With new technology constantly being developed and released into the high end market, it is sometimes easy to overlook the slightly less glamorous world of budget microprocessors. It's been a while since we've taken a look at what AMD and Intel have to offer in the area of low cost computing, and our curiosity recently got the better of us.

We were particularly curious about what you could get for $100, and it turns out that there are quite a few CPUs that you can get for less than the price of a motherboard. Currently, the budget market is made up of low end Athlon XP, Celeron, and Duron processors. There aren't any Pentium 4 processors that come in under our $100 price point, but we've included the Pentium 4 1.8A (Northwood) as a reference point for the Celeron processors.

Performance is always being pushed in the high end market, but it is arguably even more important in the low end systems. If we are trying to save money on a computer system, we want our dollar to go as far as possible, so price/performance is the most important factor when determining components to fill a budget box. Just because we want to save money doesn't mean we want to suffer a huge performance loss. With the price of PCs that perform well dropping all the time, it becomes easier for those who haven't yet entered the digital realm to join the party. Of course, the last thing someone wants when they first start up their new computer is to be frustrated by lackluster performance. Hopefully this article will serve to help people make the best possible decision when it comes to budget computing.

These Sub-$100 CPUs serve as decent upgrades for aging systems (e.g. the P3-800 that is barely chugging along) when combined with a new motherboard, but they are also the heart and soul of many of today's sub-$1000 PCs that you'd find in the retail market. Walk into any Best Buy or CompUSA and you'll find tons of PCs selling from $400 - $600. The OEMs making these systems are cutting corners in every way possible, so you had better believe that one of these CPUs we're comparing today will be under the hood. Retail customers should pay close attention to the results of this roundup — they may be even more shocking than expected.

When looking to get the absolute maximum performance out of every dollar spent, overclocking should be considered. We are hoping to address the overclockability of these budget processors in an upcoming article, but for now, we will only be looking at stock speeds.

Before we get to the tests, let's take a look at the processors.

The Contenders
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  • MoronBasher - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    *i meant 9800 non pro
  • MoronBasher - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    "3dmark scores went from about 9000 to 10000... Quake 3 the performance only improved from 210fps to 215fps"

    OMG!!! that's the funniest statement i have ever read. Think, in ut2k3 my 2.8C can go 220fps on flyby. but 52fps on botmatch on a 1280x1024 res. my 2500+, 190 fps on flyby, but guess what, i get 55 fps on botmatch both systems are using 9500Pro.

    yes, rely on 3dmark to show you how well your system performs on real world benches. Look at reviews of the 9900Non pro and the 9800XT, the difference between the card are at least 5-10 frames

    on nforce 2 issue, i used to have a hard drive that used to currupt alot on my a7n8x-x. The problem was not the board but the hard drive itself. I replaced my maxtor 160Gb to a seagate 160GB, guess what my hard drive never corrupted. and that was 6 months ago. it is a driver problem most likely, as 1 driver release for the nforce cottupts hard drives.

    and arguing about via as the better solution, bull crap. they have one of the worst driver record ever.

    on intel stock cooling being the best... yea right, if you want your proc to be nice and toasty at 60 degrees celcius!!! the exact temerature that my barton was at stock cooling. Now that i got myself a vantec aeroflow for both my barton and my 2.8C, my barton is at 29 degrees celcius, while my 2.8C is at 37 degrees celcius.
  • Stlr22 - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    jesus, bout time this thing works!
  • Stlr22 - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

  • justly - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    Again, "Holes can be punched in all of your statements, and quite easily I might add".

    If your can't recognize the obvious, is pointless for anyone to waste their time trying to educate you, so believe what you want even if it can proved otherwise.
  • arejerjejjerjre - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    And when bying Intel cpu you should keep in mind that it comes with a large heatsink and good fan those things cost a almost 60e etc. alpha some cost less some more!

    Amds cpus come with a tiny heatsink and small cooler they are not efficient enough for cpus they were made for!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    And I was saying that Celeron would win Duron I did't say anything about athlon!

