Weekly Buyer's Guide: Mid-Range System - March 2004by Evan Lieb on March 24, 2004 2:27 PM EST
- Posted in
CPU and Motherboard AlternativesCPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.8C 800MHz FSB (512K L2 cache) Northwood
Motherboard: ASUS P4P800 Deluxe (865PE chipset)
Price: CPU - $178 shipped (retail heatsink and fan). Motherboard - $121 shipped
Ever since the introduction of 800MHz FSB and HT (Hyper Threading) processors, Intel has been trouncing AMD with their mid-range and high end CPU offerings in terms of performance. While you might initially think the Athlon XP 2800+ (512K L2 cache) is just as fast as a Pentium 4 2.8C (512K L2 cache), the fact is that they're not the performance equivalents of each other. While the 2.8C isn't quite as fast as AMD's Athlon 64 offerings in most applications, they are certainly faster than AMD's Athlon XP offerings. In games, content creation, and encoding, there's about a 20%-30% or so performance gain in going from an Athlon XP 2800+ (512K L2 cache) to a Pentium 4 2.8C (512K L2 cache) processor. Most of that performance is quite noticeable too, though at the same time, some of it will not be noticeable at all in the real world. In office programs, you're not going to notice much difference between the 2.8C and 2800+, if any difference at all.
Anyway, after some debate, we finally concluded that while the 2.8C offers tremendous performance, the $58 premium for a 2.8C over a 2800+ was a just bit too hefty for our liking. However, if the extra performance that a 2.8C provides over a 2800+ in the programs mentioned above is worth the $58 extra price tag to you, then by all means, purchase a 2.8C. If not, save yourself $58 and use it to upgrade a more important part of your system.
This pick was a tough one, as ABIT, Gigabyte, DFI, MSI and other motherboard manufacturers offer excellent mid-range 865PE offerings. In the end, ASUS had just enough features and performance with their P4P800 Deluxe to edge out the other contenders, not to mention the fact that we've personally tested and approved this motherboard for reliability. The P4P800 Deluxe is one of the best currently available Intel motherboards that you can pair with an 800MHz FSB processor, and therefore a 2.8C processor is perfect. The P4P800-D has an excellent balance of great features (SATA and IDE RAID, Gigabit LAN, IEEE1394 FireWire, etc.), 865PE performance, and a very good "mid-range" price at $121 shipped. Most online vendors sell this board for more like $125-$130, but as you can see, you will be able to find it for less at a few reputable online vendors. If you were so inclined to, the P4P800 Deluxe is also an excellent motherboard for FSB overclocking if you want to enter into more experienced user territory. Otherwise, we suggest you stick to stock, and not overclocked speeds, if you are a beginning builder.
For a more in-depth look at the ASUS P4P800 Deluxe, we suggest you take a look at our Intel motherboard roundup from last year.
Listed below is part of our RealTime pricing engine, which lists the lowest prices available on the Intel CPUs and motherboards from many different reputable vendors:
If you cannot find the lowest prices on the products that we've recommended on this page, it's because we don't list some of them in our RealTime pricing engine. Until we do, we suggest that you do an independent search online at the various vendors' web sites. Just pick and choose where you want to buy your products by looking for a vendor located under the "Vendor" heading.