Processor Obfuscation and You: An Update on AMD and Intel CPUsby Kristopher Kubicki & Jarred Walton on May 17, 2005 12:00 PM EST
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IntroductionThe choice of processor used to be pretty straightforward. You had AMD or Intel, sometimes with a couple overlapping options from each company. With multiple platforms from each company as well as varying features, it can be difficult to determine which CPU you really want to purchase for your system. Over the last few years, things took a turn for the worst - even without the mobility options for Athlon 64, there are four desktop Athlon 64 3200+ variants (and that's just the tip of the iceberg). We felt that it was time for an overview of all the currently shipping processor models, as well as a look at the pros and cons of each model.
Before we get into the details, we want to make it clear that this is not intended to be an all-inclusive processor article. Information on many of the older processors can be found in our last CPU Cheatsheet, and this is intended partly as an update and partly as a more focused look at each model. We aren't going to go into details about every single CPU that you might find for sale right now; we're more interested in the mid-range and higher processors to be honest, as the budget chips are mostly last year's mid-range chips.
One of the key areas of interest is still something of a future release. There has been quite a bit of coverage recently about the dual core solutions from both AMD and Intel. At present, none of the dual core chips are really available (other than in OEM systems), but it's important to keep them in mind before you spend hundreds of dollars on a CPU that could be totally outdated in a few months. If you haven't already, you'll definitely want to take a closer look at our Dual Core Performance Preview.
In order to tie all of this together and bring it back to the real world, we're going to be giving our opinions on upgrade options for most of the processor platforms. This is not meant as a definitive statement of when you should upgrade and to what you should upgrade - only the individual can really determine that. Instead, it is intended as an overview of what tasks work well on various platforms and when you may find a platform inadequate for your needs. Some of you may find this information helpful, while others might simply take it as common sense. Nevertheless, we receive numerous emails every week asking for such advice, so we hope that it will prove beneficial.
For those of you who don't have the time to track every single CPU on the market - unlike some of us - we have a few tips and hints that can help you get the right processor. Not only will we look at the core names, but we will also delve into some details concerning the SKUs, or Stock Keeping Units, of several processors as well.