AMD Sempron: A Fresh Take on Budget Computingby Derek Wilson on July 28, 2004 12:01 AM EST
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Final WordsSempron, at a glance, surpasses its goal to be a powerful budget processor. Cheaper than the current fastest Intel Celeron, both flavors of Sempron that we tested here outperform the competition in almost every test.
We have long awaited the arrival of a budget chip based on the K8 architecture, and now we have one that nearly matches the performance of similarly clocked Athlon 64 chips. As clock speed ramps on Sempron and x86-64 becomes a bigger deal, we may see some separation in the ranks, but, until then, the Sempron 3100+ is a solid choice for anyone looking for a budget AMD setup with better performance and upgrade-ability than the Socket A platform.
The K7 Sempron, however, is a bit of an enigma. As time goes on and the Tbred Athlon XP processors on which Socket A Semprons are based become totally unavailable, we will see the value of Sempron rise. It just doesn't make sense to buy any of these Sempron processors when equivalent or better performing Athlon XP processors can be had for a lower price. It seems clear that Socket A Sempron will eventually be targeted at the extreme budget line of computing with the Sempron 2200+ clocked at 1.5GHz and priced about where we can find 1.2GHz Duron processors. We are actually looking forward to testing some extreme budget systems based on these processors. Performance (especially memory intensive performance) should actually look much better than Durons or early Athlons at the same speed with 4 times the L2 cache and a 333MHz FSB.
The only thing that we found really distasteful was the performance rating of these chips. When marketing with clock speeds, chip makers can't avoid the problem of higher clocked budget chips misleading the not-so-savvy buyer, but when creating an independent rating system, care should be taken to look out for the buyer. As complicated as Intel's rating system is, we find it more desirable when considering issues such as these. We do understand if AMD still feels that they need to beef up their appearance to Joe Average, but we don't have to like it.
We do also wish that there was a way to tell from the name of the processor if it is a Socket A, Socket 754, or (eventually) Socket 939 Sempron. Currently, if a consumer doesn't already know, the only way to tell is to look it up.
What's the bottom line? If you don't want x86-64, but you want the performance and motherboard selection of a K8, the Sempron 3100+ is a very nice choice. At this time, we'll have to reserve judgment on the Socket A Sempron until its cheaper siblings arrive in our labs. For now, the Sempron 2800+ is not a choice that we recommend anyone to make while the Tbred AXP 2600+ is available. The Sempron 2200+ paired with a very barebones board will help bring extraordinarily cheap computing to anyone who wants it, and we look forward to seeing how much of an improvement it is to the current Duron and Athlon offerings at the 1.5GHz clock speed.