mass quantities until the 1st of March.  The 3.4GHz P4EE won't show up in initial quantities until March 1st, and 3.4GHz Prescott doesn't look like it will even show up in the next 60 days.  However, various fanboys need not interpret this as "Intel is dying."  When was the last time we saw a solid launch and release date from either AMD or Intel in the past 2 years?  Paper launching is the easiest way to pull vendors and analyst under NDA without them leaking information to each other.

OK, we have ranted enough on about marketing strategies; let us take a look at some pricings.

Obviously, this was a huge week for the existing Northwood processors.  Even though the official "price drop" for Intel was today, Vendors usually jump the gun by 5 to 7 days to stay competitive.  Practically all the Northwoods are suddenly extremely attractive (um, again).  The biggest drop on the P4 3.2C places it around $280.  Some of Derek's previous benchmarks anticipate this performance somewhere between the A64 3200+ and 3400+.  It's no surprise that the 3.2GHz Northwood and the A64 3200+ are priced identically.  If you encode DVDs rather than play games, the 3.2C is the chip to pick.

Similarly, the CPU choice is a toss up on the midrange CPUs as well.  Both Socket 478 and Socket 754 are dying sockets. Buying a 2.8GHz Northwood or an A64 3000+ Newcastle both lead to dead end upgrade paths.  The 2.8C is priced better today, but AMD has a price cut scheduled to show up near Valentine's Day.  If vendors are at all predictable (and they are), we will see some dramatic cuts in the AMD CPU prices around the middle of next week. 

In conclusion, if you had to buy a new CPU, today:

·        Go with the 3.2C for content creation on an expanded budget

·        The 2.8C is the chip for the moderate budget

However, with AMD's price cut so close, let's look at what's going on in Sunnyvale...

Looking at 4 product lines and 4 sockets is getting a little stressful, but it looks like Socket A is hitting a brick wall rapidly.  We were extremely doubtful of AMD's ability to phase the architecture so quickly, as we have brought up various times in previous price guides.  However, it looks like we may have been a little too pessimistic.

We mentioned on the previous page that it really would be advised against to buy an AMD CPU this week.  The official AMD price cuts will come on the 15th, but vendors usually jump the gun by a week or so.  Although we don't know exactly how much we will see in price drops, we can probably safely assume the A64 3000+ will duck under $200 to get competitive with the Pentium 4 2.8C.  The rest of the line should move as well.  Again, Socket 754 is not a very forward looking socket upgrade - if you get a Socket 754 CPU now, chances are it will be the last Socket 754 CPU you buy.

Athlon XP processors are drying up quickly.  Several of our vendors have totally stopped listing XP chips.  This is very similar to the dryup we noticed with Athlon MP during the introduction of Opteron.  Nine months after Opteron's debut, we still have a few stragglers holding onto their Athlon MP caches, but for the most part no new chip shipments are showing up.  Perhaps XP chips will drop a little with next week's changes - but we wouldn't put too much faith in the slower, more expensive line.

Several other interesting things are coming together.  Primarily, Opteron 248/848 has been very slow to market.  You may recall that Opteron 248 was first announced at COMDEX 2003.  Here we are two months later, and retail wise the 248 and 848 is virtually non-existent.   We have seen a few chips here and there for review samples, but it appears that both AMD and Intel embrace the paper launch with open arms. 

This week we will not actually be making an AMD processor recommendation.  With upcoming price cuts, it would be very foolish to recommend a CPU so close to what will probably be a drastic price variation.  However, if you must get a CPU today, remember our rule from the previous page.  Northwood/Prescott are putting out slightly better content creation and overclocking, but Athlon 64 Socket 754/940 processors are the better gaming CPUs.

If you checked out our motherboard coverage from CES, or our AMD roadmaps, you'll know we have a couple exciting things to look forward this February.  If you read our motherboard coverage closely, you will notice that we were a little surprised motherboard manufacturers have chosen to adopt nForce3 250 on Socket 754 before Socket 939.  In fact, we should start to see nF3 250 boards very soon.  nF3 250's biggest advantage over nF3 150 is the 1GHz HT bus. 

