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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  • 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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