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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  • srue - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    #16 Kristopher:
    That's probably what I'm going to do, but it would be nice if I didn't have to.
  • Spacecomber - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    Speaking of Tualatins (#19), where are the the Tualatin Celerons? ;-) They have 256kb of cache, making them very similiar to coppermine PIIIs

    $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.

  • HammerFan - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    lol @ Kyler's comment, I'm sure he's right :D
  • tfranzese - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    good comparison Derek, I knew AMD would be faster but the margin was surprising to say the least.
  • Kyler - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    #22 here:Ack sorry guys was just testing my login from a few months again.

    My comment to #20, you're just pissed cause you wanted to show her your sprocket :p
  • Kyler - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

  • DerekWilson - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    So, I know I didn't explain this, but we used 2x256MB memory modules in each system, and both the AMD and Intel systems were running in Dual Channel mode.

    In other words, The Intel CPU was supplied with plenty of memory bandwidth. There may have been some small issues with the clocks not matching, but we made everything run as fast as we could, and if it made a difference at all, it would be negligable.
  • sprockkets - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    Or in other words she bought the Compaq and not the computer I was going to build.
  • sprockkets - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    Without cache and fast FSB and memory the P4/selloutron are crap. I thought though that some of the bottlenecks were removed, but I guess not, a simple 1.6ghz processor kills most if not all Intel's low end all the time.

    That also pisses me off, I'm pretty sure that 2 years ago a potential customer of mine went for a 1.6 Celeron P4 series processor instead of a 1ghz P3 Tulatin. She said I'm going to pass, she of course didn't know why I was sticking in a "slower" processor.
  • EglsFly - Thursday, December 4, 2003 - link

    Some people are blinded by clock speed... Intel knows this and will continue to design chips to sell to the unwise. It wouldn't surprise me if Intel would design a chip that clocked 5GHz, but performed like a 1GHz Pentium III. People would still buy it.

    Its time for the average joe to wake up already!
    Smell the crap Intel is shoveling...

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