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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  • vinicastro - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    I dont' belive in this results. Simply because in others tests the results are very diferent. Note in Quake3 test that the Celeron 2,4 is better than the Celeron 2.6.

    The Celeron 2.6 have 2x cache and 1GHz clock plus the Duron 1.6.

    In others sites tests the Celeron 2.0 is a litte bit slower than an XP 1600. With overclock performs better than XP 1600.

    Also note the huge AMD advertises in the tests pages. Something smell very bad here.
  • arejerjejjerjre - Tuesday, December 9, 2003 - link

    Lol justly!

    It quite obvious that celeron's can do much better even with more lower end parts than that wich was used in the review!

    Compatibility issues with Intel? Never heard of them! Didn't know even that such term existed! :)
    You'd have to fuck it up yourself for it not work!

    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!
    I think that Nforce chipset's suck! Via works much better! And That's why my mini pc Shuttle has a via chipset inside and duron 700 ;) works quite well most of the time! Shuttles heatpipe cooler is GREAT!
    Thats right I got one Amd based computer! :)
  • Doop - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    Intel isn't the perfect when it comes to compatibility. I have crippling problems with the Pentium 4 denormalizing bug that forces a system lock up when I use some audio software. I simply cannot use that software anymore because the work arounds are too time consuming for efficent work flow.

    I seriously regret buying a Pentium 4.

    As for the Celeron...people should be warned that they suck bad. It's funny that people critisize the article because it doesn't compare apples to oranges.

    What I saw was the Duron kicking the Celerons arse. No need to read more into it than that.
  • Quixfire - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    Looks like the Athlon XP 2200+ will be my next processor.
  • MoronBasher - Monday, December 8, 2003 - link

    arejerjejjerjre, go to the corner with AMDjihad, and maybe both of you could join the special olympics. Hell, you're both overly qualified.
  • justly - Sunday, December 7, 2003 - link

    It should be blatantly obvious that arejerjejjerjre demonstrates such extreme Intel bias that his comments can only be classified as witless. His presence is only beneficial as a source of humor for the rest of us. His unrelenting and repetitive posts filled with inaccuracy only prove that he is unwilling to accept anything other than his own biased opinion that Intel is superior in all aspects of processor performance even when we have seen this proven wrong time and time again. I do believe Intel has some good products but not to the point that I am blind to the truth, because so does AMD. I think it is obvious to most people that AMD has the best price to performance ratio in all areas except where Intel can compete with a 800MHz FSB and hyperthreading or specific apps (such as encoding) and that is even becomming less apparent when compared to the Athlon 64.
    If I had any problem with this article it would be that Anandtech didnt test using chipsets that are more commonly used with these processors. Since this article is meant to show processor performance not system performance I see no problem not because it showed AMD in a good light but because Anandtech gave BOTH platforms the benifit of a better performing chipset than they probably would get in real life.
  • arejerjejjerjre - Sunday, December 7, 2003 - link

    You are quite wrong about how much the celeron has to offer at least in games I have tested it with low end parts: celeron 2ghz,abit bd7-II,some 333mhz 256mt 32e memory so if that isnt a cheap computer nothing is! (Graphic cards much worse than yours ti4200 :( ) and my celeron performed quite well! Not as well as my 1.8A P4!
    With Celeron 2ghz I got 170 fps in quake 3 and with 1.8A I got 225 fps and with better graphics than that what was used in anandtechs review!

    And the problem with comparing P4 EE with fx51 is that p4 ee is old tech and still quite the best! Amd had to use complete new structure :socket,chipset and other things to get comparable results! When Prescott arrives we will see again that Intel rulez! This same rutine has repeated it self for some time now and never has intel been defeated when they have launched their brand new processor or chipset!
  • Wesley Fink - Sunday, December 7, 2003 - link

    #68&69 - Pentium 4 3.2GHz does indeed beat Barton 3200+, and we have stated that in our own tests. Barton 3200+ performs more on the level of a 2.8 to 3.0 Pentium 4 800FSB and the older performance rating is not very accurate compared to 800FSB Pentium 4 chips.

    However, Athlon64 3200+ is at least the equal of the P4 3.2 and in most cases it is actually faster. As we have stated in our reviews, AMD revised their Performance Rating with the A64 and it is actually a bit conservative. The top enthusiast Athlon64 FX51, which does not carry a Performance Rating, clearly outperforms everything we have tested - including the P4EE.

    This article is about the Bargain CPU's, where Duron/AthlonXP/Barton, the older technology AMD chips, clearly outperform the similarly priced Intel Celeron chips. This is simpler than it first appears and is a result of the differences in architecture. Pentium 4 requires huge bandwidth for best performance, and the Celeron can't deliver that bandwidth. AMD chips don't require the same bandwidth for top performance and do well with what the bargain chips can deliver.
  • arejerjejjerjre - Sunday, December 7, 2003 - link

    And I didnt mean any small site articles!!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Sunday, December 7, 2003 - link

    Theres this one thing I'am curious about!!
    I've seen many articles wich clearly say intel wins amd es p4c 3200 vs barton 3200+ and after a period similar articles appear and they seem to indicate a performance loss in intel based system! Results are clearly being altered!

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