Unfortunately, even with nF3 250 so close, we have actually seen almost no changes in motherboard prices.  nF3 150 boards were traditionally very quick to fall into competitive pricing with K8T800.  In reality, the only segment of the nForce3 motherboards that need a price adjustment are the already overpriced Socket 940 boards. 

For those of you who really need a board this week, and probably went against our advice to hold off on that Athlon purchase, we have a couple of decent board recommendations.  Obviously, for Socket A we have to go with our reigning champion, the DFI NFII Infinity.  Tons of features, excellent stability and layout, and for a price under $100. 

Choosing the best A64 board is slightly more difficult.  VIA has the advantage of price and availability over nForce3 (at least for Socket 754).  We strongly advise against purchasing a Socket 940 board right now unless you have your heart set on Opteron.  Socket 940 will stay mostly overlooked for the rest of its life and really only find use in 3D/CAD and Server applications. 

VIA has been incredibly quiet the last couple of months.  There was the near silent release of PT880 and KT880 a few months ago, but on the surface the company has been totally unspoken.  However, a quick look at our VIA roadmap anticipates the exact opposite.  Pay particular attention to Anand's comments about VIA's PCI-Express implementation.

As far as future AMD chipsets are concerned, VIA has been working on K8T800 Pro for Athlon FX Socket 940.  While this looks slightly promising, SiS's 755FX chipset is said to provide better performance and cost.  We really won't see 755FX nor K8T800 Pro until Socket 939 debuts anyway.  VIA's real effort will appear in a few months in the form of K8T890.   With 1GHz HyperTransport, PCI Express and AGP, we could see nForce3 250 take the backseat in the Socket 939 race.  Of course, now we just have to wait for Socket 939.

We mentioned before that nForce2 still takes the crown for Socket A.  However, K8T800 demonstrated better performance time and time again over nForce3 150.  Better performance and cost is the reason why so many vendors ended up adopting the chipset in the first place.  Our Athlon64 choice this week has to be the ASUS K8V Deluxe Socket 754 board.  This board really packs a punch including onboard WiFi, Raid, SATA, and an excellent audio package.  The MSI K8T Neo wins close second, but only because of price.  You really can't beat the features on the K8V.  Kudos to ASUS.

SiS is slowly clawing their way into the Athlon 64 world.  ECS finally was able to get their 755-A board under control with a second revision, the 755-A2.  Wesley Fink drew some surprising conclusions from the ultra-cheap board that actually surprised everyone a little bit (particularly during gaming performance).  Unfortunately, it took SiS and ECS two tries to get it right, but the ECS 755-A2 might be the fastest Socket 754 board for some time.

With all the Prescott hoopla, this is clearly Intel's week.  Prices have remained virtually unchanged as Alderwood/Grantsdale news continues to pour in from every channel.  Again, read our recent CES coverage and Intel Roadmap articles for more coverage.  Keep one critical element in mind when choosing an Intel motherboard.  The next generation Intel boards will not incorporate AGP.  Perhaps you bought a brand new Radeon 9800 Pro recently. If that's the case, you will probably want to stick with 865PE and 875P until you're ready to part with that ATI badboy.

Socket 478 might be a dying socket, but it's not dead yet.  The Gigabyte 8KNXP Ultra has come down in price considerably in the last few weeks, but it is still one of the most expensive boards on the block.  If you want to balance good performance with excellent features, the ASUS P4P800 Deluxe is our 865PE choice.  DFI's 875P LanParty provides virtually identical features, but ASUS does it on an 865PE chipset at a 25% lower cost.  Once again, ASUS reminds us why they have the largest motherboard reputation and capabilities in the world. 

This week we have more video card roundups, as well as even more interesting roadmap action coming up!

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