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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  • tonyp1023 - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    I repair and build pc's in a small college town in upstate NY so I get a good sampling of whats out there in bargain PC land. My off the top of my head statistic is about five to one on dead Athlon/Duron systems compared to Intel Celeron P3/P4 systems. I have read and seen that AMD cpus are more prone to thermal failures than Intel and my repair data bears this out. Or cheap motherboards die quicker because of poorer QC on their assembly lines. Whatever, I won't build clones out of AMD's because I don't want them coming back to haunt me. A warranty is a terrible thing to have to honor (and I always do) but the Intel machines seldom come back to haunt me.
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link


    "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."

    OT a little, but "barely chugging along"? A P3-800 still runs stuff pretty well with enough RAM (which is pretty darn cheap), a 7200rpm hard disk, and if you want to game a bit, a good budget 3D graphics card. Yeah, the Duron is a great chip, so is the Athlon XP 2500+, but for those locked into a case/motherboard setup, an old P3-800 can be made to do a lot of newer tricks.
  • INTC - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    So who would put a "Budget" chip into a high end platform that included:

    ATI Radeon 9800Pro 256MB
    2 x 256MB DDR400 at 2-3-3-6 (frequency chosen by the BIOS)
    2 x Western Digital Special Edition Hard Disk Drive

    Even for enthusiasts, if you can afford a Radeon 9800Pro then you probably can afford a high-end CPU. Even if someone bought an Athlon XP 2500+ to overclock, they probably shelled out extra money somewhere (heatsink, power supply, high-end RAM, extra fans, etc.) in order to get a successful overclock so their system would not be considered "budget" any longer.

    Budget CPUs fall mostly into the ultra cheap integrated video all-in-1 systems sold at retail stores. eMachines and HP typically have Celeron systems on sale in every sale flyer almost every Sunday. Their cheapest systems feature Celeron processors and their AMD systems are typically several hundred dollars more.

    I'm not sure what percentage of the market on Celerons is through boxed processors or individual OEM chips but I've heard that Intel is able to sell every single Celeron chip that they are currently making. So, someone is buying them - a whole bunch of them!

    As for the Athlon XP and Durons, I'm not an expert in economics, but if demand surpasses supply then prices would increase for a product and the inverse is true which says that if supply is greater than demand then prices decrease in order to spark more demand. So if Celerons and P4s sell enough to get more than 80% of the market for CPUs, did AMD make too many Athlon XPs and Durons or is nobody bying them or a little of both? Maybe they should limit the quantity that they produce and their products would sell at a higher price premium - case and point are the Athlon FX and 64 chips - they haven't made very many of those so they can keep the prices high as long as demand is greater than supply.
  • CRAMITPAL - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    Well for the non-believers... Ace's Hardware has a good review of Opteron vs. Xeon that should (but won't) end the bickering regarding server performance. Between Anand's low end CPU review, Ace's Server review, and any number of A64/EE reviews, it should be obvious where the future of PC X86 computing lies. No it's not the G5 Mac as Ace's demonstrated.

    Enjoy !
  • JeremiahTheGreat - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    If AMD bothered to update its ageing MP chipset, it would indeed be! And with the rumoured dual-mp chipset from nVidia down the drain.. there's not much left in this area.

    Save for dual-opterons :)
  • jawg - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    Has anyone done any research on dual Duron setups? I think that if they are so cost effective and you wanted to have a dual processor box it would be a most noble pursuit.
  • AnonymouseUser - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    "$40 for a Celeron 1.2 (which overclocks easily to 1.6 on a 133 mhz bus). I'd be curious to see how it stacked up against the P4 Celerons."

    Why? The performance would still be abysmal at any price point. What's the point?

    "Intel can afford to charge an arm and a leg for CPUs that perform on this level, why can't AMD?"

    It's called MARKETING + ID10Ts. The world is full of uninformed consumers who are pushed to Intel by the fucking ID10T geeks (who apparently outnumber the non-ID10T geeks)...
  • HammerFan - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    Support you AMDjihad? never. While I do like AMD, one has to wonder why such high-performing CPUs are priced so low. Intel can afford to charge an arm and a leg for CPUs that perform on this level, why can't AMD?
  • AMDjihad - Friday, December 5, 2003 - link

    see intel is being beat on all fronts zserdw you faatty pugly thing. how can you suppooot intek huh you fatty. you thing. everyone suoport me dumbas
  • KGB - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    /Pet's his 1.3 Tualatin Celeron box @ 1.73 :D

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