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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  • arejerjejjerjre - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    The celeron test i mentioned earlier was done with far worse system than i posses now so something is defienetly wrong with anandtechs benchmarking method or how they are reported!!

    They seem to have "lost" some points in making the articles!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    Most of amd processors have been flukes i dont think they can make anything else!! Like the thouroughbred!! There was a significant amount of processors wich suddenly just died!

    When you clone enough you get these kind of flukes :) LOL FOR AMD!!!!!!1
  • arejerjejjerjre - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    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!!!!!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    cheater site doesnt even work correctly!
  • arejerjejjerjre - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    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!!

    Now my system is Abit IC7-G,P4 2.4C (800fsb),TI4800(Gainward as was my TI4200),Kingston hyperx 3000(370mhz@400mhz),maxtor sata 120gt in INTEL RAID(It is the fastest no doubt about it!)
    and of course the greatest device of all time 56k modem!! :)

    now with that machine I score about 305 fps(it varys in range of 300-310) in quake 3 with 1024x768 and other options to best graphics!
  • DrFreeze - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    Great Article!

    I would LOVE to see you add in another lesser known cheap CPU alternative though. It is the $20 Slot-T CPU Upgrade Adapter with a $37 Intel Celeron 1.4GHz 100MHz 256K CPU OEM. It is only running 1.4GHz but yet it is built on the PIII core so it is not hurt as much as the PIV is by branch mispredicts. It might be surprising at how well it performs, and then again, it is only using SDRAM so it might not be. =)

    Dr. Ffreeze

    $20 Slot-T CPU Upgrade Adapter

    $37 Intel Celeron 1.4GHz 100MHz 256K CPU
  • BlackShrike - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    We can at least conclude one thing. Anyone who bought the AMD 2500+ got an awesome CPU, whether you overcloacked it or not, it has the performance of a INTEL 2.4 B, but the price of sub $90. And you know, with the extra money you saved, you can get a radeon 9700 Pro or 9800 Pro instead of a radeon 9600 pro or gefroce 5700 Ultra. For once I think I can say this definitively, THE IMPLICATIONS ARE CLEAR AMD ROCKS THE MID TO CHEAP MARKET ANYWAY YOU LOOK AT IT.

    Thank you, I just had to say that.
  • DerekWilson - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    to update what I just mentioned, that prescott number would have been a little higher if we had had the 1.02 patch for halo at that point (it removed needless memory usage checks in the timedemo mode).
  • skiboysteve - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    35 just got dick slaped

    go derek

    die 35
  • DerekWilson - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link


    We wanted to test the upper limit of performance on these processors, so we eliminated as many other bottlenecks in the system as possible.

    This is very useful, because it will let you know that you will absolutely not (with current high end technology) be able to acheive more than 34 fps with a celeron 2.6 under Halo at 10x7. When you start adding more bottlenecks to the system (like slower and less RAM and a budget video card) you will end up with an even lower frame rate.

    If you take a look at our article with the 256MB 9800 Pro (benched on Prescott 2.8GHz) you will see that we only hit 43.8 fps (slower than with the barton 2500+), and with the Athlon64 FX51 we were able to get 60.5 fps out of a 9800XT card. The barton hit 51.5 fps with the 9800Pro256.

    What that says to me is that if you buy a barton 2500+, you are very close to elminiating the processor as a bottleneck in Halo compared to the current fastest gaming system on the market.

    That's not bad for less than $100 if you ask me.

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