    In your example they used a much better graphic card! If you remember I did the test's with a TI4200 Core:250 MEM:550 Ti4600 Core:300 MEM:600

    There is also one thing that if you use the orginal opengl32.dll wich comes with quake3 you'll most likely get bad results! With Amd that does not occur atleast not if you have the newer processor driver or a 3dnow patch dont quite remember and dont need to!

  • arejerjejjerjre - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    Haven't heard that anyone ever had any faulty Northwoods thanks for telling :) I seen a 3.06ghz blown to pieces when overclocked too much! :)
    And for the Thoroughbred death sundrome I read about it on nvplanet or some other major site don't remember! (Of course they can deceive if that's not too hard for you to believe)

    My friends don't do much of adjusting settings!!! :)
    Nforce 2 is quite annoying when hardrive is being used in serial ata! It corrupts the harddrive safe to say once a week and there is nothing that could fix it friend used the latest bios and instructions from manufacturer no use!

    Because many of my friends have amd based system I have been able to run some test on how different a palomino core and thoroughbred is!
    I found out that when changed from palomino to thoroughbred 3dmark scores went from about 9000 to 10000 quite an increase on the performance I'd say!!! But when tested game performance (AGAIN) with Quake 3 the performance only improved from 210fps to 215fps. So the conclusion is that amd didn't made the new core so that it would be faster but they made it for marketing reasons because 3DMark01 was very popular testing program and the new core would give quite a boost to performance in reviews!
  • justly - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    vinicastro, it is very possible that the 2.6GHz celeron is bandwith limited (quake is a very bandwith hungry benchmark) and the difference is less than 1.5 FPS or 1%, well within a range of error.

    Also the Athlon/Duron core uses exclusive cache while Intel uses inclusive cache design so in all actuality the duron has a total of 192KB of cache compared to the celerons 128KB.

    When comparing an overclocked celeron you have to aslo realize that the increased FSB provides more bandwidth and faster responce to memory calls, and that has a great impact on the P4 core design.
  • justly - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    The problem is you are not using an analytical approach in your statements, take this one for example.

    "How the hell is that even possible to get 150 fps in quake 3 and with 640x480 ??????Anandtech sure knows how to cheat in benchmarks!!
    I got sometime ago a Celeron 2ghz and TI4200 and I scored 170 fps with 1024 resolution!!!!!!!(Every other option to the best grahics mode!)
    so how is it possible that they could get such bad results??!!!(AND they even had a RADEON 9800!!!) CHEATERS!!! Trying to mock Intel!!"

    You say you did this some time ago, well Tomshardware did a celeron review some time ago also and he got a score of 178.6 FPS at a resolution of 1024 x 32bit using a 2.0GHz celeron with a TI4600. This does not prove that you are correct since Tomshardware tested using "Demo001" and Anandtech has been using Demo004 for their reviews. In fact Tomshardware lowest speed Athlon in the test was the 1600+ and it scored 211.6 FPS.

    As for this comment.

    "Amds cpu really suck they dont work correctly and the life span is quite sort if you have a amd cpu dont be surprised if someday your computer wont start! ITS JUST AMD QUALITY!!!!! "

    I find this funny since I have four Amd systems in my house right now each with AT LEAST 2 years running time and all of them run fine and they range from a AMD 486 to a socket "A".

    Again you come across with inadequate detail with this statement.

    "There was a significant amount of processors wich suddenly just died!"

    And this didn't happen with the northwood or have you forgot about SNDS. Failing is one thing having the user kill it is another, so show me some proof that AMD processors die without the user causing it.

    Holes can be punched in all of your statements, and quite easily I might add.

    Finally to finish this off lets take a look at this.

    "And justly I seen too many Amd system's they hardly work at all! All of my friends possess some sort of amd rig and theres allways something not working or not working correctly"

    Well if your friends possess the same computer prowess that you display I think it is safe to use one of your own statments as an answer.

    "You'd have to fuck it up yourself for it not work!"

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