The Contenders

Since this is a budget roundup, price is a very important factor in decision making. To get an idea of how current pricing is shaping up, here are the prices of these processors at the time of publishing, sorted from the most expensive to the least (pulled from our DealTime engine).

 Processor  Price
Intel Pentium 4 1.8A $120
AMD Athlon XP 2600+ (2083MHz) $88
AMD Athlon XP (Barton) 2500+ (1833MHz) $86
Intel Celeron 2.6GHz $85
AMD Athlon XP 2400+ (2000MHz) $68
Intel Celeron 2.4GHz $68
Intel Celeron 2.2GHz $67
Intel Celeron 2.0GHz $65
AMD Athlon XP 2200+ (1800MHz) $63
AMD Athlon XP 1700+ (1466MHz) $56
AMD Duron 1.6GHz $41

The prices fall where we would expect. Intel processors are priced near AMD CPUs with similar model numbers. That makes a price–to-performance comparison fairly simple, as the only factor we really need to consider is performance.

The Athlon XP processor has been in the spotlight for quite some time. Over the years, what used to be high end processors are given new life as budget products. The technology behind the Athlon XP and Pentium 4 1.8A are very well documented, so we'll spend some time speaking about the other players in this review.

Intel Celeron

The main difference between a Pentium 4 processor and a Celeron is cache (high speed memory on the processor core) size. The Celeron takes a cut in L2 cache from 512KB down to 128KB. The L1 cache in the Celeron remains unchanged from that of its big brother. Cutting down the L2 cache's size will increase cache misses (number of times when the information that the processor needs is not located in the cache), which will slow down the processor while it has to wait for its data.

The Celeron processors are also limited to a 400MHz system bus, which, in turn, limits RAM speeds on the system to 133MHz (DDR266) when used on 865 or 875 based motherboards. Aside from these, the only other difference between Celeron and Pentium 4 is that none of the Celerons offer HyperThreading.

Celeron processors are available in many speed grades between 1.7GHz and 2.8GHz. For this comparison, the fastest Celeron under our $100 price point runs at 2.6GHz.

AMD Duron

Like the Celeron, the Duron is basically a stripped down version of a mainstream processor. In this case, we drop to a 64KB L2 cache. The L1 cache on the Duron remains at 128KB, giving the AMD budget line a larger overall cache than the Celeron. The Duron also operates on a 133MHz FSB, and there isn't a limit on RAM speed as there is with the Celeron line when used on any Socket-A platform.

The Duron processor is currently only available in three speed grades: 1.4GHz, 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz. For this review, we tested with the 1.6GHz model.

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  • arejerjejjerjre - Sunday, December 7, 2003 - link

    Actually Its the P4 EE that wins by a mile :)

    and for this test seen here results are clearly tampered! Own experience proves it! I just don't know how someone could believe so blindly those test results! :) LOL
    If someone would send me some money or duron based computer and a celeron cpu I would perform the tests for you all and you would see that that the results are wrong!
  • Gage8 - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    grammar correction...
    (Ed seemed to have harsh words)
  • Gage8 - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    Ed over at OC didn't seem to have some harsh words over this article. However, I liked the duron/celery comparison. That was quite enlightening.
  • Pumpkinierre - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    Sorry #52 Derek, about that statement- must be the UV mod in my case blurring the eyes. However I have seen other articles where larger caches 'get in the way' with some apps. And I still stand by my base postulate that caches inherently increase system latency particularly for programs requiring fast spontaneous user control ie gaming. Unless the whole of the .exe program and settings can be contained in the cache (which basically voids system memory) then the cache has to be purged and refreshed with the required instructions and data at the whim of the user. The ideal for gaming is CPU and RAM running at the same speed- no cache. Large caches are perfect for predictable usage programs: Office,CAD/2D Graphics,Video encoding/streaming,server etc(hence large cache Xeons and opterons).The internal CPU registers and buffers are 32bit (4bytes)-so not much information is required but it must be the correct information. This is why the P4 L1 cache is only 8K cf. to the earlier P3 which had 16K-quicker to purge if wrong info, and the fact that it is inclusive to the L2 cache which again decreases the latency should the user decide to return to that part of the game in the next instant of play. This (in conjunction with large memory bandwidth) is why P4s feel smoother in play. The other alternative is no L2 cache and a slightly larger L1 cache (128 or 256K split data/commands is enough) explaining the Duron's longevity despite slow CPU speed and hence my ideal K8 CPU(see #51).
    CPU testing for gaming should be carried out by an operator playing the game. Demo testing involves the required sections of the game program with an input control file- all loaded into cache and all nicely predictable. In an operator driven test, the true measure of the CPU is largest MINIMUM frame rate and the true measure of the whole system is smallest differential bet. maximum and minimum frame rates. If you took these as your tests and measure you'd find your celerons (and Duron) doing well for their price.
  • JungleMan1 - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    Arejeje whatever your name is

    Desktop processors: AMD wins by a mile with Athlon FX

    Mobile: I might have to give the upper hand to Intel on this one, Pentium M is a nice chip

    Low end: HAHAHAHAHAHAH!! Celeron loses flat-out, as you can see in this article! Please, someone ban this tard!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    Did I mention that amds heat problems are the last straw the stock cooler is terrible! Only whith water can you cool your Amd cpu enough!!

    Intel provides a very good heatsink and fan that doesnt need to be replaced only the thermal paste should be removed!

    Now I know a way you amd folks could benefit from your machine you could use it to heat the house think about it! Garbage could be but in to use!!!!!!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    It seems that you amd folks live in the biggest denial of all time!! LOL

    desktop processors amd loses(P4 EE vs crappy name p4 wins)

    laptop processors amd loses (1,6ghz Pentium M better than 2400+)

    low end duron vs celeron amd loses(intel wins but poorly :(, but thats going to change when the newer celerons come)

    I just wonder if amd is going to survive with new factory being built :) Lately they had had so big losses that its just a miracle they have even survived the competition!! Business is business and theres no room for amd there!
  • Shinei - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    It's not the size of your stick, it's how well you use it that counts. Develop a CPU that only does 1.4GHz but processes 20 instructions per clock and it doesn't MATTER if you have a 3.2GHz chip, it just can't compete in pure computational strength. Megahertz myth hard at work.
  • AnonymouseUser - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    novice said: "Definitely proving once again that clockspeed doesn't really mean much and AMD's "Performance Rating System" is not just a marketing tool."

    Wow! You are only a NOVICE and figured that out! Many "Pros" still can't seem to grasp that simple concept. Makes me wonder who verified them as "Pros". Then again, maybe they've just become brain-dead from trying to figure out which Intel CPU is the faster version.

  • CRAMITPAL - Saturday, December 6, 2003 - link

    The Intel fanboys just live in DENIAL even when their favorite hardware review sites show them hard data time and time again, that AMD's Duron/Athlon/A64/FX/Opteron are faster than Intel's best and AMD's products cost less, run cooler and are available NOW. Ya gotta wonder how long these folks can survive in DENIAL???

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