The industry happens to be at one of those points in its existence where the old saying "the decisions you make today will affect you for the rest of your life" applies quite nicely. Manufacturers are getting off their most recent two-year high in which the market was booming and sales couldn't have been better, and are now facing the reality of not being able to rest on their laurels indefinitely. It is during times like this that products like the Athlon and the Pentium 4 are designed, and the users are left with little more than the same-old, same-old to keep them occupied until the next major push for an upgrade.
If you think about it, it has honestly been a while since we've recommended a major upgrade for you all. When the AMD760 chipset was released we said wait until DDR prices come down; and when the Pentium 4 was released we told you to wait for the 0.13-micron version.
Unfortunately there is very little on the radar for the majority of 2001 that will be of the magnitude of the introduction of the very first Voodoo cards, or the first Pentium IIs or even the first Athlons. The server/he-workstation market will see a few interesting products with the new Intel Xeon and AMD760MP, however for the majority of desktop users there aren't any major upgrades coming over the next few months.
That isn't to say that there aren't users out there that will want to upgrade, in fact, there are quite a few users that will want to upgrade. But without a major push for a full system upgrade, for many, this will be the time for an incremental upgrade. Those users that may still be on overclocked Celerons, older Pentium IIIs or maybe even the first 500MHz Athlons may find their systems responding a little slower than they're used to. At the same time, with a new Palomino core in the works and a larger cache version of the Pentium 4 on a 0.13-micron process due out later this year, you don't really want to spend all too much on an upgrade right now only to find out that you're longing for another fix in just 9 months.
The idea of an incremental upgrade is an interesting one. For starters, you want something faster than your current setup, but at the same time you don't want to spend a lot and would ideally like to reuse as much as possible. At the same time, one man's dream is another's reality, so what we're referring to as an "incremental" upgrade is also a great way to put together an entry-level system.
The heart of this type of an upgrade or entry-level system has often been a low-cost processor from either Intel or AMD's line, and lately our recommendation has fallen in the realm of AMD's Duron. Today AMD provides our choice for an entry-level processor with a boost; the Duron gets its incremental upgrade from 850MHz to 900MHz.